"My Last Duchess" by Robert Browning

Essay by ljsierraCollege, UndergraduateA-, July 2007

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In the poem “My Last Duchess” Browning takes the reader inside the castle of a renascence Duke and introduces her to a noble duke who is showing the picture of his last Duchess, the innocent smile that is disguised behind the curtain of oppression. Duke is telling the story of his last duchess and as he goes on, a horrifying image of a murderer who is very arrogant, possessive, and oppressive becomes vivid in reader’s mind.

The narrator in the poem is an Italian duke who ordered the murder of his wife and is at the offset of the poem showing off the portrait to his future son-in-law. Browning lets the reader know in a roundabout way that the duke only shows the portrait of his late wife to select strangers. In doing this, the narrator is able to show off his wealth to the stranger and he seems to enjoy telling these people the story of how he ordered her to death.

Like many other renaissance Dukes, The duke of Ferrara is very arrogant and selfish. He is very proud of himself and his ancestors. He has a sense of ownership and a strong desire to control everything. He believes it is his wife’s privilege to be married with him and she should be thankful for “the gift of a nine-hundred –year’s-old name” that he gave her. The fact that “he favor at her breast, the dropping of the daylight in the west, the bough of cherries some officious fool broke in the orchard for her…all and each would draw from her alike the approving speech” disgusts him. Her pure emotions and sentimental nature are more disgusting for him rather than fascinating. He thinks that her heart was “too soon made glad, too easily impressed.” He even wants to...