Essay on Murder, Mystery and Intrigue in My Last Duchess

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Murder, mystery and intrigue all describe Robert Browning's poem, "My Last Duchess." From the speakers' indirect allusions to the death of his wife the reader is easily lead to think that the speaker committed a vengeful crime out of jealousy. His elaborate speech confuses and disguises any possible motives, and the mystery is left unsolved. Even if he did not kill his wife, he certainly has something to hide. Based on the poem's historical references, style and structure, the Duke's controlling and jealous nature becomes evident. An ambiguous quality about the Duke is his historical character. The incident the poem dramatizes clearly references the historical Alfonso II, Duke of Ferrara, who married Lucrezia, daughter of a man who…show more content…
Like Neptune, the Duke rules his kingdom, Ferrara, with an iron fist. When he grew tired of his last duchess, he said "I gave commands" (Browning 45), and her smiles "stopped together" (46). Like the god that he would be, the Duke has exercised the power over life and death (Magill 279). He also seems to direct the actions of a person he is addressing with comments such a "Will't please you rise?" (Browning 47) and "Nay, we'll go / Together down, sir" (53-54). Browning uses many techniques, including a simple rhyme scheme, enjambment, and caesura to convoy various characteristics and qualities about the speaker and the situation. He uses an AA BB rhyme scheme, which is very common to ballads and songs (DeVane 107). It also enhances the irony of the speaker's later comment he does not have "skill / In speech" (Browning 35-36). The enjambed lines indicate control that the speaker is exerting on the conversation and give the feeling that the speaker is rushing through parts of the poem (Magill 277). When the Duke is speaking of the death of his wife, for example, the lines running over suggest that he is nervous about the subject. The run-on lines also propose the Duke's inability to control everything. The caesuras also suggest to the reader that he is hiding something or that he is pausing to think. This device helps to illustrate how the Duke's true motivations are breaking through the surface of his everyday language.

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