Analysis of Robert Browning's My Last Duchess
English 110.6 (12)
23 October 2002
My Last Duchess is one of the more recognized poems written by Robert Browning. Robert Browning was a Victorian writer born in 1812 and died in 1889. He is remembered today through the inspiring words of this dramatic monologue My Last Duchess.
The setting of this poem is presumably in the Italian Renaissance period, specifically, the grand staircase in the palace of the Duke of Ferrara. It is set as evidenced by the arranged marriage to the Count's Daughter and the suggestion of the dowry and also by the remark the duke makes to the servant "Sir! Notice Neptune, though, / Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity, / Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me." (Lines 54 - 56) Any reference of Ancient Roman culture, especially a bronze statue, was seen as a great status symbol at the time.
These examples also serve to allow the reader to infer that the Duke is a very wealthy man and very conceited about his home and possessions. The location in the home is provided to the reader through references to walking down the staircase "We'll meet / The company below, then." (Lines 47 and 48) and "Nay, we'll go, / Together down, Sir!" (Lines 53 and 54)
The speaker and narrator of the poem is the Duke of Ferrara. My Last Duchess is a conversation between the Duke and a servant of a Count. As the monologue opens, the audience is treated to a description of a portrait of the Duke's first wife. He takes great pains to insure that the reader "sees" the painting. "That's my last duchess painted on the wall/ Looking as if she were alive I call" (Line 1 and 2)