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Poem Analysis of My Last Duchess by Robert Browning

"My Last Duchess" is a poem written by Robert Browning in the year 1842. It is a dramatic monologue about the Duke of Ferrara who reveals details about his previous wife through conversation. The poem uses an iambic pentameter of AABB couplets.

In order to fully understand the >nature of this poem, it is important to know about the true history of the Duke of Ferrara. At the age of 25, the Duke wed a 14-year-old girl named Lucrezia. The Duke received a large dowry to marry the young woman, who was uneducated. After a year of marriage, the Duke left his wife (but remained married to her). Two years later, the young wife died of suspected poisoning by the Duke. He then sought the hand of one of the eight daughters of the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I and Anna of Bohemia and Hungary. The Count of Tyrol, Ferdinand II, was put in charge of arranging the marriage between the Duke of Ferrara and the daughter of the Count's sister.

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This poem is set during the late Italian Renaissance when the Duke of Ferrera gives his hopeful-second wife and her family a tour of the artwork within his home. The Duke draws a curtain to reveal a painting of a young woman, who is presumably his late wife. He invites his guests to take a look at the painting as he describes her: happy, cheerful, and flirtatious. The Duke shows his obvious dislike for her flirtatious behavior, going as far to say "twas not her husband's presence only" which made her happy and "Too easily impressed: she liked whate'er / She looked on." He then states that he has the curtain drawn over her painting so she may only smile for him. He then resumes a previous conversation about the dowry and points to another work of art, a bronze statue of Neptune taming a sea-horse.

The poem "My Last Duchess" suggests that the Duke of Ferrera killed his young wife out of jealousy. The poem states the Duke believed she flirted and possibly even slept with other men, so he kept her hidden behind his curtain to keep her for himself. The poem is filled with hatred speak about her smiling towards other men, almost to the point of complete hysteria. He couldn't control the woman's life, so he took it from her.