My Last Duchess
A poem, which presents a character that provokes you to irritation, is “My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning. Through the use of word choice, imagery and poetic techniques, browning helps convey, in depth, this character.
Browning wrote this poem in 1842, it was based about the time of the Renascence in Italy. It consists entirely of the words of a signal speaker who reveals in his speech his own nature and the dramatic situation he finds himself in. It is believed that this story is based on the duke of Farrar, Alfonso II, who was the duke in the 16th century. Alfonso originally from Spain married a fourteen-year-old girl Lucrezia, a member of the Italian Borgia family. Lucrezia was married to Alfonso for three years before she died under suspicious circumstances. Browning uses a dramatic monologue form very skilfully to show us the controlling, jealous and arrogant traits the Duke possessed without mentioning them explicitly.
My Last Duchess was written in rhymed iambic pentameter; this allowed the poem to flow fluently and by doing this Browning creates no gaps for interruption. Along with this rhymed couplet is also used. With the use of words such as “wall” and “call” together with enjambment create a natural conversation. This has an overall impact on the poem as the creation of natural conversation sheds a more realistic light.
The first two lines of the poem introduce us to the main topic of the duke’s speech, a painting of his late wife.
“That’s my last duchess painted on the wall looking as if she were alive”
Through the use of the word “last” and “were” being past tense we immediately begin to suspect that the duchess is no longer alive, but are not sure. The clever language Browning chose suggests that something has gone wrong, but left enough ambiguity to capture and maintain the reader’s attention.
From the very beginning Browning shows that the duke is going to be a character that provokes anger.