“My Last Duchess” Poem by Robert Browning

“My Last Duchess” has been composed by Robert Browning and refers to the deceased duchess of the Duke of Ferrara, known as Lucrezia de’ Medici who died at the tender age of 17. The entire poem has been written in iambic pentameter, having alternately unstressed and stressed syllables, as in,

“That’s my | last duch- | ess paint- | ed on | the wall,
Look – ing | as if | she were | a alive | I call”

Browning has composed the poem in heroic couplets where each line rhymes with the next one. The poem has been written as a dramatic monologue and not only reveals the main character’s personal feelings but also that of the poet himself. Throughout the poem, only the main character, i.e. the speaker, speaks. There are a number of characters in this poem, including the narrator or the speaker, the Duchess, the Emissary of the Count of Tyrol, the Count of Tyrol, the Daughter of the Count of Tyrol, Frà Pandolph, and Claus of Innsbruck. Browning has used alliteration in the following lines,

“The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool”

Browning says that since the duchess has died, only her painting remains and even though the painting makes her look alive, she is nothing more than a mere object.

“That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive.”

Even the Duke refers to his wife not as if he is referring to an object,

“At starting, is my object.”

To give the poem a medieval feeling, Browning has used an archaic word, “forsooth” which means in truth.

The last lines of the poem are the most powerful and it also reveals the snobbish personality of the Duke when he says that a sea-horse symbolizes a woman for him, who can be tamed and even tuned into a piece of art.

“Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!”
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