What are the characteristics of dramatic monologue in "My Last Duchess"?

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The monologue's characteristics:

  • give a psychological portrait of a powerful Renaissance aristocrat
  • is presented to the reader as if he or she were simply "eavesdropping" on a slice of casual conversation
  • is a possible confession to his former wife's murder
  • foreshadows the fate of his next duchess
  • reveals the speaker's extreme jealousy and pride in male reputation
  • reveals irony, both verbal and situational.  The speaker has his former wife killed because of the young woman's "faults": compassion, modesty, humility, delight in simple pleasures, and courtesy to those who served her
  • reveals the powerlessness of women due to arranged marriages and male sexism
  • depicts the inner workings of his speaker, but has in fact allowed the speaker to reveal his own failings and imperfections to the reader
  • begins and concludes with the Duke drawing his listener's attention to works of art: first, the painting of the "last Duchess," his former wife; in the final lines, a sculpture of the sea-god Neptune taming a "seahorse."  The Duke's refined taste as a collector bears no relation to the humanistic qualities of the art itself
  • reveals beautiful language in iambic pentameter and rhymed couplets, the most natural cadence in the English language

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