What are some themes of "My Last Duchess" by Robert Browning?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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"My Last Duchess" by Robert Browning uses the form of the dramatic monologue to illustrate major themes typical of Browning's work.

The first major theme is that of the collector, a theme also found in "The Bishop Orders his Tomb." This theme illustrates a way people react to art by collecting it as a status symbol rather than appreciating its intrinsic worth. The Duke who narrates "My Last Duchess" is a collector in his attitude towards people (especially women) as well as objects. We see the relationship between them in the discussion of the portrait of the Duchess. The Duke says:

I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive.

The duchess has been transformed into an object similar to the statue of Neptune.

Another major theme is hypocrisy and the way in which a convention surface can mask evil.



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