In Browning's "My Last Duchess," how can one interpret the poem's meaning, themes, etc. properly through pictures?I have an English project for which I have to make a collage consisting of not...

In Browning's "My Last Duchess," how can one interpret the poem's meaning, themes, etc. properly through pictures?

I have an English project for which I have to make a collage consisting of not just any random pictures to do with the poem, but pictures that describe the themes, time period etc. (or any thing that makes you understand the story). So basically I have to interpret the poem in a different sort of style by showing pictures. Any ideas in what pictures or styles to do?

Asked on by gebez

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Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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To interpret the poem, "My Last Duchess," read the poem numerous times, silently and aloud, especially aloud. Then read as much commentary about the poem as you can, including all of the materials enotes has on it.  This poem is complex, so it's especially important to read what others have written about it.  You may not "get it" without reading outside commentary.

Concerning your collage, there are numerous angles you could approach your project from.  I'll center on one.

Essentially, the speaker of this dramatic monologue wants a trophy wife to behave as if she is a work of art.  The sexist, arrogant, condescending male speaker wants his wife to demonstrate his good taste.  Notice that the poem begins and ends with his describing works of art to his silent listener.  That's the kind of thing that's important to him.  His wife should adore him and honor him and show allegiance to no one or nothing else, and should reflect back on him.  Because his former wife enjoyed the innocent company of others, the outdoors, etc., he commanded, "Then all smiles stopped together."

Thus, your project could involve pictures of artists, of artists working (particularly with models), of arrogant males, etc.  You might contrast a dungeon with a painting, for instance.  You might find a picture from a movie set in Victorian (the writer) or Renaissance (the speaker) times featuring a man dressed in attire of the day.  You might feature an Italian leader from today's news that has the kind of power the Duke yields in the poem (let's hope not quite the same kind of power).

Remember, too, that the former wife did nothing wrong.  She received little gifts from well-meaning subjects and enjoyed being outside.  Any pictures featuring those situations would apply to the poem as well.

Finally, I'm thinking you might be able to find something online from The Little Mermaid and use the father as a representative of the statue of Neptune.

 

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