In “My Last Duchess” written in the form of a dramatic monologue, Browning brilliantly manipulates the poetic form in order to achieve the revelation of characters.
Browning brilliantly manipulates the poetic form, including alternating the place of enjambment and caesura to convey various characteristics and qualities about the Duke, as well as the situation. Browning quickens the pace with the enjambed lines in order to signify the control that the Duke is exerting on the conversation. For example, we can feel the pressure forced upon us through these lines “but thanked/ Somehow I know not how as if she ranked/ My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name/ with anybody’s gift.” (Browning 31-34). This also gives a feeling that the Duke is trying to rush though parts of the poem.
However, Browning quickly shifts from using the enjambment to a sequential medial caesura when the Duke is speaking of the reason of his wife’s death in these lines that “Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt,/ Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without/ Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;/ Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands/ As if alive.” (Browning 43-47). These medial caesuras were strategically placed by Browning right after the last enjambed line suggesting that the Duke is concealing something of the truth which makes him pause to think. Meanwhile, a sense of pride of the Duchess’s beauty finally within the Duke’s own control comes out of his speech, even by means of destroying her. It also enhances the irony of the Duke’s complete lack of remorse towards his wife, underlining the controlling, jealous, and arrogant traits the Duke possessed. However, Browning eventually emphasizes the errors between men and women are caused by the structure of Victorian society which puts men in control over women (Shifra 78).
Herbert, Rosengarten and Amanda, Goldrick-Jones, Eds. The Broadview Anthology of Poetry. Ontario: Broadview, 1993, Print.
Hochberg, Shifra. “Male Authority and Female Subversion in Browning’s ‘My Last Duchess.’” Literature, Interpretation, Theory 3.1 (1991): 77-84, Print.