My Last Duchess by Browning

475 Words2 Pages
Browning’s poem ‘My Last Duchess’ is a dramatic monologue of a duke who expresses his views and attitudes about what he thinks the roles and behaviours of people should be. In this poem, Browning strongly challenges the concept of patriarchal supremacy and the expected roles and representations of males and females in society. In Victorian era, women of the upper class who were usually married to rich businessman and lords were expected to behave in an appropriate way as to increase their husband’s reputation. This notion is emphasised in this poem where the duke had control and dominance in the relationship with the duchess thus enhancing the concept of a patriarchal society. A patriarchal society means there is subjugation of women. It seems that a woman is denied any freedom regarding individuality and sexuality. The duchess was forced to behave in a certain way to feed the Duke’s desires. This is representative of the fact that social aspirations in Victorian era corrupted the value of marriage. The duchess is objectified in the poem. Instead of seeing her innate virtuous and pious characteristics, the duke observes only the aesthetical beauty of his wife in a painting after her death. This notion is reinforced by enjambment in the quote: ‘I call/ That piece a wonder, now…’ The words ‘that piece’ are a pun which is used to describe the painting as well as the duchess herself. The underlying concept here is that in Victorian society women were regarded as trophy possessions and your wife had to be presentable as she reflected your reputation. The duke despises his wife’s great kindness and humility towards other people and is enraged that she did not show the same sort of devotion towards him. To further enhance this notion, Browning uses enjambment in the quote: ‘twas not/ her husband’s presence only…’ Browning here is commenting on the lack of moral
Open Document