Themes: Marriage/Love, Men seeing women as possessions, Jealousy, Madness, Power

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Type: Dramatic Monologue/ Rhyming Couplets

Background

  • Written by Robert Browning
  • Inspiration for the poem was Alfonso II whose wife died of suspicious circumstances
  • Lucrezia was a Medici “Didn’t have a nine-hundred-year-old name”

Power

  • Fictional speech by a Renaissance Duke who is conducting a marriage negotiation
  • Duke’s overreaction to his wife’s genial nature makes him abusive, controlling husband
  • His was upset that she smiled at the sunset, “I never stoop” he feels killing her is the only way and a chilling depiction of a man obsessed by power
  • Ruthless man with absolute power

Art/culture

  • Art collector – displayed privately in order to impress people and demonstrating status
  • Way to reduce unstable elements like the Duchess – now he only has a painting behind a curtain, which only he can open

Madness/Jealousy

  • Duke murders his wife because she smiled/blushed at other people
  • Only remedy is murder
  • Jealous of the attention his wife gave other people – jealous of every smile and blush
  • He loves her but wants all of her love for himself

Structure and Form

  • Dramatic Monologue
  • Regular meter (rhythm) – fixed number of stressed syllables
  • Written in pentameters – form the closest approximation to natural conversation, helping to convey the sense of natural speech he wanted
  • Written in rhyming couplets uses enjambment
  • First person – not the poet’s voice but rather the character of the Duke he has created

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