My Last Duchess Ferrara By Robert Browning

My Last Duchess Ferrara By Robert Browning : Critical Appreciation

Introduction :

My Last Duchess Ferrara is a famous love poem written by Robert Browning. Browning in this Poem expresses the character of the lover (Duke) and his late wife. The Duke is of a jealous and greedy nature.

He killed his previous wife because she was sweet and courteous to everybody. This Poem presents psychological penetration (aspect) into character.

A Dramatic Monologue :

My Last Duchess is one Of the best Dramatic Monologues of Browning. In it, Duke is a Solo – speaker. He addresses a silent or passive listener, Count’s Envoy. Duke expresses his own character and inner most feeling, thoughts, actions in his speech.

He shows a portrait of his previous wife Who is dead, to the envoy or messenger of a count whose daughter he wishes to marry. While commenting on the nature of the Duchess he reveals the working (Nature) of his own mind.

Different from soliloquy :

Sometimes the Dramatic Monologue and the Soliloquy are not distinguished and are regarded as one and the same. But, They are not really similar.

The Soliloquy really means a poem in which the speaker talks to himself. But, Monologue is a poem in which he addresses some listener as in Browning’s My Last Duchess and Last ride together.

Subject Matter :

Robert Browning in this poem, presents the character of the Duke of Ferrara and his late wife. He killed his previous wife because of jealousy. The Duchess was sweet and innocent lady.

Her smiles were not reserved for her husband alone. Her husband was so proudy. His pride is shown in the fact that he would allow only a monk to paint her portrait.

He did not want to compromise which he regarded below his dignity. The Duke instead of correcting her mistakes, gave certain secret commands and She was murdered .

I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. 

Through his narration, the duke reveals the character of the Duchess as a frank charming girl. She loved to watch the sunset and to ride on a white mule. Every aspect of life pleased her.

The duke reveals his greedy nature expecting of rich dowry from count. In order to give a touch to the poem, Duke is showed as an Art-lover. Thus, it has an ironical note to end.

Character sketch of the Duke :

Duke is arrogant and proudy and lacks good qualities of a kind and generous person.

Extremely possessive :

Duke of Ferrara is extremely possessive. He speaks, My Last Duchess, with such an emphasis on the word ‘My’ as suggests his desire to have a sole monopoly upon her.

He wants her to be just a piece of property in his house or may be, just a show piece. Duke is so possessive that he wants a complete control even over her smiles.

That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,

The suspicious nature :

Duke is also suspicious. He chooses only a Monk painter to make a portrait of his wife. Perhaps, he cannot trust her with any other artist. He has no belief in his wife.

“Fra Pandolf” by design,

Vain and proud :

Duke is vain and proudy. He is proud of their work of Art. he does not want to compromise his wife because that means stooping low from his dignity. He murders her because of jealousy and proud.

I choose never to stoop.

Greedy Nature :

The duke is greedy. he wants to marry daughter of count. because, he wants more and more dowry from count.

no just pretense
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;

Cruel Nature :

he is very cruel. his cruelty is apparent in the way —

 I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. 

A member of ancient family :

Duke belongs to a family of nine hundred years of glorious history behind it. When Duchess thanks people for little things. He thinks as if she valued them as much as the rich family of her husband.

— as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody’s gift.

Character Sketch of the Duchess :

A woman with simple and generous heart :

Duchess is a woman with simple and generous heart. She smiles to everyone in equal sense. She finds beauty in every aspect of life. It makes her glad.

— She had
A heart—how shall I say?— too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.

Good natured and lovable woman :

Duchess is a frank, bright, good natured and lovable woman. What duke thinks to be her vulgarity (vice) is infact, her simplicity. She is very innocent and has a soft heart for everyone.

Smiling Nature :

She makes her smiles and blushes for everyone. She smiles at everything. The duke tells that sweet smiles on her face are not for her husband alone. She treats equally with sweet smile for everyone.

Sir, ’twas not
Her husband’s presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek; 

Earnest and impassioned by Nature :

She is earnest and impassioned by Nature. She has a smile for everyone. Her husband fails to understand the charm of such a Nature. It shows his nature of self centred soul.

Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile?

She was full of wonder at the beauty of the World like Beauty of sky, glory of Nature etc.

The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries 

A frank, charming and noble woman :

Through his narration , the duke reveals the character of duchess as a frank, charming girl who came from a happy home as a bright and eager bride.

She is one of those lovely women whose kindness are as natural as sunlight. Duke admires her all through the poem with a sarcasm (irony). She has dignity and grace which makes her noble.

Brevity and simplicity :

This poem is simple. It has brevity and simplicity. Browning’s famous critic, Philips points out that “though the poem consists only of 56 lines the story suggested in it could have covered thousands of pages.”

Poetic qualities :

My Last Duchess Ferrara By Robert Browning is interesting poem from the point of view of Metre. It is written in heroic couplet but, Here the rhymes are hardly noticeable. The sense runs so smoothly from line to line that rhymes become concealed.

 She thanked men—good! but thanked
Somehow—I know not how—as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody’s gift. Who’d stoop to blame

That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call

Pictorial qualities :

This poem has word pictures which have a compelling effect on the reader’s imagination. These are following :

The depth and passion of its earnest glance,

that spot of joy.

the faint
Half-flush that dies along her throat

The statue of Neptune — taming a sea horse.

Critical Note :

This poem is an excellent example of dramatic monologue. It shows the poet’s deep understanding of human character and capacity to present it dramatically and impressively.

Browning’s philosophy of life :

Browning believes that

” Life is a struggle towards attaining Perfection”
(जीवन पूर्णता प्राप्त करने की दिशा में एक संघर्ष है )

“Life is the persistent struggle against evil.”
(जीवन बुराई के खिलाफ लगातार संघर्ष है। )

The purpose of life is to travel hopefully in this direction. According to him, Man is God in germ. His soul is immortal. He preached God and immortality as a central truths of his philosophy of life. To him :

“Success is nought, endeavour is all.”
(सफलता कुछ भी नहीं है , प्रयास करना ही सब कुछ है।)

Browning’s views on love and hope :

Browning’s love poetry is the finest in the world because, He deals with real. In his love poems, he expresses the immortal moment when one forgets the past and the future in love for one’s beloved.

According to Browning, This universe is an expression of love. and ideal love can make man equal to God and can create heaven on Earth.

Robert Browning is a poet of Hope, He says that

” The unlit lamp and the ungirt loin are unpardonable. “
(बिना जला दीपक और बिना कसी कमर अक्षम्य पाप है। )

Browning’s Style :

The main features of his style are —

  • A dramatic turn of expression,
  • A fluency of verse and
  • certain rapidity of thought.

These things make him obscure and this obscurity makes his poems difficult for a common reader.

Conclusion | Climax :

Thus, My Last Duchess Ferrara By Robert Browning is a perfect example of a dramatic monologue, It is a piece of action, not of still life. It is not merely a long speech spoken by a character. it is a dramatic scene into which is poured all the emotions.

Dr. Jasbir jain comments, “In a brief span of fifty six lines the character of the duke, his dead wife and of the period are delineated very skillfully at times with the help of parenthesis, colloquial diction and broken syntax.”

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