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My Last Duchess

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shivam chotai

on 13 May 2014

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Transcript of My Last Duchess

My Last Duchess

-Robert Browning
Summary Video
Social Context
Historical Context

My Last Duchess is based on the history of a Renaissance duke called Alfonso II of Ferrara.
His wife, Lucrezia died in suspicious circumstances in 1561.
The Medicis were just beginning to build their power base, but they were considered to be noble.
19th Century Views on Women
The social hierarchies in the Victorian Era were very different.
Power and money mainly belonged to the rich and noble.
The Duke gets angry with the Duchess for treating him the same as everyone else.
Women were seen as lower than men, which is why the Duke was so frustrated with her.

Looking as if she were alive.'
Iambic Pentameter?
'my' = Possessive?
Obsessive tendencies?
Browning's use of evil characters
Offhand, flippant speech?
Browning isolates characters by using dramatic monologue.
So Browning can develop and express evil characters without being evil himself.
Symbols of evil and violence allowed Browning to explore all aspects of human psychology.
'Will't please you sit and look at her? I said/

"Fra Pandolf" by design, for never read...'
False pleasantries?
Rhyming couplets?
'The depth and passion of its earnest glance,'

'...(since none puts by/The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)

'... Sir, 'twas not/Her husband's presence only, called that spot/Of joy into the Duchess' cheek:'

'... such stuff/Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough/For calling up that spot of joy.'
Flirtatious admirers?
'- too soon made glad,/Too easily impressed;'

'... her looks went everywhere.'

'She thanked men - good! but thanked/Somehow - I know not how - as if she ranked/
My gift of a nine-hundred-old name/ With anybody's gift.'
Indirect Remarks?
Figures of speech?
'Even had you skill/In speech - (which I have not)-...'
'Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea-horse'
last Duchess'

Browning’s poem My Last Duchess was published in 1842 in a book called Dramatic Irony, but poetry was not doing so well in the Victorian period as it was the age of the novel.
People favoured now-classic Romanic poets instead of tuning into new developments.
Browning wanted to create a new type of poetry to attend to the many needs of the Victorian people.
'--E'en then would be some stooping, and I choose/Never to stoop.'
'That's my last Duchess painte on the wall,/Looking as if she was alive'
He combined aspects of stage plays and Romantic verse to craft a new type of poetry with alarming psychological and psychopathic realism, wild formal experiments, and harsh-sounding language which alarmed his readers.
By Shivam, Ebony, Karlan, Isha, Karla, Tsara and Li.
These poems have become attractive to modern day readers for their twist on reality and ‘normal’ poetry from the Victorian era. My Last Duchess is an example of this innovative type of poetry.
People value the rare control of Browning’s writing more that some of the optimistic flowery Romanic poems.
'Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;/Then all smiles stopped together.
Robert Browning (continued...)
The age of the Novel
'...Notice Neptune, though,/Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,'
'Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!'
Dramatic Monologues
A dramatic monologue in poetry-AKA a persona poem-shares many characteristics with a normal monologue:
An audience is implied
The poet speaks through an assumed voice-a character/fictional identity/persona.
Dramatic monologue-one person's speech-no overt analysis or commentary offered.
Emphasis is placed on subjective qualities-reader is left to develop interpretations.
Historical Context
Browning takes this brief anecdote out of the history books and turns it into an opportunity for readers to peek inside the head of a psychopath.
By Browning putting the word Ferrara" (
) under the title of the poem as an epigraph he hints at the real life Renaissance, but removes the situation from most of its historical details.
Rhetorical question?
Neither the Duke's former wife, nor the wife to be's names are mentioned in the poem.
He was born on the 7th May 1812
The poem is set in the 16th century, so is during the Italian Renaissance.

He married Elizabeth Barret
He was born in an area called Camberwell (a part of London)
He attended UCL, yet dropped out as he felt discontent staying there.
The new conditions of urban living was the base of Browning's most important poetic message.
In the middle of the nineteenth century most people were living the city which lead to an increase of poverty, violence, and sex.
Browning's interest in
Robert Browning
This period saw the rapid growth of newspapers
They illustrated the current-event of the day but there were also scandal sheets, filled with stories of violence and carnality.
Hurrying pedestrians, bustling shops, and brand-new goods filled the streets, and individuals had to take in millions of separate perceptions a minute.
People were too busy to take any time in reading new poetry
Writers now felt that to engage and attract the attention of the busy working people that had to shock their audience
They were competing with the turmoils and excitement of everyday life
They started to write about violence and it soon became the norm amongst many writers
Many of Browning's more disturbing poems, including My Last Duchess, reflect this notion
Browning started to write about violence, and sex in many of his poems, which became the symbol of the modern urban-dwelling condtion.
After getting married he moved to Italy.
His wife passed away in 1861. From then on he visited London frequently.
Of all the pieces he made throughout his lifetime, his most notable works are: The Ring and the Book, Men and Women, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, Porphyria’s Lover and My Last Duchess.
The influence of Science and Art
'as if she ranked/My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name/With anybody's gift.'
'I gave commands'
Many people were starting to lose faith in religion as various new scentific theories were being published
Just as religion and science were shifting in their roles so too were artists
'Then all smiles stopped together.'
Browning responded to these cultural upheaval in the 1840s and '50s with poems in which he explored the purtiy of art, and the conflict between aesthetics and didacticism.
Browning explores all of these issues in his poetry, even though he sets many of them in the Renaissance or other distant historical periods
last Duchess'
Thank you for watching...
We hope that you have received an in-depth analysis of "My Last Duchess."
'Fra Pandolf's hands/Worked busily a day'
Investigation of character personas.
Reader is closer to the character.
Multiple perspectives established.
Reveal atrocities yet have the reader make their own conclusions.
In doing this he achieved relevance but he never became moralistic or overly striden
Britain also experienced hard times during the 19th century
Wealth and consumption were on the rise but poverty also soared
The need to reconcile these two facts finds an analogue in the struggle to decide between material beauty
However, his genius did not lay as much in his choice of subject matter or setting, but in his craftsmanship
The fascination of his poetry owes to his strong portrayal of characters and his wealth of detail
How did Browning use these?
The resulting overstimulation led, according to many theorists, to a sort of numbness withing writers.

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