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Mode and Tone in "My Last Duchess"

As Ciardi (1959) maintains, 'The lines seem to be not simply quantities of notes, but discreet and sufficient musical phrases: stop them anywhere short of their own end and one has not a phrase but a fragment of a phrase' (950). Such structure helps us read the poem exactly as the poet intended, in order to more fully convey what he is trying to illustrate about the speaker. Such comments also point to the ironic nature of the Duke's depiction of himself. As one critic maintains, 'It enhances the irony of the speaker's later comment that he does not have æskill / In speech'' (My 2004, 1).

The speaker often pauses during the poem, and by the use of what is called caesura we see the Duke's controlling nature. Through the rhythm and structure of the poem we are again reminded of the Duke's controlling and manipulative personality, despite his protestations that he is an abused and misused husband. He speaks as if he is performing a dramatic monologue, even though he is in the company of another. Further, the structure of the poem illustrates the speaker's controlling nature. He often directs or gives orders to the person to whom he is speaking like 'Will't please you sit', 'Will't please you rise', and 'Nay, we'll go / Together down, sir' (Browning 1842, 5, 47, 53-54).

The structure of the poem also is used to show that the speaker may have feelings of anxiety over the knowledge that he murdered his former wife. Browning uses a technique known as enjambment, in which the lines run over each other. He uses this most notably when the speaker is referring to his dead wife, as if such talk makes him quite nervous, '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' (Browning 1842, 2-4). The speaker against demonstrates his controlling and manipulative behavior when, near the end of the poem, the person to whom he is speaking attempts to go down th...

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Mode and Tone in "My Last Duchess". (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 16:43, July 22, 2017, from
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