My Last Duchess, by Robert Browning, is an example of a dramatic monologue.
A dramatic monologue is a kind of narrative poem in which one character speaks to one or more listeners whose replies are not given in the poem. The Duke is speaking to an envoy about his first wife who is apparently dead. From what he is telling him, one can conclude that he is arrogant, domineering, and very insecure about his relationship.The Duke of Ferrara was a very arrogant man. He did not seem to care about the happiness of his wife, only his own.
He did not like the fact that she found happiness in other places beside himself, as if he should be the only life in her life. He could not understand how she could rank his nine thousand year old name with more simpler things such as her white mule that she rode on the terrace, an act of kindness from an “officious fool” and the “drooping of the daylight in the west.” His wife, no doubt, had no idea he felt that way but he could not discuss it with her, blaming it on the fact that he had no skill in speech. He let the problem persist until he no longer could stand it and finally “gave commands” that in one way or another caused her death.
Another problem that he had was that he was too domineering. This is evident in the fact that he went to the extreme and killed his wife just because she did not conform to his image of a perfect wife. He wanted things to be his way regardless of how she felt.
He now talks about his last duchess as if she were simply a thing painted in a picture to be admired. Other evidence that supports the idea of him being domineering is shown when he told his envoy that no one but him could touch the curtain that covered the picture. It is almost as if he has marked his territory and if anyone crosses the line they would be “dealt with” accordingly. Lastly, on the way down to meet his company he proudly points out his bronze sculpture of Neptune taming a sea horse. This is probably the embodiment of his whole mentality. He wanted to tame his wives into perfect women.Insecurity is something that we all feel at one point or another in our relationships.
The Duke, however, was too insecure. He thought very little of his first wife, believing her to be too childish and naive. He probably felt that she did not love him very much because of the fact that she put his favor at her breast in the same category as other people’s gifts. He said that when she passed him she always smiled, but to him it was nothing because “who passed without much the same smile?” She was a woman of obvious beauty for in the poem it started that there was depth and passion in her earnest glance. People would ask the Duke the origin of the glance and he would irately reply that “t’was not her husband’s presence only” that “called that spot of joy into” her cheek. It would appear after mere complements by Fra Pandolf or other such things.
Being insecure about her love for him probably drove him to his last action, which was to get rid of the stress all together.The Duke’s personality, although somewhat sinister, captures the reader’s attention. He reveals his true inner self by explaining the ‘vices’ of his wife. A feeling of pathos occurs when the reader finally understands that the wife died innocently through no fault of her own, ultimately leaving the Duke the villain of the story.
My Last Duchess is a pure testimonial to the fact that the main character in a story does not have to be a good person in order for it to be an enjoyable piece of art.Bibliography: