To some extent, the duke's amorality can be understood in terms of aristocracy. In the end, it can be said that Browning uses the familiar techniques and requirements of a dramatic monologue in the most peculiar and exploratory fashion to yield an unfamiliar and unheard of art product that was to glorify his legacy for generations to come. Browning invites us to make a connection between looking, reading, and interpreting. In a class lecture, the professor had mentioned that the poem is set in the 15th century. On the contrary, a reader may read this poem and believe the Duchess is not so innocent as she initially comes across as. The setting of this poem is the 16th century, where women were considered mere possessions, objects, child bearers, --not people-- and taught to obey orders without contradiction, which could be punishable by death.
Browning's development of voice and use of irony dramatically influences the understanding of the theme. The language used by the speaker allows the poet to evoke strong emotions in the reader. Using conversational couplets and telling punctuation, Browning gives us a study of violence, a test of the rivalry between words and images, and a battle between the male and female gaze. Being a self-centered person will never get you ahead in life and the Duke unfortunately did not understand that. Therefore, it enrages him that she reacts in the same manner to the sunset, cherries a man brings to her, and even the mule she rides on. The assumption is that the speaker himself can never be in control of or aware of all these causes, and that the listener or reader will at times, recognize causes the speaker cannot or does not wish to acknowledge.
More over, he speaks about marrying another young girl, hoping that she will be more submissive, and she will show her smile to no one but him. The duke keeps it hidden, it is a painting of the Duchess smiling for the painter and not for him. The combination of villain and aesthete in the Duke creates an especially strong tension, and Browning exploits the combination to the fullest. At the end of the monologue, the reader clearly understands the theme that money and power cannot buy love and that marriages between the upper class citizens of the Renaissance era were predominately business transactions. So you can visualize the Duchess as or as , if you like.
Even if he did not kill his wife, he certainly has something to hide. Such a casual beginning is full of wicked dramatic. Although it is a skillful representation of her, the painting is far enough removed from reality to render it incapable of upsetting the Duke with the hints of indiscretion hidden behind the portrait of her smile. Also at play psychologically is the human ability to rationalize our hang-ups. They determine which aspect of the well-crafted poem dominates their reactions—an aesthetic appreciation for the poetic and dramatic art, or horror at the underlying violence and immorality? One of the most effective ways for an individual to solely get their point across is a dramatic monologue. In other words, authors in this period got sandwiched between two great movements that majorly influenced Western Culture, and so readers sometimes forget about the Victorian age writers.
Thus, reading the monologue often means reading the language of the poem against itself — turning its rhetoric inside out to glimpse what the speaker may, unconsciously or not, be trying to conceal from view. Ultimately, it is apparent that Browning has labeled the Duke as a narcissistic character who portrays qualities such as arrogance, greed, and Jealousy. Also in these lines, we are given our first hint that the duchess really not all that important to the duke; he speaks of the painting as if it was the duchess, suggesting that his late wife was nothing more than her external appearance. Robert Browning takes this brief anecdote out of the history books and turns it into an opportunity for readers to peek inside the head of a psychopath. During that time, it was common for a young woman to be arranged in a marriage. The ironic disconnect that colors most of Browning's monologues is particularly strong here.
After her death, Alfonso courted and eventually married the niece of the Count of Tyrol. The Duke Is without a doubt a very possessive man that does not Like when others take advantage of his so called possessions. His irony goes even further when he reminds the envoy that he truly wants only the woman herself, even as he is clearly stressing the importance of a large dowry tinged with a threat of his vindictive side. By no means can we justify the idea that the duke is willing to transcend class, but at the same time he does allow a transgression of the very hierarchy that had previously led him to have his wife murdered rather than discuss his problems with her. By giving us the Duke of Ferrara as an example, Robert Browning subtly condemns the nobility for their poor character.
But the next ten lines produce a series of shocks that outstrip each time our understanding of the Duke, and keep us panting after revelation with no opportunity to consolidate our impression of him for moral judgement. Secondly, the poem reflects the cruel psycology, psychopathology, being obsessive about statue which they have and egocentric nature of men in that period with Duke. Furthermore, the symbols that are scattered throughout the poem give intensity and depth. A tension between sympathy and judgement, a power play between amazement and a sense of morality are among the striking features of dramatic monologue. To follow the belief the Duchess is some sort of sexual deviant she must also be a form or goddess in order to have sex with something like the sun.
Interestingly, the ironic structure of the monologue is built primarily on a strict notion of over-determination, but opens out to a more mystical acknowledgement of the indeterminacy. Reality proves threatening because contact with it might require altering and abandoning the constructions of imagination. The duke seems controlled by certain forces: his own aristocratic bearing; his relationship to women; and lastly, this particular duchess who confounded him. Poems are important forms by which to express the inexpressible. This is an irony to the beginning of the poem, where the Duke is praising the portrait. Woman were not viewed as people at the time the story of the poem takes place, but as property.