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One of the earliest of Browning's dramatic monologues, published in 1842, many consider "My Last Duchess" to be his greatest and most famous. The poem is a narration by the Duke of Ferrara to another nobleman and opens as the Duke reveals a portrait of his late Duchess. Through clever use of the monologue, Browning engages his readers in a study of the culture and morality of the Italian Renaissance.
Excerpts from Robert Browning's
"My Last Duchess"
That's my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now: Fra Pandolf's hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
A heart--how shall I say?--too soon made glad.
Too easily impressed: she liked whate'er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, 't was all one! My favor at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace--all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,
Or blush, at least. She thanked men,--good! but thanked
Somehow--I know not how--as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody's gift. . . .
Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene'er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive. . . .
She liked whate'er she looked on and her
looks went everywhere.
In honor of Mrs. A. A. Cocke
Gift of the Alumnae of the Cocke
School of Expression