My Last Duchess by Robert Browning

My Last Duchess by Robert Browning

            Robert Browning is the man behind the remarkable poem My Last Duchess.  It is a very remarkable piece; the speaker of the poem talks about his last duchess, describing her in a way that demeans her character.  In the end, however, it is the speaker’s character that is revealed.

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            In My Last Duchess, the duke speaks of his former wife in a negative light.  To begin with, he portrays her simply as his object, a wonderful “piece” just like the painting.  He then proceeds to describe her as that which derives happiness from every little thing.  He also insinuated that the late duchess was a flirt; she was described as that which gives a smile to every man, putting to shame the duke’s family name.

            However, despite such claims, it was the questionable character of the duke that is revealed.  His capacity to objectify women comes to the surface through his description of the painting.  It seems as if he is easily annoyed, disturbed by the very fact that his wife was easily amused by everyday things.  His jealousy and possessiveness comes to the fore as well, when the mere fact that she smiles at other men disturbs him greatly.  In the poem, he speaks of commands that he had given her, causing her to stop smiling altogether.  This statement is rather vague, considering that the commands in question was unidentified.  However, it is this very statement that makes the reader consider the possibility that he was responsible for her demise.  She would not be referred to as the “last duchess” if not for him.

            In Robert Browning’s My Last Duchess, the speaker depicts his late wife as a bad character.  In the end, however, it is his grim character that is revealed.  More importantly, the poem insinuates that he is responsible for his late wife’s death.  Indeed, the duchess would still be alive if not for the duke’s actions.

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