My Last Duchess

“My Last Duchess” uses a dramatic monologue in the form of a Romantic verse to enter the unabashed, amoral mind of a psychopath. In it, a duke speaks to his unnamed audience while looking at a painting of his dead wife in his private art gallery. While the duke describes his wife, we come to find that she was an extraordinarily happy woman who was pleased with everything. Within this description the duke reveals that he did not like the woman’s disposition, implying that he killed her. Robert Browning may have taken this story from the historical case of Lucrezia Medici in 1561, whose mysterious and suspicious death has been blamed on her then-husband Alfonso II de Ferrara. During the Victorian era, interest in contemporary poetry faded and Victorian poets wrote experimental and disturbing poetry to combat their own irrelevance and differentiate themselves from the flowery imagery of popular Romantic poets. For this reason, Browning’s poem is packed with enjambment, irregular punctuation, and harsh language that unsettles the reader and establishes a vibrant and disturbing character.

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