My Last Duchess By Browning
One of the greatest Victorian poets and masters of the dramatic monologue,

Robert Browning was born in London on the seventh of May in 1812. His father was
a clerk at the Bank of England and mostly educated Browning at home. He attended

London University in 1828, but withdrew after his second term. After his first
publication in 1833, Pauline: A Fragment of a Confession, he received little
attention and only random criticism of his later works. It was not until 1869
when The Ring and the Book was published that he received recognition and began
to build his reputation. Prior to his success, he married Elizabeth Browning
against her father’s wishes and stayed deeply devoted to her until her death
in 1861. While married to Elizabeth, he lived in Florence, Italy, where he did
some of his finest work. Nearly all of his companions and acquaintances
considered him a sociable person and a gracious host, as he was well known for
his dinner parties. Browning continued to publish volumes of poetry until his
death on December the twelfth of 1889. Robert Browning is remembered for his
mastery at capturing the essence and power of the dramatic monologue. Through
symbolism, structure and technique, Browning creates the model of the ideal
dramatic monologue in the poem, "My Last Duchess." "My Last

Duchess" was published in 1845. "Ferrara" is the subtitle of the
poem and assists in disclosing the design of the poem, a portrayal of Alfonso

II, the fifth Duke of Ferrara. The historical life of Alfonso II fits
intricately with the events and happenings within the poem. Alfonso II married

Lucrezia de’ Medici who is the daughter of the Duke of Florence. The Duke’s
family has a long credited name and wealth that had been around for ages. The
affluence and power of the duchess’s family had been newly acquired, and when
comparing the two families, the Duke’s was much more significant, at least in
his eyes. The Duchess of Alfonso II died of poisoning in 1561. Three short years
later the Duke arranged to marry Barbara, a niece of the Count of Tyrol. The
speaker of the dramatic monologue is an egotistical and pompous Duke. He speaks
to an envoy of the Count throughout the monologue. At the beginning of the poem,
he slowly draws back the curtain and reveals a portrait. This portrait, he
asserts, is his "last Duchess...looking as if she were alive"
(lines1-2). The Duke continues by addressing the look upon her face and the many
reasons for her blushing cheeks. Continuing the description, he depicts the
duchess’s ways, including her virtues of innocence and unspoiled beauty.

Examples are given by the Duke of how easily she is impressed by nature and the
simple pleasures of life. He claims he is disgusted by her ability to see
natural beauty as an equal delectation with his name and matrimony. Then very
subtly he tells the envoy how he gave orders to have "all smiles stopped
together" (line 46). The envoy is completely aware of the truth about the
ordered killings and the Duke’s greedy reasoning for marrying the niece of the

Count. The contemptuous way of the Duke is made perfectly clear to the envoy,
and the envoy begins to leave. The delegate is completely aware of the truth
about the ordered killings and the Duke’s greedy reasoning for marrying the
niece of the Count. The Duke elaborates his reasoning for marrying the duchess,
by declaring it is only for the dowry. The last few lines of the poem reveal the
full essence of the Duke and how he sees himself as powerful and godlike.
"My Last Duchess" contains multiple symbols throughout the poem. A few
of the symbols in the poem are said by the Duke pertaining to the duchess. The

Duke gives examples of things she was enamored by such as the "the dropping
of the daylight in the West" (line 26), the "bough of cherries"
(line 27) and the white mule. She enjoys and treasures the sunset for its
beauty; this the Duke finds trivial. The cherry branch given to her by a servant
is white and pink which could be representative of her youth and innocence. The
white mule she would ride is something that gives her pleasure, she finds it
exotic and interesting. All of these gifts of nature he finds to be elementary
and insignificant, but to her they are beautiful and extraordinary. The symbols
told by the Duke also echo her natural splendor and her innocent ways, since