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Robert Browning: My Last Duchess

4. The Duke

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About this Lecture


In this module, we focus on the character of the Duke. In the first instance, we admire his eloquence, charisma and poise, before noting how he seems to lose his way somewhat when reminiscing about his wife's "indiscretions" ("She had A heart—how shall I say?— too soon made glad"). After that, we consider his language at the end of the poem, as well as the sinister double-meaning on the word "object" when talking about the girl who will become his new wife.


In this course, Mr Clive Wilmer (University of Cambridge) provides an in-depth analysis of Robert Browning's 'My Last Duchess'. The course begins by introducing Browning himself and the dramatic monologue form, before asking us to consider the form of the poem (rhyming couplets) and giving a bit of background about the true story that the poem was based on. After that, the poem is read out, and we pose two questions that will form the basis of our analysis; What is impression of the Duke? And what is our impression of the (now deceased) Duchess? These questions are tackled in the fourth and fifth modules, respectively. In the final module, we examine the use of history in this poem; specifically, what does Browning gain by setting the monologue in Renaissance Italy?


Clive Wilmer is one of the English team at Sidney Sussex, Cambridge. He teaches the period 1830 to the present day and Practical Criticism. His special interests reside in the areas of Victorian and Modernist poetry, as well as in Victorian aesthetics and social criticism.

He is the author of seven books of poetry, the latest of which is his New and Collected Poems (Carcanet Press, 2012). The editor of Penguin selections of John Ruskin and William Morris, he has written and lectured extensively on Ruskin, Morris and Ezra Pound; he is also the current Master of Ruskin's charity, the Guild of St George. He has published a book of interviews with contemporary poets, Poets Talking (Carcanet, 1994), and Cambridge Observed (Colt Books, 1998), an anthology of writings about Cambridge over the centuries. In 2005 he was awarded the medal Pro Cultura Hungarica by the Hungarian Ministry of Culture in recognition of his many translations of Hungarian poetry. He is currently editing the posthumous Selected Poems of Thom Gunn for Faber and Faber.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Wilmer, C. (2018, August 15). Robert Browning: My Last Duchess - The Duke [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Wilmer, C. "Robert Browning: My Last Duchess – The Duke." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,