Monday, November 17, 2008

Analysis of Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess"

Thesis- In the poem “My Last Duchess” the author Robert Browning suggests that humans are easily swayed into believing a horrific event isn’t that awful, solely by the use of language. He does this through the use of diction, stories within a story, and enjambment.
1- In the beginning of the poem, the speaker, a duke, is drawing the reader in. He does this mainly through diction, carefully describing the painting, yet avoiding the person in the painting. Though he mentions that “Fra Pandolf’s hands/ Worked busily a day, and there she stands,” and the painting is “a wonder,” he doesn’t mention anything more about the person in the picture aside from her being his last Duchess, “looking as if she were alive.” Another technique used is enjambment. This flowing of words keeps the audience trying to string things together, without really understanding what is being read, because it’s all going by so quickly. Though he’s talking about a dead wife, he speaks as if it is just another painting to add to his collection.
2- The second section of the poem continued on with the enjambment, which creates the feeling that the speaker is casually brushing over the discomfort of the listener, who wonders why the duchess looks as she does in the painting. His casualty about it mirrors off onto the reader, who also glosses over the discomfort.
3- By using a story within a story, the speaker draws the reader in even further, as if he were telling a simple bed time story, which is actually about the possible affair the duchess may have had with Fra Pandolf, who casually mentions as he paints “ ‘Her mantle laps/ Over my lady’s wrist too much.’ “. Yet again, the speaker creates a feeling as if everything was well and good, causing the reader to feel as if her flirting was nothing more than a silly made up story, or an unimportant detail.
4- In the 4th section, by saying only that the duchess was “too easily impressed,” the Duke yet again brushes things off.
5- Yet again he uses a story, becoming slightly angrier. Shift takes place, as he complains about all the things that make her smile and blush.
6- Increasingly angry. Still, by using diction, and mentioning that “even had you skill in speech—(which I have not) –,” which is to distract the reader in a way. The Duke is sly in his blasé attitude. He begins to offhandedly mention what could have happened if he was skilled in speech, and how he would change her.
7- By lack of details in this part, the reader is left to come to their own conclusion of what the line which says “This grew; I gave/ commands; / Then all the smiles stopped together,” means. Also, enjambment is used to break up this part, making it even more confusing for the audience to grasp. Quickly after that, as if all that has come before was an after-thought, he sends his guest on down the hallway, pointing out another piece of artwork, as if it is no different than the one before it. By making such a quick transition, yet again the author has passed all the information as nothing special even though he referenced to killing his wife. Nothing strange about that at all.

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