Aug 3 • 4M

My Last Duchess

Robert Browning (Audio)

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It’s often been noted that there weren’t a lot of great stage plays written in English in the nineteenth century. I'm not sure why that was so, but I do know this — it is the great age of a new form of poetry called the “dramatic monologue,” and that Tennyson and Browning were the masters of it. We’ve had one already in our Poem of the Week, Browning’s “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister.” The monologue this week may be his most famous of all, “My Last Duchess.”

The scene is perfect for irony upon irony, for suggesting more than you say, and maybe even threatening more than you say. Imagine a party downstairs, in the castle of an Italian duke who has a fine old name, much land, a lot of great art, and not as much current money as he would like. He is a widower, and he wants to marry — and he wants the goods that will come with it. But he is particular as to what kind of woman would be fit to be his duchess. He

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