Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Duke's agency revealed in the poetic structure? - "My Last Duchess"

I think the commentary that Browning is making in this poem is very interesting. I gathered that he was critiquing a man’s absolute control that he has on his wife in society. In the poem, the Duke is so obsessed with control that he killed his first wife because he could not effectively control her.

The way in which Browning portrays the Duke’s voice made me question the agency of the poem. On the surface, it seems that the Duke is controlling the conversation and that he seems very confident in his words, but there is strong sense of artificially that appears throughout the poem. As we learn more about what really happened to the Duchess, the rhythm and structure of the poem ties into the emotion of the speaker. For example, the enjambment of the lines takes the Duke’s seemingly matter-of-fact speech and makes it appear illogical. Thus, while the Duke wants to make it appear as if he is in “control” of the conversation, his overriding obsession with control actually controls him through his guilt…?

1 comment:

  1. The poem serves as a warning to the emissary that his next girl young girl should not be as flirtatious as the last, or else there will be another portrait to add to his collection. I agree that the Duke is used to control, and is calculating in his ways. He never comes forth and admits his crime, nor did he personally kill his previous wife, "This grew; I gave commands; Then all smiles stopped together." but instead gets one of his servants the task. This shows the power he holds over his subject, and the power he wishes to have over his future wife. I don't think the Duke has guilt of the crime, but instead think that his previous wife is in her perfect place according to the Duke, within the painting, "There she stands. As if alive," where the only person she will ever smile at again is him. The poem ends with the Duke admiring a statue of Neptune taming a seahorse, thinking of himself as a God.