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My Last Duchess

This study guide will help you analyse the poem “My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning. We will show you examples of elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis. In these notes, we will focus on composition, characters and narrator, language and style, rhythm and rhyme, imagery and metaphors, theme and message. 

Presentation of the poem

Title: “My Last Duchess”
Author: Robert Browning
Published in: Dramatic Lyrics
Date of Publication: 1842
Genre: Poem

Robert Browning (1812-1889) was a British poet and playwright during the Victorian era. He is mostly appreciated for the way he wrote dramatic monologues. In his writings, he approached social and historical themes and wrote about them with irony and black humour. 

“My Last Duchess” is a poem based on real historical people, namely Alfonso II d'Este, the fifth Duke of Ferrara (1533–1598) and his wife Lucrezia di Cosimo de' Medici. Lucrezia was only 14 years old when she married the Duke and died three years after that.

Excerpt 

Below, you can read an excerpt from our study guide: 

The style of the poem and mode of expression

The poem is written in an old-fashioned style, typical of the Victorian age, with multiple old English words such as “durst” (l. 11) , “twas” (l. 13) or “forsooth” (l. 41), etc. As we have mentioned before, the mode of expression is that of direct address, in a lyrical monologue. The speaker addresses a present person, who can answer; thus, the poem is not an apostrophe. However, the speaker does not seem to allow this person to reply and turns the conversation into a monologue...

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My Last Duchess

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