My Last Duchess – Identification of the Protagonist
Student name Professor Subject Date My Last Duchess – Identification of the ProtagonistMy Last Duchess is a poem by Robert Browning which is often anthologized as an occurrence of a dramatic monolog. The poem is preceded by word Ferrara, and it indicates that the speaker in it is apparent to be Alfonso II, the fifth Duke of Ferrara. The setting of the poem is in the late Italian Renaissance. The protagonist is presenting the emissary of his potential second wife a tour of the visuals in his home. He draws the curtains to show a painting of his late wife (Bujak 17). He goes ahead to explain that the portrait is of his late wife. Further, the protagonist makes an invitation to the guest to have a seat and have a close look at the painting. As the two watch the portrait of the late Duchess, the Duke explains that the late wife was ever happy, flirtatious, and cheerful. “Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek…” (Browning & Dharker 1). He notes that it was this friendly nature of the wife that he got unhappy. The identification of the Duke (the protagonist in the poem) with the portrait serves the intention of analyzing how he was prepared to argue and be in opposition with his wife.
In the monolog, it is evident that the Duke identifies with the portrait. This is because the protagonist gives the identification that he admires the artwork and seems to be more connected and related to the portrait than his late wife. “I call that piece a wonder now…” (Browning & Dharker 1). This statement by the protagonist brings the idea that he might have married his last Duchess so that he could have her portrait hang in the gallery through painting. Towards the end of the monolog, the protagonist seems to forget that he is narrating the events to a stranger. Due to this, he gives a hint that it was him who ordered a person to kill his last Duchess. He states, “This grew; I gave commands…” (Browning & Dharker 2). At this instance, it is evident that he means he had become annoyed because the last Duchess ignored him and that is why he ordered for her murder. The identification of the lead character with the painting is essential in that it reveals how he controlled the life of his wife. For example, the Duke reveals to the listener the portrait of Neptune as it tamed the sea horse that was meant for the protagonist. “Notice Neptune, though, Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity.” (Browning & Dharker 2). In this case, Neptune is the god, and it is used as a representation of the Duke. As in the case of Neptune taming the sea horse, it is the same as the protagonist tamed and controlled the Duchess. This is controversial on his identification because the Duke sees the last Duchess as his object, a personal possession and this should not be the case (Bujak 15). In spite of the fact that the statue of Neptune seems to be a diversion of the subject, it is a summary of the Duke’s message to the agent of the second wife. Besides bringing wealth, the second wife ought to be ready to be tamed in serving her role as a woman. The precise implication is that if the second wife does not meet the requirements that the Duke wants, she might end up being like the last Duchess – being ‘alive’ only in a painting.