Abbey

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade November 2001

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"How does Browning use dramatic monologues to convey the character?" All three poems I have selected are about people, and more specifically relationships. Browning's subject matter means that the reader can easily relate to the people in the poems, and the emotions that they are feeling. His characters are all credible, and all very real- they feel real, human, universal emotion that every single person in the world experiences and so the reader can identify with them.

In "˜My Last Duchess' the Duke talks about the picture before talking about the duchess, giving us a clear idea of his sense of priorities, and the importance he places on certain things. The character of the duke is related to art- cold, artificial, non natural, while the duchess's character is compared with warm, alive, natural beauty. She is also described in terms of her relationships and conduct towards other people, making her appear more emotional and loving.

The terms the duke uses to describe her as liking everything, but liking everything the same are meant as derogatory, but they still paint her as warm and non-materialistic- and this impression is heightened by the difference compared to the duke's cold hearted, selfish and matter of fact personality.

The one thing they have in common with each other (other than assumed social status) is the fact that they both lack judgement, depth and integrity. It is ironic that the very same trait that annoys the duke; her lack of judgement which leads to her treating all things-such as a bough of cherries and his nine hundred year old name- the same is connected to his lack of integrity and judgement in deciding whether it is a more serious matter to "stoop" or to have your wife murdered.

The duke's word use- for example reminding the messenger of how much he is worth for a dowry, repeating and name dropping of the artist of My Last Duchess, phrases such as "I choose never to stoop", and his false modesty when saying "even had you skill in speech (which I have not) when he has tremendous skill in speech- reveals a lot of pride and arrogance.

The poem is written as a monologue of the duke talking, but there is an implied listener- "will't please you sit and look at her"- (we later find out it is a messenger from the father of his next bride-to-be.) As there are few endstopped lines, so much caesura, and asides and abbreviations- "'twas"- it sounds like informal prose. The poem is made up of rhyming couplets, but these aren't noticed while read; mirroring the duke's hidden power and control need. It is in iambic pentameter, and the inflexible form reflects the nature of the duke; rigid and inflexible.