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Word Count: 546
In his poem My Last Duchess Robert Browning uses the description of a painting as the premise through which he paints his own subtle portrait of the speaker Through his self-absorbed rambling monologue concerning his former wife the Duke inadvertently reveals much more about himself than he does as the title would suggest his last Duchess With his opening line Thats my last Duchess painted on the wall Looking as if she were alive the Duke of Ferrara begins a long speech that ultimately exposes his true character as jealous possessivematerialistic arrogant insecure and perhaps even that of a remorseless murderer However one may need look no further than this first line to reach that sameconclusion The tone with which the Duke opens his narrative is frank matter-of-fact and supremely commanding Without a trace of emotion in his voice he begins to describe to an intentionally unidentified guest probably a servant of the waiting count the exquisite portrait of his dead wife that decorates his wall The very language he uses seems to purposely blur the lines between the Duchess as an actualformer human being and the Duchess as a work of art a mere configuration of paint and canvas In stead of referring to the thing on the wall as it he repeats personal pronouns such as she and her To him she and the painting are the same thing a piece of artwork to be prized as a possession an object that can be owned controlled and even discarded when it ceases to please its owner While Fra Pandolfs skillful hands may have captured her well enough to make her appear as if she were still alive she is nevertheless an inanimate object fixed in a frozen pose completely devoid of the spirited and vivacious personality that had formerly defined her The Duke who could never truly control her in life finds great satisfaction in his ability to control and
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