My Last Duchess Themes

This essay sample on My Last Duchess Themes provides all necessary basic info on this matter, including the most common “for and against” arguments. Below are the introduction, body and conclusion parts of this essay.

Both my last duchess and the laboratory are based on women; therefore it is surprising that the writer of both poems was Sir Robert Browning.

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However when looked at closely there is evidence of the complexity of women which is viewed in a male perspective. After thorough observation it has become clear that in these two poems Browning emphasises the following feelings; Love, Paranoia , Arrogance and Betrayal.

The ominous and menacing atmosphere of these two poems reveal these abstract nouns in negative lights and sinister situations; hidden amongst these is the powerful sense of control, whether it’s the need to control a situation or person.

In ‘My last Duchess’ this sense of control is reflected in the Duke and his obsession in power, although him and the Lady in ‘The Laboratory’ share this desire, the woman in the apothecary seems to have a stronger, more manic need for it than the duke.

Throughout both poems it is quite clear that Browning and layered his poems with deep emotions causing the reader to explore different meanings to the story, but the more you layers you uncover the darker the meanings get… While reading these two poems the influence of a male perspective is vividly shown which is to be expected as the author of the monologue is Sir Robert Browning.

What Can You Compare My Last Duchess To

Two types of women are illustrated in the poems, in Browning’s monologue of ‘My Last Duchess’ it seems that the duke enjoys protecting the girl and wrapping her around cotton wool which may explain his jealously when his bride received other gifts. However In ‘The Laboratory’ the angry wife seems to be deranged as a result of being ignored from her husband. Either way the poems both reflect on the dominance of the male in a relationship, indicating the reason of taking advantage of their partner. This may also be why men think they can cheat on their spouse, which drives them towards the deranged state that is portrayed in ‘The Laboratory’.

Throughout both poems Browning covers four main emotions; love, paranoia, betrayal and arrogance, which act as base for romance; not the stereo-typical type, in fact this may the kind of romance that maybe experienced in everyday life. Both monologues show the narrator in negative light, that is true, but there are two perspectives here to analyse. Lets take ‘ My Last Duchess’ as an example; the duke may as well be portrayed as a jealous, arrogant, controlling murderer who enjoys to abuse his power. Or you can view him as victim who is trapped in his own authority and his ‘900 year-old name’.

Hence forth when he sees his bride happy and smiling all the time while he is miserable, the duke may act out of jealousy or maybe even depression. Now if we take the two outlooks of ‘The Laboratory’ we will recognize the same situations here. If the woman in the apothecary was a villain then readers would see her as an envious, paranoid, vengeful women with a disintegrating marriage; on the other hand she could also be viewed as a victim. A mentally unstable women deranged by betrayal, public humiliation and lack of attention from her husband.

Adding on to the victim hypothesis the women may be controlled by her partner, maybe a threat of divorce? To avoid public humiliation she would do his bid? She could have had enough of the commands and decided to take her own actions? It is likely that the victim theory to be the correct one for just by the women’s presence in the apothecary symbolizes her lifestyle. Why? Due to the ban and death sentence that comes with it, an apotheosis sells and makes poison at a extremely high price, implying her wealth ,lifestyle and status.

That may be why she is so self-conscious, scared what people may think. Thus the woman at the apothecary and the duke are not at all un-a-like. The sharing of dark qualities is very clear in the two monologues because after you read both the room feels trapped in a eerie atmosphere. This may be due to the cleverly picked choice of words which give the poems both a feeling of passion and mystical madness. In ‘The Laboratory’ Browning incorporated very delicate and feminine nouns whereas in the other verses he demonstrated the use of masculine sounds.

In the fourth verse of the poem the women is simply awed at the products in the shops, “That in the mortar — you call it a gum? Ah, the brave tree whence such gold oozings come! And yonder soft phial, the exquisite blue, Sure to taste sweetly, — is that poison too? ” The soft, feminine sounds let the poem take a lyrical and enchanting twist but when one focus’ on the words the whole thing becomes maniacal and macabre. When you listen you can her the adrenaline and crazed tone as she watches with wonder on ponders on the ‘beauty’ of it all.

This is what establishes that sinister ambiance. The verse above has the same principle but the masculine sounds of the words some how blunted and make the women’s intentions more direct, increasing the impact of the shudder-some effect that follows. “Grind away, moisten and mash up thy paste, Pound at thy powder, — I am not in haste! Better sit thus, and observe thy strange things, Than go where men wait me and dance at the King’s. ” Again by analysing Browning’s choice of words for his ‘My Last Duchess’ monologue you can tell that in between the lines is the emotion of envy.

The Dukes anger and pain are also made clear of, why is this? It seems that the duke feels trapped in his own wealth, power and status. He can-not be free of society’s pressure for if he does 1000 great deeds and one mistake surely that one mistake will never be forgotten. Unless, he demands authority through fear. But how can society fear the duke when it seems that his newest wife never takes her role seriously? How can they fear him when all she, his other half, does is smile at everyone and accept foolish gifts such as mules and cherries?

How dare she compare his gift, a 900 year-old name, with a four legged animal? It had to stop or the duke would lose his command and supremacy. He had to make an excuse for her death. And he succeeded. Was his love for her true? No. That is clear in the poem, it’s as if you can picture his smug grin, his satisfied tone when he says; “Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands; Then all smiles stopped together. ” Punctuation can tell us much in poem. How the person is feeling, their tone of voice or intensions.

In ‘The Laboratory’ the poet has cleverly used his knowledge to pinpoint all of the above. For example when he has inputed commas and thus adding pauses it builds up tension and suspense encouraging interest and curiosity from the reader. Dashes are also used for pauses but they have a completely different effect, in fact when a dash is used it is either followed with a question mark or a exclamation mark. This indicates that the woman is excited and full of adrenaline but also impatient as she wants the task to be done with.

On the other hand with ‘My Last Duchess’ Browning cleverly used the same punctuations but caused them to produce different effects. By combining dashes and exclamation marks with the text we get a taste of the dukes bitterness and anger which he is trying hard to conceal. Those are when we see the real duke. In the monologue the duke tends to quote people but hinting sarcasm or making them a victim of ridicule. When using the comma the poet makes sure that the duke sounds composed, but also as if he is trying very hard to keep emotion out of his voice.

Surprisingly by using the same technique of punctuation Browning has created to entirely different mind-frames for both narrators. In ‘The Laboratory’ the women doesn’t seem to care about expressing her feelings whereas in ‘My Last Duchess’ the duke can think of nothing else other than concealing his emotions and thoughts. In conclusion ‘My Last Duchess’ and ‘The Laboratory’ are very similar. They both cover the four main emotions (love, paranoia, arrogance and betrayal) which results into the common eerie atmosphere.

Their structures are the same but the perspectives of the characters are different ever though they may live the same wealthy lifestyle and last but not least both poems are focused on women. Whether it’s to do with deranged wives or abused ones, the poems reflect on the dominance of men in the world and the little things womenkind do to break loose from that firm hold. It may be poisoning lovers or refusing to be ‘tamed’. Whatever it may be this is a mans world but surely it is time for a change?

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My Last Duchess Themes. (2019, Dec 07). Retrieved from

My Last Duchess Themes
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