My Last Duchess Robert Browning My Last Duchess What do these words imply? First Impressions What is the poem about?
Who are the characters in the poem? Who is speaking? (voice) (This is quite a difficult poem to understand) The Duke is talking about his dead wife, the Duchess. Her portrait hangs on the wall. The Duke is speaking to an envoy for the Count, a man whose daughter he wishes to marry. The envoy is there to discuss a dowry.
The poem is a dramatic monologue. This means the poem is written in the voice of a character, a male narrator - an imaginary Italian Duke. When? Browning wrote the poem in 1842. However, it seems likely that his idea for the poem was based on Alfonso II, Duke of Ferrara, whose first wife died after three years of marriage in 1561. The subject matter of the poem the marriage market would have ensured that the poem was topical in 1850s Britain. What? The Duke now wants to marry the Counts daughter. He is discussing this with the Counts representative. As he does so, he shows his guest around his palace. During the conversation and tour, he reveals a portrait of his previous wife his last
duchess. That's my last Duchess painted on the wall, Looking as if she were alive. First reading for meaning. Make notes on your paper copy of the poem! What might this suggest? Is there more than
one interpretation? Thats my last Duchess painted on the wall, Looking as if she were alive. I call That piece a wonder, now: Fr Pandolfs hands Worked busily a day, and there she stands. Willt please you sit and look at her? Why do you think the painting is a wonder? Who is Fra Pandolf?
How does the Duke feel about his dead wife? What is a pictured countenance? What has the envoy seen in it? I said Fr 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. What response do strangers have when they first see the portrait? i.e. what do they ask the Duke? Why do you think they ask this? What does this suggest about the Dukes attitude towards his wife (both now and when she was alive)?
When the Duke draws back the curtain the envoy sees in the Duchessexpression: The depth and passion of its earnest glance, We can see from the line below that the Counts envoy has asked how the glance or spot of joy came to be there. so, not the first are you to turn and ask thus. It wasnt just me, her husband, who brought pleasure to her face. What else made the Duchess ush with joy?
Sir, twas not Her husbands presence only, called that spot Of joy into the Duchess cheek: perhaps Fr Pandolf chanced to say Her mantle laps Over my ladys wrist too much, or Paint Must never hope to reproduce the faint Half-ush that dies along her throat: such stuff Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough For calling up that spot of joy. Does the Duke consider such stuff as courtesy?
How do you think the Duke feels about his wifes relationship with the painter? She had A heart how shall I say? too soon made glad, Too easily impressed; she liked whateer She looked on, and her looks went everywhere. Sir, twas all one! My favour 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. What does this suggest about the Dukes wife? Are there different ways of interpreting this characteristic?
She probably thought the painter was being courteous. But she was too easily impressed And her looks went everywhere What does this suggest about the Dukes wife? Are there different ways of interpreting this characteristic? Sir, 'twas all one!
Everything was the same to herof equal importance. My favour at her breast. Favour - the Dukes presence alongside her. Favour was literally a ribbon in the Dukes colours. Other things that were on equal importance were: A sunset. The dropping of the daylight in the West
The bough of cherries the white mule she rode with round the terrace These things were all the same to her. all and each Would draw from her alike the approving speech, Or blush, at least.
What do the dashes in the middle of the lines suggest? 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 anybodys gift. Whod stoop to blame This sort of triing? What does this mean? How does the Duke feel about his wifes response
to gifts from others? How does the Duke feel about his wifes social standing before she married him? Did the Duchess appreciate this gift? The Duke considers telling his wife how she has offended him but this is difficult even if you were skilled with words. if this
The speech here is what he would have said to his wife had he said anything he didnt Even had you skill
is all In speech (which I have not) to make your will hypothetical. Quite clear to such an one, and say, Just this He didnt tell Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss, his wife she Or there exceed the mark and if she let was upsetting Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set him. Why not? Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse,
Een then would be some stooping; and I choose Never to stoop. What sort of impression do you get of the Duke in this section? But to tell her here you disgust me or exceed the mark.
involves stooping and I choose never to stoop. She smiled at him, but also at everyone else. What do you think this means? Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt, Wheneer 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. Willt please you rise? Well meet The company below, then. How is the placement of this line significant? Will't please you rise? Well meet The company below, then. The Duke signals that this part of the conversation is
over. Why now? The Duke has moved on. Hes saying that the Counts munificence (vast wealth) is ample warrant (a guarantee) that his dowry demands will be met. I repeat, The Count your masters known munificence Is ample warrant that no just pretence Of mine for dowry will be disallowed; Though his fair daughters self, as I avowed At starting, is my object.
...but its not the money he wants, its the Counts daughter Nay, well go Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though, Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity, Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me! He moves the envoy away from the painting of MLD and towards the next
piece of art in his collection How does the Duke view women? Are you worried for the Counts daughter? The Duke What kind of man is the Duke? What is your initial reading? What other interpretations exist?
Use your different interpretations sheet to help you consider different ways of thinking about the Duke. Read and then cut out the statements about the Duke. Work in pairs to try and rank the statements. Place the most appropriate at the top and the least appropriate at the bottom. You might decide to give some statements equal weighting.
Together, select ten statements that you feel really capture the character of the Duke within the poem. Find a quotation to support each of the ten statements. Team up with another pair. Take it in turns to explain and prove your choices. A Picture... of the Duke The Duke spends most of the poem talking about his wife, but in lines 32-43 he talks about himself directly.
Look at and complete the worksheet you have been given: the Duke paints a picture of himself. 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 anybodys gift. Whod 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 made excuse, --E'en then would be some stooping, and I choose Never to stoop. But to tell her here you disgust me or exceed the mark. involves stooping and
I choose never to stoop. What other lines in the poem tell us that the Duke is a proud man? How the would the Duke say I choose never to stoop? Does the Duke reveal what hes like intentionally or unintentionally? The mad duke...cannot love without so possessing and destroying the identity of his wife that he literally kills her
and lives with her dead substitute, a work of art." Isobel Armstrong Do you agree? The Duchess The majority of the Dukes monologue is spent telling the Counts envoy about his former
wife his last Duchess. During this monologue, he talks about her actions and personality and this, in turn, explains his jealousy and anger. Work in pairs to list the reasons he gives. What does the Duchess do which causes the Duke to become jealous and angry? What aspects of her personality upset him?
There are a number of word sets and / or phrases within the poem. Work in small groups to collate evidence linked to the area you have been given on your worksheet. Be prepared to share your ideas with the rest of the class! The Duchess beauty The Duchess dead or alive? The Duchess as art Looking Uncertainty
Beauty: When people gave the Duchess compliments, the Duke says: such stuff/ Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough For calling up that spot of joy. What does that imply about both the Duchess and the Duke? Alive or Dead?
Did the Duke murder his wife? I gave commands; / Then all smiles stopped together What evidence is there for either argument? The Duchess as an object: The portrait of the last Duchess is behind a curtain. The Duke states in lines 9-10: (since none puts by / The curtain I have drawn from you but I)
Does the Duke let many people see his last Duchess? Why or why not? What does that tell us about the Duke? Why is this in brackets? Looking: The Duke states that: her looks went everywhere and that it: twas all one!
Why is he so angry? What didnt she do? Uncertainty: What do the following lines imply? Sir, twas not Her husbands presence only, called that spot Of joy into the Duchess cheek Fra Pandolf The Duke seems
particularly jealous and angered by the possible relationship that developed between the artist and the Duchess. What is the Dukes attitude to Fra Pandolf? Lines 3-4 Lines 5-7 Lines 15-21
In lines 15 19, the Duke speaks what he imagines Fra Pandolf has said to his wife, the Duchess. Read the lines carefully. Discuss the following questions in small groups: Which words make it clear that the Duke is guessing at what might have happened (or not) between the Duchess and Fra Pandolf? What is significant about the two lines of dialogue that the Duke gives Fra Pandolf. Consider the tone and content. How would the Duke speak these lines? What do you make of the use of the possessive
pronoun her in this section? Structure and Form Throughout the poem, there are rhyming couplets. Highlight some effective examples of these on your copy of the poem. What kind of pace and rhythm does this lend to the poem? Steady galloping faltering
stately regular monotonous Select three of the following:
The pace and rhythm of the couplets is appropriate and effective because: it gives the poem a lively, musical feel; the structured form is elegant, and suits the Dukes status; it gives the poem a chant-like beat; the structured form echoes the Dukes masculine need to control; it shows that the Duke is trying to order his confused and
complex thoughts about his wife; it makes the content of each line very predictable and boring. Enjambment Enjambment is used throughout the poem. It creates a more natural-sounding, owing voice. It causes deliberate and significant pauses at key moments within the poem. It sometimes signals a change in tone of voice. Can you find some examples of this?
Iambic Pentameter The poem is written in iambic pentameter. This means that there are five feet in each line. Each foot contains two syllables. Traditionally, iambic pentameter is written in the following pattern of unstressed and stressed syllables. da-dum da-dum da-dum da-dum da-dum
da-dum da-dum da-dum da-dum da-dum Iambic pentameter often follows the natural rhythm of speech, a little like a heartbeat. If we apply this to pattern to Brownings opening line, it would be as follows. Thats my last duchess painted on the wall Does the above rhythm sound natural? Not really. Poets played with the form of iambic line, using the pattern but allowing the reader of the poem
some freedom in the way they read the lines aloud. Do any of the lines sound better when using the traditional stress pattern of iambic pentameter? Why is this worth knowing? When the poems enjambment is considered alongside the poems use of rhyming couplets and iambic pentameter, it suggests breaks in the Dukes train of thought, and his thoughts about his wife. In this way, the Duchess playfulness and free
spirit permeates the form and structure not just the content of the poem. Or perhaps the Duke has reason to falter? Bearing this in mind... There are two half rhymes within the poem. The first comes from lines 27 28 and the second from lines 41 42. Sir, twas all one! My favour 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 - fool mule - and if she let Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse, - Een then would be some stooping; and I choose Never to stoop.
excuse choose Poets often use half rhymes in order to drawn attention to the lines, or in order to create a particular effect. Consider the content of these lines. Why might these half rhymes be significant? The Ending Notice Neptune,
though, Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity, Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me! Why does the poem end with these lines? What is being suggested about the Duke, the Duchess and their relationship? What might it suggest to the Counts envoy?
Themes and issues First read through the list of themes below and give each one a score to reect the importance you think it has in the poem. Use these scorings: 0 No Significance 5 The theme features in a minor way 10 The theme features in a major way 15 It is the poems central, most important theme Now share your ideas with a partner. Discuss your scores and then together make a list of the top three themes according to
your negotiations. Be prepared to share your ideas with the whole class. As a whole class, decide on the top three themes in this poem. Its time to summarise! Were going to make a note of the poems VITALS. Poetry VITALS Voice: Who is speaking in the poem? Imagery: What imagery is being created?
is it effective? How Theme: What are the main themes featured in the poem? Address: Who is the poem addressed to? Why? Language (Features): What type of language/ devices are used? What is their effect? Structure: How is the poem laid out? What is the effect of this?
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