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Victorian Values in 'My Last Duchess' and North and South

  • Date Submitted: 03/08/2011 06:14 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 39.3 
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The Victorian era centred upon an established social order and conforming to various religious, economic and social institutions of the period. The works of Gaskell and Browning explore many of these established social paradigms and provide insights into the context of and values prevalent in the Victorian era.

Browning’s “My Last Duchess” is set in the Renaissance period in Italy, yet also expresses values relevant to the Victorian era. The theme of male superiority is central to the poem, reflecting a significant aspect of Victorian society. The use of dramatic monologue allows the reader to relate to the distorted psyche of the duke. Although the reader does not condone his criminal behaviour, it provides an insight into his thoughts and views, reflective of the misogynistic Victorian era. The poem follows the iambic pentameter, yet Browning utilises rhythm and syntax to provide a conversational tone. Enjambment is used throughout the text as in “For never read Strangers like you” to provide a more naturally irregular rhythm replicating conversational speech. The deliberate informalisation of the formal iambic pentameter reflects a conversational tone but also echoes the tone of the Duke’s narration. He too is relaxing his usual proud formality to confide in the reader and the envoy his thoughts, through the monologue. This informal and almost jovial tone allows the reader to relate to the duke and continues until “I gave commands; then all smiles stopped together. The use of meiosis emphasises the blunt nature of the statement and provides a further insight into the duke’s psyche. There is no twinge of guilt or regret in the words of the Duke; his unblemished dignity and noblesse oblige provide sufficient justification. His actions are even more unjustifiable as his disdain for the Duchess is due to her overtly warm and lively demeanour “She like whate’er she looked on”. The Duke is unhappy with her indiscriminate showings of happiness “Her looks went...


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