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Analysis: My Last Duchess (Robert Browning)

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Robert Browning’s My Last Duchess is a dramatic monologue uttered by the Duke of Ferrari which highlights the jealous and sadistic nature of his character and the mysteriousness which surrounds his late wife’s demise.
The poem starts with him drawing the attention of the person whom he is talking to, who is, as one later finds out, a messenger from the Count’s family whose daughter’s hand the duke seeks in marriage; to the portrait of his late wife on the wall. The duke praises the work of the painter, Fra Pandolf, who had spent a whole day slaving over the painting to make it look so lifelike. He instructs the messenger to sit down, and goes on to describe how anyone who has ever seen that picturesque expression on his lady’s painted face, has never failed to ask him, as he has always been present for no one dares to draw the curtain from the painting except him, the reason behind the lively expression. He then thinks about his late wife, remembering that it wasn’t just his company which made her blush. He wonders that maybe it was the painter complimenting her that brought forth such a response from her, as she thought that such attentions were all just formalities and politeness. He continues on scorning the easily pleased nature of the duchess: she found something to praise in whatever she saw. Finding the fact disdainful that things so simple and unworthy as the sunset or a small offering of fruit some officer made her could make her as happy as his gift to her, his hand in marriage and a nine hundred year old name, did, he admits to the messenger that he did not approve of such unreservedness. He goes on to say that no one could really fault the duchess for her flighty nature, but even if he had the power of speech required to make his expectations from her clear, and had she been willing to do as he told, even then he could not think of sinking down to her level by telling her what displeases him. He hints at the fact that the duchess seemed to smile at...

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