The dramatic monologue form which is now widely used, allows the author to engage his reader more directly by placing him in the role of listener. Often they are to interpret about a dramatic event or experience they are reading about. This allows the reader to become more intimate with the writer and the characters while being able to understand the speaker’s changing thoughts and feelings. This is almost like being inside the mind of the speaker not the writer though.
The speech is delivered by a character in a play allowing the imagination of the reader to remain open. Many poets have used some type of dramatic monologue forms in their poetry but none as much or as skilled as the Victorian poet Robert Browning. Even though some believe the works of Robert Browning in fact did not invent the dramatic monologue form and argue that dramatic monologue was used in poetry preceding Browning I believe he set the standard for the form.
Robert Browning is considered the master of the dramatic monologue because Browning’s use of dramatic monologue changed post romantic poetry and the dramatic monologue technique. Browning’s dramatic monologue writings were the first to achieve its distinction. I think initially some believed that some dramatic lyrical poems took the form of dramatic monologue it was more of reading the views of the poet and putting the reader into the mind of the actual poet verses putting the reader into the mind of the character.
They key to dramatic monologue is the poet is telling a story through the characters of the story and the views of the characters are not the same views the poet would have if it were written in a different form. It wasn’t until realizing that these other poems in fact did not follow the same techniques of Robert Browning’s work that Browning received the recognition for being the inventor of dramatic monologue poetic form. Browning is now considered the master of the dramatic monologue. One of his most recognized dramatic monologue form poems is “My Last Duchess”.
His careful choice in words, skillful technique and ability to leave some information up to the reader to interpret gave him his distinction and effectively named him the master of the dramatic monologue form. The poem “My Last Duchess” is about a powerful Duke and his beautiful deceased wife. The poem is based during the Renaissance years, in Italy, and revolves around the Duke of Ferrara. The Duke has either a visitor or servant that he is talking to. It is believed that he is planning his next marriage and discussing this with his guest.
They pass a portrait of his previous wife that is painted on the wall and he stops to reminisce. The Duke appeared to truly love his duchess and this was evident by having her memory displayed as a portrait on his wall for all to see. The poem begins with him mourning her loss and I believe ends with the justification of her death. The Duke felt she behaved in a manner that was unbecoming of a duchess. The Duke believed that she was a cheater and this caused him embarrassment and anger.
He stated she was a kind hearted and a joyful woman, the same qualities that initially attracted the Duke to the Duchess. The Duke stated that her smiling and flirting with other men and the fact that she was not trying to hide what she was doing was unacceptable and shameful. These same qualities would eventually lead to her demise The Duke was furious and Browning’s use of dramatic monologue shows us it’s not exactly what the Duke says to the visitor about his Duchesses death but what he indirectly reveals by not telling the whole story and leaving it up to the reader to decide.
The fact that there is a lot not said in this story I believe shows his fury, the way he spoke of her could lead one to believe that he either killed her or had her killed. It seems back in those days it was common for wives to be killed as divorce was not accepted. This is just one small sample of Browning’s work. Browning’s fame today rests mainly on his dramatic monologues, in which the words not only convey setting and action but also reveal the speaker’s character.