Robert Browning: Poems

The Power of Voice in “My Last Duchess” 12th Grade

“My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning is a Victorian poem that demonstrates the power of voice. This poem is narrated by the Duke of Ferrara who uses his voice to gain control of those around him. He even speaks for his deceased wife, only explaining his view of the situation preceding her death. While the Duke has a voice, his former wife is encapsulated by silence and isolation. The Duke determines who is allowed to see her portrait, and decides which part of her story he wants to share. This essay will analyze the silence forced upon the Duchess, and will demonstrate how the form of the poem expresses the controlling voice the Duke maintains throughout the work.

“My Last Duchess” is a poem that demonstrates the silence enforced upon a Duchess, emphasized by the isolation created by her former husband. From the very beginning of the poem the Duchess is shown as alone and isolated: “That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall, Looking as if she were alive” (1-2). The Duchess is physically attached to the wall as a portrait, and cannot interact with those around her. She is a strict observer, watching others interact as she merely looks on. The Duke has even limited the amount of people that can see her: “But to myself they...

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