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Interpretation of Robert Browning's My Last Duchess

Essay by review  •  December 24, 2010  •  Essay  •  739 Words (3 Pages)  •  792 Views

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I read a critical article on Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess". I confess it was harder to find something in the NCLC's than I would've thought. There was a considerable accumulation of critiques on Browning's work, but very little on "My Last Duchess".

The article I found concentrated mostly on the Duke in the poem, and our reactions to him, stating that "[t]he utter outrageousness of the Duke's behavior makes condemnation the least interesting response..." The title of the article was "Sympathy versus Judgment". Some of its points are that the Duke controls the entire poem, that it being a monologue was significant, and that he is almost easy to sympathize with and like. The article discusses Ferarra's nature and his self-involvement which allows the goodness of the Duchess to "shine through the Duke's utterance."

It goes on to speak about sympathy in general and how Browning "delighted in making a case for the apparently immoral position", how he found dramatic monologues the best form to do so, and how he went about it. It keeps going for a couple more pages on things which I will not go into because they have little relevance to any interpretation of "My Last Duchess".

The article as it pertained to my poem was fine; I wish I could have found one which went into more depth as opposed to just discussing immoral characters and our empathy for them. I didn't particularly care for the lawyerly torrent of words that were used, either. I am not ignorant and appreciate the need for words of longer than two syllables when discussing literature (or anything more serious than an episode of "Friends", in fact), but I found it more difficult than usual to get through this article. I found it unconscionably wordy and it felt at times as though he was just stringing fancy words together because they looked all important lined up. However, that's just my opinion.

I was gratified to see that this critic agreed with my interpretation of the Duchess's demise, viz., the Duke had her murdered. The theory advanced by my brilliant and magnificent Professor had been that the Duke gave her so many orders and restrictions that she pined away. I had been looking at his famous line "And I choose/never to stoop." He married her for her beauty but would never lower himself to tell her when she angered him. It seemed to me that the only "commands" he would have bothered to give about her would be to have her inconvenient existence remedied.

I found his thoughts about our

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