Victorian forms: the dramatic monologue, the idyll and

Victorian Poetry has
its specific lyrical and epic forms: the dramatic monologue, the idyll and
nonsense verse. One of this specific form, the dramatic monologue, is a Victorian
invention in poetic language  and a
central genre in this period rich in many experimentations. Authors like A.
Tennyson, R. Browning, G.M. Hopkins, Th. Hardy etc. used it as a form of
expressing things dramatically and causing performative effects. This tendency
is focused on the relation between speaker and poet and it makes the genre very
useful in creating reactions and social transformation in the world outside the

In this paper, I argue
the importance of the dramatic monologue for the poem aesthetic and the emotion
and the originality which this particularity gives to it.

According to a critical
volume named ”The Cambridge Companion to Victorian Poetry” edited by Joseph
Bristow, Robert Browning has something particularly different which brings him
a recognition: his poetic exploration of history is filled with ambiguity,
perspectivism and plurality. He finds imaginative ways of entering history and making
a bridge between it and the terms of modernity.  (Bristow, 126)

This poem gives a
complex picture of the two main characters: the Duke of Ferrara, who relates
the poem and dramatize his internal conflict and the Duchess, who becomes the
victim of it. That’s a first point which argues the presence of dramatic
monologue in this poem. By the voice of his narrator, Browning tries to
manipulate the image of the Duchess into one of an inappropriate wife and also
he reveals the Duke’s frustration with his inability to control the Duchess.
This aspect highlights the importance of emotion and internal conflict in this
poem and the relation between reader and speaker.

At the beginning of the
poem, The Duke invites his guest to see a very special portrait of his last
wife and that’s when the dramatic monologue begins. He asks his guest politely
if he would like to gaze at the painting: ”That’s my last Duchess painted on
the wall, (…) Will’t please you sit and look at her?” (Lines 1&5).  He keeps the painting behind a curtain, until
he feels like showing it to others. But he insists to mention the aspect which
brings him an internal fight, the fact that the passionate glance and the
beautiful smile of his wife are not reserved only for her husband because she
is ”too easily impressed” into sharing her easily satisfied nature: she
appreciated nature, animals, the kindness of others and the simple pleasures of
everyday life. These things disgust the duke because he wanted to be her only
center of interest and affection.

I think that the most
dramatic passage which recalls a memorable moment in this poem is when the
Duke, because of his exaggerated jealousy, chooses to kill his wife rather than
tell her about all the things that disgusts him. So, we can consider the
Duchess a victim of an excessive fidelity or  an imprudent infidelity.

According to a critical
volume named ”The Cambridge Companion to Victorian Poetry” edited by Joseph
Bristow, in this and other dramatic monologues,” female desire is viewed as causative,
as tending toward some effect.” (Bristow, 79) In this case, by fixing a single
image of his wife, the Duke chooses to kill her because of her enigmatic

Robert Browning obtains
a dramatic economy of space in his poem by illustrating the image of a life’s
tragedy with the help of his incredible two characters. He has the gift of the
detail and his interest for the really significant and permanent elements of
life helps him in contouring a wonderful drama of real life. (Fletcher,332)

With the help of
Browning and his spectacular poem the reader is introduced in the most typical
dramatic monologue and to the scene of the action or the eloquent conversation
itself. He has a personal dialogue with the reader, by addressing in a direct
way to his readers and sometimes interrupting the speaker with observations or
questions, which are introduced in an indirectly way into the poem. (Fletcher,

In conclusion, the poem
”My last Duchess” by Robert Browning has a dramatic monologue  which describes a dark portrait of a
tyrannical man based on psychological realism. These things help the reader
understand and even identify the speaker’s position and put him in the position
of  rending a moral judgment about what
the speaker reveals.