My Last Duchess Questions and Answers
by Robert Browning

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How can "My Last Duchess" by Robert Browning be viewed as an example of a dramatic monologue? Why has the poet chosen to use this form?

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A dramatic monologue typically has a couple of key features.  First, it is in poetry format.  If it were not, then it would be a theatrical monologue.  "My Last Duchess" has that characteristic.  

Second, the poem/speech is one person's speech.  It is not a conversation.  The speaker is also an assumed character.  It is not simply the internal thoughts of the poet.  A character is speaking.  In "My Last Duchess" the speaking character is the Duke.  

I think the reason that Browning chose this format is that the format leaves much of the character interpretation up to the audience.  In a normal third person narration, the narrator can tell audience members that a character is "this" or "that" type of character. The narrator can tell the audience what personality traits somebody has.  But by creating a dramatic monologue, Browning has shown readers exactly what the Duke is like.  We get a much better feel for the character, because the poem is spoken through that character. 

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"My Last Duchess" qualifies as a dramatic monologue because the entire poem is comprised of the speech of one person in a specific moment, and because we only know the actions of the person the speaker is addressing through the speaker's descriptions.

One major reason that Robert Browning might have written the poem as a dramatic monologue is that it is the best way to really show who this character is, and the form has a great deal more impact than simply describing this character from a third person perspective.  Browning could tell us that this duke is incredibly callous, or he could allow the duke to show us himself how callous he is through his own actions and statements.  We get a much greater sense of who this person is through seeing him in action than we could any other way.

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tejinderpal | Student

A dramatic monologue is a type of lyrical poem. It is a speech of single person who is not the poet. In a dramatic monologue a single person speaks to silent listener. In a dramatic monologue the speaker reveals his character and temperament to his readers as he speaks. A poet uses this type of poem to express his own philosophy directly or indirectly. “My Last Duchess” is a fantastic dramatic monologue composed by a great Victorian poet Robert Robert Browning. A dramatic monologue, traditionally, includes abrupt beginning, single speaker, silent listener, psychological analysis and clues to suggest what the silent listener says or does.

Now we will see the elements of dramatic monologue in “The Last Duchess” poem - The poem begins with the dramatic suddenness: “That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall”

The readers can understand that the event has begun earlier. But the poem begins from the middle to make the start dramatic. As the poem progress, it becomes clear that only a single person speaks. The speaker is the Duke of Ferrara talking about his dead duchess’ portrait painted by Fra Pandlof. At several points of the poem, it becomes evident that there is a listener who remains silent. For example, when the Duke says:

“Please you sit and look at her” We understand that someone is present around him.

Later in the poem, we come to know that he is a messenger of Count who has come to his palace to discuss about marriage of the Duke with Count’s daughter. Throughout the poem the listener does not talk but his reaction are revealed through the Duke’s speech. We know he doesn't ask anything but there has been a question in his expression. For example, the clue to understand the surprise in the messenger’s face has been revealed by Duke himself: “You are not the first To turn and ask” The main principle controlling the form of a dramatic monologue is what the lyric speaker says to reveal his soul. In “My Last Duchess”, the Duke while talking about the duchess, he reveals his own mind. We understand that he is a possessive husband, a cruel person, a proud aristocrat, a greedy bridegroom from the following lines - “My gift of a nine –hundred years old name” “I gave commands, and then all smiles stopped together” To conclude we can say that, “My Last Duchess” is one of the best examples of dramatic monologue. It has all the elements that a dramatic monologue requires.