Browning's "My Last Duchess" and Dramatic Monologue
"My stress lay on the incidents in the development of a soul: little else is worth study."
—Robert Browning, via EDSITEment-reviewed Victorian Web.
As a chronicler of "the incidents in the development of a soul," Robert Browning often allowed a speaker's own words to reveal, and condemn, his or her own behavior. The Duke's monologue in "My Last Duchess" unveils his persona as courteous, cultured, and terrifying, as he describes a portrait of his late wife in stark detail. Browning's "My Last Duchess," first published in Dramatic Lyrics in 1842, is one of the best known of his many dramatic monologues. In the following lesson, students will come to understand the use of dramatic monologue as a poetic device, and they will learn to read beyond the speaker's words in order to understand the implications beneath.
What is dramatic monologue and how does Robert Browning use it successfully in his poem, "My Last Duchess"?
Understand the use of dramatic monologue as a poetic device
Situate Robert Browning within his historical and literary context
Provide a well-supported reading of Browning's poem, "My Last Duchess"