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

What are some literary devices and figures of speech used in Robert Browning's poem "My Last Duchess"?


Asked on by aquamaula

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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.