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My Last Duchess

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Sidney Owens

on 12 March 2013

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Transcript of My Last Duchess

"My Last Duchess" by Robert Browning
&
"The Charming Woman" by Helen Salina Poetry Presentation My Last Duchess The Charming Woman Comparing Poems August Leopold Egg Past and Present (1) 1858

Her husband's presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess' cheek: perhaps
Fr Pandolf chanced to say ``Her mantle laps
``Over my lady's wrist too much,'' or ``Paint
``Must never hope to reproduce the faint
``Half-flush that dies along her throat:'' such stuff
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy. She had
A heart---how shall I say?---too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whate'er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, 'twas all one! My favour at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace---all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,
Or blush, at least. She thanked men,---good! but thanked
Somehow---I know not how---as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody's gift. Who'd stoop to blame
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill
In speech---(which I have not)---to make your will
Quite clear to such an one, and say, ``Just this
``Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,
``Or there exceed the mark''---and if she let
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse,
---E'en then would be some stooping; and I choose
Never to stoop. Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene'er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands; That's my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now: Fr Pandolf's hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will't please you sit and look at her? I said
``Fr Pandolf'' by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, 'twas not Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive. Will't please you rise? We'll meet
The company below, then. I repeat,
The Count your master's known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretence
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
Though his fair daughter's self, as I avowed
At starting, is my object. Nay, we'll go
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me! Helen Salina, Lady Dufferin Robert Browning The point of view is first person because Robert Browning writes this poem as a conversation between him and his future father-in-law. We know this because he says, "That's my last Duchess painted on the wall..." The Charming Woman

So Miss Myrtle is going to marry?
What a number of hearts she will break!
There's Lord George, and Tom Brown, and Sir Harry, Who are dying of love for her sake! '
Tis a match that we all must approve,
Let gossips say all that they can!
For indeed she's a charming woman,
And he's a most fortunate man!

Yes, indeed, she's a charming woman,
And she reads both Latin and Greek,
And I'm told that she solved a problem
In Euclid before she could speak!
Had she been but a daughter of mine,
I'd have taught her to hem and to sew,
But her mother (a charming woman)
Couldn't think of such trifles, you know!

Oh, she's really a charming woman!
But, perhaps, a little too thin;
And no wonder such very late hours
Should ruin her beautiful skin!
And her shoulders are rather too bare,
And her gown's nearly up to her knees,
ut I'm told that these charming women
May dress themselves just as they please!
Yes, she's really a charming woman!
But, I thought, I observed, by the bye,
A something that's rather uncommon,
In the flash of that very bright eye?
It may be a mere fancy of mine,
Though her voice has a very sharp tone,
But I'm told that these charming women
Are inclined to have wills of their own!

She sings like a bullfinch or linnet,
And she talks like an Archbishop too;
Can play you a rubber and win it,
If she's got nothing better to do!
She can chatter of Poor-laws and Tithes,
And the value of labour and land,
'Tis a pity when charming women
Talk of things which they don't understand!

I'm told that she hasn't a penny,
Yet her gowns would make Maradan stare;
And I feel her bills must be many,
But that's only her husband's affair!
Such husbands are very uncommon,
So regardless of prudence and pelf,
But they say such a charming woman
Is a fortune, you know, in herself!

She's brothers and sisters by dozens,
And all charming people, they say!
And several tall Irish cousins,
Whom she loves in a sisterly way.
O young men, if you'd take my advice,
You would find it an excellent plan,
Don't marry a charming woman,
If you are a sensible man! T: The title sets up the tone for the entire poem. It has a negative, somewhat mocking connotation because the author doesn’t even give the duchess’s real name or any significance. Symbolism –
•Fra Pandolf: “I call that piece a wonder, now; Fra Pandolf’s hands worked busily a day, and there she stands.” The Duke mentions Fra Pandolf’s work by making his hands the subject of the sentence.
•That Spot of Joy: The Duchess was said to be easily amused, and whenever she found something that she enjoyed, she would blush. The Duke describes her blushing as “that spot of joy.” Using the word spot infers it to be like a stain, a symbol of her tainted nature.
•Smiles: “Her looks went everywhere.” By the Duke stating that her looks went everywhere, is also to say that she went everywhere. It was an innuendo stating that he found her to be more sociable than he liked.
•Stooping: “Who’d stoop to blame this sort of flirting? Even had you skill in speech – (which I have not) – to make your will quite clear to such an one… e’en then would be some stooping; and I choose never to stoop.” The Duke thinks of himself as being on a pedestal because of his “nine-hundred-year-old-name.” The picture depicts the fall of the household when the mother is thought to be guilty of promiscuity. It connects to the poems because all three are about the expected role of women during this time period and how when they were friendly and outgoing they were almost automatically thought to be suspicious. Women during this time were supposed to stay home and do womanly duties to hold down the house and be loyal to their husbands. The story behind this painting is that the husband actually found letters to the wife from a lover and she has fallen on the floor asking to be forgiven of her sin. A: The tone of this piece is somewhat mocking and negative because he talks about how happy his wife was with everyone but him, and takes his feelings to the next level by showing his jealousy and ultimately ending the "smiles." A shift occurs at this point because he goes from being proud of this painting to beginning to uncover his jealousy of the friendliness his wife has towards other people. It is obvious because he goes from exclaiming, "I call that piece a wonder" to "twas not her husband's presence only..." This hinted at his jealousy that he once was proud of her but then thought her wrong for being outgoing and suspicious of wrong doing. There is another shift at this point. He shifts his attitude from being jealous of her attitude around everyone, to being satisfied that "all smiles stopped," practically that he killed her. T: After reading the piece we can confirm that the title represents who the poem is about and who's in the painting. It's a symbol of her insignificance as his previous wife and how he thought she was undeserving of recognition. Themes Power can get the best of you: The Duke wields power in the kingdom, so naturally he wants to hold the power in his marriage. He thinks that if his wife is off being kind to others then obviously there's something else going on.
Sensuality: During this time women were expected to stay home and hold the house down and be loyal to their husband. If women were popular or promiscuous during this time people thought it was offensive and suspicious.
Madness controls the mind: The Duke murders his wife because she blushes and smiles at other people.
Jealousy is the root of many evils: The Duke is extremely jealous that his duchess acts just as happy around everyone else as she is around him. His jealousy fuels his fire for wanting it to end. Imagery: The use of conversation helps create an image of the Duke showing off his extravagant painting in his extravagant home. You can picture him nostalgically looking at the painting and beginning to reminisce. Imagery
The word choice at this point helps the reader to create an image of the interaction between the duchess and the painter. Possibly the Duke's explanation may be more dramatized than what really happened. Summary The poem is about a Duke who is speaking to his future father-in-law about a painting on his wall of his past wife. He begins by being proud of it because it was painted by this well known painter, but then he remembers the way she acted and becomes bitter. She was a friendly, happy person who smiled at everyone and he didn't appreciate that. He mistook her kindness as suspicious and thought her to be having affairs on the side. He then drops the hint that he killed her to stop the smiles and his feelings because of the power he had from being Duke and having a well-known name. The poem's main use of figurative language is heavy sarcasm. By repeating that Miss Myrtle is a "charming woman" is a way to degrade her name. In the first stanza, she is said to have many admirers who are all "dieing of love for her sake." The speaker then goes on to state that "he's (her fiance) a most fortunate man!" All of these are examples of the way this woman is viewed in society. She is seen as a well known woman who gets around. The second and fifth stanzas talk about her intelligence. Euclid is a form of geometry in which she is said to know quite well, as well as Latin and Greek. But the speaker doesn't like how she cannot run a household, do the duties of a housewife, like hemming and sewing. The speaker blames this on her mother, also a charming woman. In reality, Miss Myrtle is only living the life she knows, one of using seduction to get her farther in life. Stanza five says she talks too much of the guy's talk, about law and money, business. The speaker disapproves of this. Stanza three gives us a description of Miss Myrtle. She is thin and wears dresses that show her shoulders and go up to her knees, a disgraceful thing to wear in the Victorian age. She is said to hold "late hours," all of this suggesting prostitution. Stanza four talks about how she is spirited. "...her voice has a very sharp tone, but I'm told these charming women are inclined o have wills of their own." Women were supposed to fade into the background, be seen and not heard. Miss Myrtle would rather talk business with the boys, learn math, reading and language, and state her opinion. All of this was greatly frowned upon. In stanza six, she is said to be poor and have much debt, though that is only her husband's affair now. Yet the speaker has a comment for it. Stanza seven sums up the poem by stating she is connected to too many people, guys in general, and if a man were sensible, they would never marry a woman like her. In conclusion, what if Miss Myrtle was trying to better her life by settling down and marrying one man? After all, she had tried living the life she was taught, and in some way was trying to change because she had decided to marry. Connection: In both "My Last Duchess" and "The Charming Woman," there is talk about social class. It is evident in "The Charming Woman" that the speaker disapproves of Miss Myrtle and the way she has presented herself to society. In "My Last Duchess" the Duke is disapproving of the way the Duchess is well known and liked and the way she is a happy person in general. In both situations, he women were not socially acceptable in the eyes of the speaker. Also in both cases, the reader doesn't know the true character of the women, just what is said about them. Though in both instances, there are little things hinted that suggest there are more to these women that meets the eye.
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