The Inferiority of Women in Robert Browning's Poem My Last Duchess

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Written by Robert Browning, “My Last Duchess” is a poem about an egocentric Duke who has a painting of his last wife upon the wall and is trying to impress an ambassador who is negotiating his next marriage. Although it is obvious that the Duke is trying to persuade this ambassador, however, this is where the first mystery is created. It is almost as if he is trying to persuade no one more than himself. This poem was set in Renaissance Italy and women were denied all political rights and considered legally subject to their husbands. Women of all classes were expected to perform, first and foremost, the duties of housewife: sewing, cooking, and entertaining, among others. It is obvious from the historical context that Browning’s poem was…show more content…
Immediately, it is evident just how egoistic and possessive the Duke is. Even in the opening statement, “That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,” it seems to the reader that this Duchess was owned by the Duke. The word, “last”, adds to the subtle mystery: was this the Duke’s last ever Duchess? Or is this just his last one until he gets another one? Personally, after reading the poem several times, I believe that it is the latter of the two, and that if the Duke sees something that he dislikes in his next wife he will simply get another one. Indeed, it quickly becomes clear that the Duke disliked many things about his dead wife. The Duke dislikes how the Duchess liked everything that she saw, believing that she was “too easily impressed; she liked whate’er she looked on”. It disappoints him because he wanted to impress her with his marriage to her and also with his money and lifestyle. What annoyed the Duke most was that: “the bough of cherries some officious fool Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule She rode with round the terrace- all and each Would draw from her alike the approving speech.” It irritated the Duke that a bough of cherries pleased her just as much as her marriage to the Duke, her association with such an important family. Also he takes a derogatory view of the horse that she
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