It’s been a very long time since I’ve bothered, but as it’s my birthday, I’m allowed on the computer for aaages today. And I’ve just been on a massive walk, so have plenty of adrenaline. Speed typing, here we come.

Since I’m full of energy, I’ve found a poem that I’m actually studying for GCSE. It’s one of the best of the poems we’ve been given, but then again, that’s not exactly saying much. Or maybe they’re all good poems and I’ve just stared at them too often so I now hate them.

Couple of things I’ve had drilled into my brain:

1) The form of the poem – written in iambic pentameter, with a regular rhyme scheme. This intense control over his language contrasts greatly with the Duke’s violence towards his wife (he kills her, if not with his own hands, because of his own paranoia and jealousy). The general eloquence of the persona is also worth noting, because, again it contrasts with his violence.

2) The tone of the persona, the Duke. Firstly, his use of euphamistic language – “I gave commands”. Secondly, the way in which he mimics the painter (again showing his skill with language) – the fact that he’s mimicking a scene at which he was not present, suggests that his wife’s crimes were in his mind…

3) The objectification of women by the Duke – he compares himself to Neptune, and likens women to a “sea-horse” and therefore to animals. Also, the very use of the word “object” in relation to his new wife.

Enough spouting recycled GCSE knowledge. Enjoy the poem, or don’t. I really like Robert Browning, actually. He’s pretty good at portraying a jealous husband/wife – he does the same sort of thing in ‘The Laboratory’. It’s also fairly long (we may have an attention span problem here…). Control is a recurring theme here. The use of dramatic monologue, and lack of end-stops, means that there’s no room for interruptions and is a way to control the audience. The manipulative language, and the display of false modesty is another method. The Duke seeks constantly to control his wives, which is why he killed the previous wife, because she was a human being and therefore had an element of free will he could not control. Now, however, he’s the only one in charge of the curtain that hides or displays the picture. There’s something essentially disturbing in the power he holds over the readers themselves – he almost succeeds in persuading us that he was right to act the way he did. He is remorseless, and more than ready to do it again.

My Last Duchess
 Robert Browning

That’s my last duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now: Frà Pandolf’s hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will’t please you sit and look at her? I said
“Frà Pandolf” by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, ’twas not
Her husband’s presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek: perhaps
Frà Pandolf chanced to say “Her mantle laps
“Over my lady’s wrist too much,” or “Paint
“Must never hope to reproduce the faint
“Half-flush that dies along her throat”: such stuff
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy. 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.
Sir, ’twas all one! My favor at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
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,
Or blush, at least. 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
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill
In speech which I have not to make your will
Quite clear to such an one, and say, “Just this
“Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,
“Or there exceed the mark” and if she let
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and make excuse,
E’en then would be some stooping; and I choose
Never to stoop. Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive. Will’t please you rise? We’ll meet
The company below, then. I repeat,
The Count your master’s known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretense
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
Though his fair daughter’s self, as I avowed
At starting, is my object. Nay we’ll go
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!

Advertisements