Iambic Pentameter in My Last Duchess
The poem I am choosing is Robert Brownings “My Last Duchess”. This is an amazing 56 line poem where Browning uses prosody to connect to how he feels emotionally. The poem is a dramatic monologue where he reveals his love situation and much more. The Duke’s desire for control control is made evident by the structure of the poem. He uses the iambic pentameter to show his control over the monologue. The poem consists of 28 rhymed couplets of iambic pentameter. The majority of the lines have a masculine ending, showing his control over the conversation. Although at times it is hard to understand because it is not in a typical lyric poem, its rhymed iambic pentameter lines reminds us of Shakespeare’s plays and other drama. Iambic pentameter is the most natural rhythm for most language to fall into. We often speak in iambic pentameter without noticing. This means that this poem that has a monologue and conversational feel to it. Browning in “My Last Duchess” uses prosody politically in a different way. Using an iambic pentameter may not sound like there is much politics going on, but he succeeds at doing it. Having most of the lines end in a masculine ending means that he is trying to show male dominance over female. Especially in this time, this was very important but also common. The iambic is consistent throughout the poem.
An Iambic Pentameter is a commonly used metrical line in traditional verse and verse drama. The term describes the particular rhythm that the words establish in that line. That rhythm is measured in small groups of syllables; these small groups of syllables are called feet. The word iambic describes the type of foot that is used. Usually in English the unstressed syllable is followed by a stressed syllable. The word pentameter indicates that a line has five of these so called feet. Although strictly speaking, iambic pentameter refers to five iambs in a row, in practice, poets vary their iambic pentameter a great deal, while maintaining the iamb as the most common foot. There are some conventions to these variations, however. Iambic pentameter must always contain only five feet, and the second foot is almost always an iamb. The first foot, on the other hand, is the most likely to change by the use of inversion, which reverses the order of the syllables in the foot. A notable user of the iambic pentameter was William Shakespeare. He used them prolifically in his plays and in his sonnets.
In Brownings “My Last Duchess” the use of the iambic pentameter shows male dominance. Traditionally all iambic pentameters have masculine endings. Having the masculine endings shows that from the beginning of when iambic pentameters were used, there was the same dominance we see today. I think Browning chose to do an iambic pentameter in this poem for the reason of wanting the Duke to have control and exert his male dominance. Although it may be a monologue or conversation, the Duke is in complete control. Iambic pentameter represents control, structure, and confidence. For someone who most likely just killed his wife, it was very important for the Duke to stay calm when talking about this subject. He emphasized key words and kept the form throughout which showed confidence in what he was saying, speaking from the heart, and sharing how he felt. At times when poets use iambic pentameters it may represent chaos or craziness, but when browning adds couplets it shows that there is something different. Again structure here with the couplets is very important and it is very obvious that there is control with what he is saying. Now that his wife, who he feared, did not love, and did not want to be with, is dead he has complete control over her and the relationship. Now it may be a bit confusing for someone who perhaps to have just killed his wife, to be speaking with such control and structure. This adds to the confusion, suspense, greatness, and...
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