The Duke of Ferrara is the sole speaker in the theatrical monologue "My Last Duchess." The listener is offstage and stayed silent throughout the poem. This poem was written by Robert Browning, a poet who produced poetry to explore the heart and mind.
Browning wanted to know if love can heal love's wounds. Can a lost love be restored? He believed that it could be because many people have been healed by love. Love is powerful and can fix anything.
The duke is a nobleman who lives in a beautiful city-state near Italy called Ferrara. He has money and power but he is not happy with his life. He believes that he is not good enough for the woman he loves named Eleanora Ivanovna Rostova. He wants to marry another woman but she has refused him. So he decides to kill himself but he needs someone to speak at his funeral so a priest comes to his room to give him confession but the duke doesn't say any sins so the priest leaves him alone. Later that night the duke hears something outside his door and thinks it is his wife so he opens the door only to find a young girl standing there. The duke asks her name but she won't tell him so he calls her "Last Duchess" because she is the last person to see his wife before she died.
In Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess," we see a depiction of the egotistical and power-hungry Duke of Ferrara. Although the duke's monologue looks to be about his late wife, a close reading reveals that her mention is only a footnote in his self-important speech. The duke believes himself to be so great that he feels no need for forgiveness or remorse for any of the pain he has caused others.
He thinks that because he is a nobleman, he can do anything he wants and get away with it. When he dies, this "noble" spirit will be rewarded and his family will be able to continue its legacy. But what the duke doesn't realize is that love is stronger than pride and desire. His wife loved him but could not forgive him for trying to steal her father's business. She was also sick with tuberculosis when they married and knew that she would never survive their union. Yet she chose to stay with him because she knew that he needed her love more than her life.
Through his arrogant behavior, the duke has shown that he does not deserve such love. And yet he keeps on asking people for favors even after he knows that they cannot help him. This proves that despite his many sins, there is still some good inside him that wants to live a different life.
But most important, this poem shows that even though love is strong, pride is even stronger.
Robert Browning's poem "My Last Duchess" is widely anthologized as an example of dramatic monologue. It initially appeared in Browning's Dramatic Lyrics in 1842. The poem is made up of 28 rhyming couplets written in iambic pentameter. Each line has five feet, with each foot having a strong syllable followed by a weak one (i.e., dog food cat food). This meter should be easy to understand once you read some examples of iambic pentameter.
A dramatic monologue is a poem that tells its own story and has only one speaker, usually referring to themselves in the third person. Thus, a dramatic monologue is a single-person show in which the only audience are the listeners inside the mind of the speaker.
My Last Duchess was inspired by an actual medieval lady named Catherine de' Medici who lived from 1519-1589. She was the daughter of Lorenzo de' Medici and sister of Henry VIII of England. When her father was killed during a coup d'etat, she went into exile in France where she married Louis XII. But he died soon after their marriage and she came back to Italy to take control of her family business. However, her brother had already taken over and imprisoned her father's murderers. So she started plotting her revenge against him. In 1533 she managed to have her brother murdered too and now she is the ruler of Florence.
Browning expertly used the dramatic monologue style to demonstrate the duke's domineering, envious, and haughty characteristics without ever outright expressing them. This allows him to suggest these qualities through subtle expressions and actions rather than having to describe them in detail with words.
The duke has invited his entire court to an evening reception at his palace. He wants everything to be perfect for his beautiful wife, who is about to give birth to their second child. However, he becomes enraged when he finds out that some guests have arrived late. He orders all those who are late to leave immediately and says that if they refuse he will have them arrested. The duke then takes out his rage on his wife by hitting her across the face with a wine bottle and leaving her unconscious on the floor. He later realizes what he has done and goes to visit her in hospital, but she has died.
Now the duke needs someone to blame for his wife's death, so he decides to arrest the one person who was there that night: the young poet who had been invited to write a poem for her birthday. When this man refuses to renounce his love for her, the duke has him thrown into a dungeon where he can starve to death.
Browning's severe and comprehensive poetry bring light on the gender discrimination that existed at the time. The Duke of Ferrara murders his wife in the poem "My Last Duchess" because he feels she has been unfaithful to him. He then asks his court painter to paint a picture showing how beautiful the new Duchess would have been if only she were alive.
The problem is that she is not beautiful but plain. So the Duke orders his court poet to write a poem comparing the beauty of another woman who happens to be a court lady instead. The Duke wants to see what kind of beauty the new Duchess possesses so he can choose her as his next wife.
Now back to our story: The speaker, who turns out to be an angel, tells us that when he heard about the murder, he was so moved that he went to look for the Duke and tell him what had happened. But when he found him, the Duke refused to listen to him and ordered him to leave immediately because he did not want to be disturbed. At this, the angel leaves him and goes back to God who told him to inform Mary that someone wanted to kill her.
Mary believes the angel and refuses to let herself be married to the Duke. She says that she cannot live without her husband and that she would rather die than marry someone else.