My Last Duchess is a famous dramatic monologue by Robert Browning. Traditionally a dramatic monologue comprises of lyrical strain, abrupt beginning, single speaker, silent listener, psychological analysis and clues to suggest what the silent listener says or does. The poem My Last Duchess has all these elements.
The poem begins with a dramatic suddenness: “That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall.” The readers understand that the event has begun earlier. But the poem begins somewhere in the middle of the speech giving a dramatic twist.
As the poem progresses, it becomes clear that only a single person speaks. The speaker is the Duke of Ferrara who is talking about his dead Duchess’ portrait painted by Fra Pandlof. At several points of the poem it becomes evident that there is a listener who remains silent. For example, when the Duke says, “Will’t please you sit and look at her?” or “Will’t please you rise?” we understand that someone is present around him. Later in the poem, we come to know that he is an emissary for the second marriage of the Duke. Throughout the poem he does not talk. But his reactions are revealed through the Duke’s speech. For example, the clue to understand the surprise in the emissary’s face has been revealed by the Duke himself; “so not the first Are you to turn and ask thus.” We know he does not ask anything but there has been a question in his countenance.
The main principle controlling the form of a dramatic monologue is what the lyric speaker says to reveal his soul. In My Last Duchess the Duke while talking about the Duchess reveals his own mind. We understand that he is a possessive husband, a cruel person, a proud aristocrat, a greedy bridegroom but a connoisseur of artworks. He also reveals that the Duchess was an innocent, easy-going lady. These analyses of Duke’s temperament are the essence of this dramatic look. It may now be concluded that My Last Duchess is a fine example. of the dramatic monologue. It has all the elements that a . dramatic monologue requires.