My Last Duchess Dramatic Monologue

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“My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning is a poem written in the form of a dramatic monologue. In it, the speaker describes the portrait of his late wife to the servant of a prospective bride’s father. Throughout the description, the speaker’s sociopathy is made increasingly clear, with the heavily implication that he was the actual cause of the wife’s demise. Browning reveals the prideful, control-obsessed, and sociopathic character of the speaker through self-boasting, caesuras in the monologue, and the varying levels of politeness he exhibits throughout the poem. The speaker’s pride is revealed most clearly through his not-so-subtle comments on his own worth. The obvious of which is shown through “as if she ranked/ My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old …show more content…
In an unsurprising connection with his pride, the speaker uses parentheses to hide parts of his personality he feels are shameful. “(since none puts by/ The curtain I have drawn for you, but I).” What is this supposed to hide? The whole of this poem is but a dramatic monologue, and putting parentheses around a phrase does not preclude it from being spoken. At best, it makes it a whisper, but that just questions why it is being spoken. This attempted imposition of control via parentheses is entirely undermined by their impotence. Nevertheless, even this attempt reveals how obsessed the speaker is with control. In fact, the more emotional the character gets, the more control is attempted and lost. The use of dashes occurs solely in his description of his late wife’s faults, and its usage shows another means through which the speaker attempts to impose control. The use of dashes, as opposed to simply commas as is common everywhere else in the poem, in his description of how overtly-nice his late-wife was to other people, opens the way for injections such as “how shall I say?” and “Somehow—I know not how” that add little to his dialogue but give more time for the speaker to think and compose his words. However, these dashes have the opposite effect, creating caesuras in the poem that lend a terse tone …show more content…
At the very start, the speaker appears a polite, well-bred man. “Will ‘t please you sit and look at her?” The speaker asks the silent audience in a manner that highlights the speaker’s manners. Indeed, this characteristic of speech continues until his description of his wife: “Fra Pandolf’s hands/ Worked busily a day,” giving credit to the portrait’s artist, and “Sir, ‘t was not,” the formal address to the audience. This facade of well-breeding gives way when describing the people his wife admired: “The bough of cherries some officious fool.” Manners give way to derogatory phrasing and, at the very least, phrasing that lacks the tics of speech that characterized his previous dialogue. This change in dialogue emphasizes the importance of his lack of control over his late wife held to him, an emphasis of his pride and pursuit of control. This emotional release is all the more chilling when, immediately after dropping the intimation that he killed his wife (“Then all the smiles stopped together.”), the speaker immediately returns to affable politeness: “There she stands/ As if alive. Will ‘t please you rise?” It is this act of killing his wife due to his obsession of control, his outrage at recalling her, and the sheer speed at which the speaker can dismiss the issue of killing his wife, that combine to display his sociopathy. The speaker returns to normal manners in an instant, as if the his implied murder

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