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"?
A major poetic technique Browning uses in "My Last Duchess" is ekphrasis. This is using a work of art, such as a painting, in a poem. In this poem, the narrator, the Duke of Ferrara, is commenting on a painting of his late wife; we never meet the wife, but we do get descriptions of her painted image as the duke gazes on it. This emphasizes that, to the duke, a wife is a possession more than a human being. At the end of the poem, too, the duke points out a valued art object, a statue of Neptune taming a sea horse. This reinforces the suggestion that the new duchess will be yet another object added to the duke's collection—and suggests, through art, that "taming" is important to the duke.
The poem is a classic example of dramatic monologue, in which a narrator or speaker, without meaning to, makes known aspects of his character. Here, the narrator reveals both his arrogance and his deep jealousy of his wife: he can't bear that she would like anyone or anything but him. As he puts it:
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