Which Poetic Technique Does Robert Browning Use In This Excerpt From “My Last Duchess”?

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The literary techniques and figures of speech included in Robert Browning’s poem “My Last Duchess” include the following (highlighted with italics):

  • Looking as if she were alive. I call [alliteration: repetition of the same consonants]
  • The depth and passion of its earnest glance, [assonance: repetition of the same vowel sounds]

  • And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst, [more assonance]

  • How such a glance came there; so, not the first
    Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, 'twas not
    Her husband's presence only, called that spot
    Of joy into the Duchess' cheek: perhaps
    [enjambment: lack of punctuation at the ends of lines; adds to the conversational flow of the poem]

  • "Half-flush that dies along her throat:'' such stuff [metaphor; foreshadowing: the color does not literally “die,” but the use of the word “dies” does foreshadow her death]

  • A heart---how shall I say?---too soon made glad,[interjection or interruption; imitates the interruptions and hesitations characteristic of real speech]
  • Too easily impressed; she liked whate'er [caesura: a heavy break in the middle of a line]

  • The dropping of the daylight in the West, [vivid imagery; more alliteration]

  • all and each
    Would draw from her alike the approving speech,
    Or blush, at least.
    [more assonance]
  • Who'd stoop to blame
    This sort of trifling?
    [rhetorical question]

  • forsooth, and made excuse,
    ---E'en then would be some stooping; and I choose
    [heavy assonance here]
  • As if alive. Will't please you rise? We'll meet [iambic pentameter meter: ten syllables, with all the even syllables accented and the odd syllables unaccented]
  • Taming a sea-horse, [symbolism: the tamed sea-horse symbolizes the way the Duke likes to tame his wives]

Browning’s talent in using and combining all these various techniques helps contribute to the success and memorability of the poem.



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