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Wednesday, April 15, 2009
My Last Duchess written by Robert Browning is a dramatic monologue based during the time of Renaissance. It is an amalgamation lined with puns and several other artistic elements which reveal the mindset of the people living during the early 16th century.
Setting of the poem:- The era consisted of the Monarchial rule where the society was limited into the Royal Family and the common folk.
The Noble borns were status oriented and self dignified. The male personalities especially of the Royalty had a very autocratic way of thinking.
They were self-distinguished to such limits that a chauvistic attitude can be seen which is reflected in the personality of the Duke.
The speaker of the poem i.e. Duke of Ferrara is having a conversation with the Envoy of the Count of Tynol. He begins the poem by expressing his admiration regarding the portrait of his deceased wife. He refers to his wife as 'his and the painting as "My Last Duchess" hence revealing his possessive nature. This also reveals the self-dignified, egoistic side of his personality.
Describes the painting to be so beautiful, so craftfully created that it seems as though it were alive, that the duchess herself were real.(a simile used in this line)
It can be seen that he refers to the Duchess as an object of his control, a possession that belongs just to him.
It is believed that the painting was a creation of "Fra Pandolf" who infact is an imaginative character. It was merely in "one" day that he completed the painting.
From this again we see the possessive side of the Duke. He alloted just a day to the painter to study the Duchess.
He asks his visitor to sit down and look carefully at the painting. Many a times people would want to know the reason for that particular expression of the Duchess,
the passionate glaze and the blush of joy on her face. People wanted to know the reason for that look but only few dared to ask and if asked, only from "him"(this again reveals the possessive nature of the Duke, his like for controlling the duchess).
He tells the reason for the blush. According to him it wasn't just because of him that that 'spot of joy' would appear. He makes an assumption here and says that maybe Fra Pandolf made a comment like "Your coat covers your arms" or maybe he complimented the duchess by telling her that no artist could reproduce a replica of the real beauty which lay within her.
Thereafter he expresses the various "misconducts" of the duchess.
He is unable to understand how 'easily impressed and pleased' the duchess would get by trivial compliments.
He says she had a "roving eye", that she had become an infidel.
Anything gifted to her held equal amount of importance and brought equal amount of happiness.
From the expensive gift he gave her to the sunset in the west, both were equally valued by her.
If a worker from the palace broke a cherry branch and gifted that for her, she would become happy. Even riding the donkey brought joy to this woman.
Whenever she would express her gratitude to the men, this conduct seemed approving but only to certain limits. Here we can see the suspicious nature of the Duke.
He didnt trust his duchess and felt that she showed more than just gratitude to those men.
After that he says she never valued the gift he had given to her. His gift of "a nine hundred year old name", the royal title bestowed upon her after she became "his" wife again reveal the domineering,self obsessed, possessive, autocrative mindset of the Duke.
Although he reveals that he wasn't good at expressing his feelings, that conversation was absent in their relationship, he says he would never stoop so low to correct her mistake. He felt it beneath his dignity to point out the Duchess's indecent behavior.
And because his wife never listened or showed any signs of changing herself, "He commands" and all the smiles ceased.. This either means that the Duke gave commands for his wife's assasination or it was through something he said that his wife no longer lived.
At the end of the poem the Duke shows a bronze piece of art consisting of Neptune taming a sea horse.
This is a pun which implies that the Duke saw women as objects who could be controlled. He felt that women were like the sea-horse, possessions upon whom he could play his control upon.....