Robert Browning was an English poet and dramatist who rose to prominence among Victorian poets for his dramatic monologues. Irony, characterisation, black humour, social criticism, historical settings, and complex language and grammar were all hallmarks of his work. His career started well–the long poems Pauline (1833) and Paracelsus (1835) were well received–but his reputation declined for a time–his 1840 poem Sordello was widely respected as wilfully odd–and it took him over a decade to overcome, by which time he had moved away from Shelleyan forms and toward a further personal style.

Browning married Elizabeth Barrett, a fellow poet, in 1846 and relocated to Italy. He had published the anthology Men and Women by the time she died in 1861.

robert browning, my last duchess, last duchess poem
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He rose to prominence as a result of his dramatis personae (1864) and the book-length epic poem The Ring and the Book (1868–1869). He continued to be productive, although his fame now is based primarily on his middle years. By the time he died in 1889, he was regarded as a wise man and philosopher-poet who had contributed to Victorian social and political debate. In the United Kingdom and the United States, societies dedicated to the study of his work lasted into the twentieth century.

Browning is famed for poems including Porphyria’s Lover, My Last Duchess, How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix, and The Pied Piper of Hamelin, as well as famous phrases like “Grow old with me!” “A man’s reach should transcend his grasp” and “Less is more” (Andrea Del Sarto), “It was flowers, roses all the way” (The Patriot), and “God is in His heaven—All is well with the earth!” (Rabbi Ben Ezra). (Pippa makes a pass.)

Also Read, Jabberwocky: A Nonsensical poem with a Beautiful Meaning

Robert Browning’s poem “My Last Duchess” is commonly cited as a dramatic monologue example. Browning’s Dramatic Lyrics initially published it in 1842. In iambic pentameter, the poem is written in 28 rhyming couplets.

my last duchess, last duchess poem
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The poem is set in the Italian Renaissance, yet it might be seen as a condemnation of how women were treated during Browning’s time in the Victorian era. The speaker (probably Duke Alfonso of Ferrara) is giving a tour of his home’s artworks to an emissary of his possible new wife’s family. He pulls back a curtain to expose a picture of a lady, saying that it is a portrait of his late wife, and he encourages his visitor to sit and admire it. The Duke remembers the late Duchess’s bright, cheery, appreciative, and kind character as they gaze at her image, which had irritated him.

The Duke and Duchess Ferarra were the poet’s inspiration for this poem. The death of the Duchess took place under mysterious circumstances. She married at the age of fourteen and died at the age of seventeen. Browning draws on these odd circumstances to write a poem that delves into the psyche of a powerful Duke of Ferarra who seeks to control every part of his wife’s life, including her feelings.

Browning, a Victorian poet, produced real-life poetry that commented on some of Victorian life’s darker features. Of course, one of these factors is how husbands treat their spouses. Henry the VIII is well-known for his numerous wives, whom he accused and executed when he grew tired of them. This mindset was popular at the time, according to Robert Browning. Wives were seen as disposable, and their husbands would frequently accuse them of trying to get rid of them so they could marry someone else. A Victorian wife’s life was fraught with danger.

Structure of My Last Duchess

my last duchess, last duchess poem
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Robert Browning’s dramatic monologue, ‘My Last Duchess’, is divided into five portions and composed in rhyming couplets. Most of the poem is written in iambic pentameter. This shows that the lines comprise five sets of two beats, with the first being unstressed and the second being stressed. Trochees and other pressures can be seen in a few places.

This poem is described as a dramatic lyric by Browning, however, it is basically a dramatic monologue, a type often associated with Robert Browning, in which one person talks to an assumed audience. It’s written in iambic pentameter, including rhyming couplets and the enjambment method of not always ending phrases on a line’s end. The poem has a conversational tone and may be read as a protracted discourse as a result of these tactics.

Though the poem does not condemn the duke, it does indicate that he is a boorish man whose social standing has little to do with his moral value. The duke continually emphasises his riches and power to his visitors, and makes veiled warnings about what would happen to anyone who does not place a high enough value on his social status. The poem pokes fun at upper-class snobbery through the duke, implying the shallowness of an aristocratic culture that bestows respect based on factors like having a good family name or buying expensive artwork. Instead, the poem exposes the different ways in which strong individuals, such as the duke, might exploit such status indicators.