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The Dramatic Monologue: “My Last Duchess”, Essay Example

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The chilling tone of Browning’s “My Last Duchess” does not present a problem in imagining a reaction as the person he is addressing. The dilemma arises from the world in which the character is speaking, and not only in terms of the Duke’s instructing a servant or employee. The French Revolution had a massive impact on the Romantic Period, and consequently on the feelings expressed by its poets. It infused ideas of violence in the intellectuals of the day (Greenblatt), and it may be that this also led to the Romantic interest in the Gothic. In that genre, extremes of behavior, usually reflecting unusual desires and morbid fantasies, are explored (Greenblatt). All of this is in Browning’s Duke, so responding requires taking into consideration the bizarre and cruel arrogance of the man.

That said, I would take advantage of the circumstance itself, in that I am a servant of the Count being visited, and not of the Duke. No matter how my own master might seek this marriage arrangement, I would be empowered to protect the family interests, as I would assume my master would be very interested in the exact circumstances of the Duke’s status as a widower. I would first ask the Duke how deeply he had been offended by the woman’s lack of interest in his rank. Then, protected by my employer’s interests, I would be bold enough to ask the Duke exactly what he means with this statement: “I gave commands;/ Then all smiles stopped altogether” (Browning ll 45-46). I would then discreetly ask the Duke to wait a bit while I consulted with the Count, and did my best to relate the true character of the man selected to be his son-in-law.

Works Cited

Browning, R. My Last Duchess and Other Poems. Toronto: Courier Dover Publications, 1993. Print.

Greenblatt, S. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 9th Ed., Vol. 2. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 2012. Web. <http://www.wwnorton.com/college/english/nael/noa/alpha.htm#b>

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