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My Last Duchess is a poem that was written in 1842 by the author Robert Browning. The poem revolved around the historical occurrences of Alfonso the Duke of Ferrara. It is a monologue of the duke who is negotiating his second marriage after being widowed to the daughter of a great family. He stops before a portrait of the late duchess, who was a young and beautiful girl as he was taking a visitor through his palace. He begins to talk about the portrait and Duchess herself. Duchess is brought back to live through the picture. Duke's reflection gives criticism to her discreditable behavior. He alleges that she was not grateful to his name and that she moved out with everyone. We realize that the duke caused the early death of the Duchess when she progressed with her behaviors because he gave commands. That was the time when they stopped smiling at each other. Having disclosed this, he goes on with the arrangement for another marriage with another young girl.
The duke tries to give an impressive picture to his agent of himself as a loving and caring husband yet he killed his flattering and discourteous wife. Therefore, his manipulative and envious nature is revealed. His desire to control is evidenced by the structure of the poem through his gratefulness to artists who produces his work (the portrait of the Duchess) and his reaction to the incidences that led to the death of his wife (duchess). He also tries to control his conversation through the use of caesura in the poem. Despite the failure to command and control duchess before, he is in full control of her after death.
The rhythm of the poem also reveals the Duke's loss of control. He is nervous and uneasy over the death of his wife. He becomes aware of his loss of control when his agent stands to go on the staircase and the Duke tells him that they will go together. He wants to appear as hurt and abused by his wife and; therefore, he was left with no other option than to put her to death. Through his gratefulness for the portrait, he tells the readers that he takes things that he can control to be worthy. For instance, "The daytime in the West... The branch of cherries" are nature images that are associated with the arts that Duke values. He also values his name that is why he kills the duchess for disrespecting his nine hundred years-old name. Additionally, due to his lack of control, he kills his wife.
The poem gives the reader a room to suggest that most of his actions took place only in his mind. He was very alert on what he was involved in. The Duke murders her wife because of her sexuality with other men. Duke knows that sex outside marriage is a sin. The author of the poem uses such examples to alert people on the ongoing sexual crimes, which are very confusing for the modern world. Therefore, it seems that this awareness changes his perception about the so-called discreditable wife. The poem engages its readers in questioning their own response to the death of the duchess and the cause for the homicide. It has a very powerful impact to the readers. He says "herself be lessened so" that means he is now in control of her.
In conclusion, the poem is all about relationship, authority, treasury and brutality. It gives the obsessive character of the duke who suspects that his wife is adulterous and as a result, he kills her. The portrait reflects beauty, loveliness and purity. His awareness of the what he did, he gives a warning that if he remarries, the new wife will experience the same fate like that of the duchess unless she commits herself wholly to the Duke alone as illustrated by the statement "Notice Neptune taming a sea horse".