Essay on Arrogance: The Shipwreck within My Last Duchess

Submitted By Vivian-Jones
Words: 892
Pages: 4

Arrogance: The Shipwreck within My Last Duchess

My Last Duchess by Robert Browning has many pieces to deconstruct. In just examining the title of this poem, My Last Duchess, we can infer many details. “My” gives the connotation that something, or in this case, someone is the possession of someone else. The duchess is the possession of the speaker. “Last” can indicate several meanings. This word can mean latest, as in the duchess was his most recent wife. In another viewing of the word, the duchess could be a substitution of a sort. “Last” also plays into the speaker’s view on his late duchess and the fact that his possession of her is the “last” of her. With this breakdown of the title, we can already spot some points of arrogance in the speaker. The power evoked from just the title is very important, and as the poem is read in its entirety, we can uncover even more key details that point to the fall of the speaker’s arrogance.
The poem begins with a firm statement from the speaker, who we find to be a wealthy duke of high status, declaring the account and possession of a painting of his last duchess. “That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall, Looking as if she were alive […]” (line 1-2). We see that his duchess is no longer living, and at first glance we could say he is reminiscing with sorrow, for it is his late wife. However, he is the speaker, and digging further into the poem, we realize that this is a dialog. In lines 5 to 10, we come to find that he is showing someone a painting he owns of his last duchess, proudly presented on the wall for his and whomever he chooses viewing pleasure. The diction in these two lines, “That’s my” and “as if” speaks very loudly. “That’s my” is confirming the ownership stated in the title. “As if,” brings about a snarky attitude, which aligns with the general sense of arrogance within the poem. This duke is flaunting the fact that he owns this beautiful painting, and even gives off the feeling that he believes he is of better value than the man he is conversing with: “([…]For never read Strangers like you that pictured countenance.” (Line 6-7).That line says it all; the speaker essentially says men like the one he was speaking with, never would see his late wife, but it is only with his permission that he was able to view her picture. Later in the poem, even more arrogance is revealed. “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 […]) (Line 30-34) The duke uses “as if” again, and this time it bears and even more condescending meaning. He is definitely promoting his self by proclaiming his name to be so worthy, that women should dare not even thank another man. He was definitely deeply bothered by her not following his orders, and throughout the poem he is very directional to the man he is speaking with. His character definitely symbolizes a stereotype that men are controlling and view women as lesser people.
Along with the theme and tone of arrogance, the idea of the objectification of women is deeply tied within his arrogance. Throughout the poem, the…