Rhetorical Strategies – Response (Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess”)

Rhetorical Strategies – Response (Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess”)

Hello Mr Count. I hope you are doing well, as you wait for my report on my trip to the Duke. Although brief, I have learned a lot from my visit to the Duke’s house. As an emissary, my task is to assess your daughter’s new suitor and evaluate dowry estimates, as well as gauge marriage plans. Also, and as a loyal employee, I have always offered advice on issues I thought might or might not impress you.

Well, it is without a doubt that this trip has enlightened me in a number of ways. For starters, I have learned that the Duke is an avid art enthusiast. He does not shy from showing me his valuable art pieces. For instance, he showed me a painting of his late wife. The painting is a product of Fra Pandolf’s hands, whose artistic genius is famous for illustrating so much “depth and passion.”

The Duke’s intense and zealous description of his late wife’s beauty is genuinely astounding, and any woman would love to be his wife. At the same time, through the Duke’s banter about his wife, I have come to learn a lot about the wife. It is obvious she was a sweet woman, who liked whatever she looked on. Everyone loved and adored her; however, her husband did not like her outgoing and social character.

The Duke believes late wife’s socialness and tendency to “thank men” was a sign of stooping low. It is obvious the Duke is a fancy fella, and thus your daughter should be prepared to adhere to his demands. Of course, the Duke’s position as a respectable man in society requires his wife to be a strong woman. In his own words, the late wife’s behavior to blush and smile at other people disgusted him.

Despite this disgust, he never told her. The Duke’s reasoning is to stay quiet and mum about such things because he lacks the “skills in speech” to which he could tell her. Moreover, he kept quiet about her wife’s friendliness and socialness because he could not fathom why someone would not understand the need to stoop to the level of making friends with other men. It is obvious he felt his late wife did not appreciate his “gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name.”


Nonetheless, my Count, I do not want to this letter to sound like an attack on the Duke. I am just reporting on what I experienced at his house. My intentions are to give you an account on what your daughter’s future suitor believes in. This can help you determine his character, and further aid you in deciding whether to marry your daughter away to him, or not.

Again, my Count, I do not intend to offend your feelings in any way. I know you are a great friend of the Duke; otherwise, you would not have considered marrying your daughter to him, would you?

Anyways, one particular character about the Duke is not just his passionate love he offered his wife, but it is adorable how protective he was towards her. That is, when he was showing me his late wife’s painting, he proudly tells me that he is the only one allowed to draw the curtain covering the painting. This shows the Duke’s domineering stature over his subjects. Such can be advantageous to your daughter, who will never have to worry about protection.

However, I personally think his protective nature somehow may go beyond and affect your daughter’s freedom. For example, whilst describing Fra Pandolf’s artistic skills, the Duke digresses and claims that his wife’s smile on the painting is a result of the painter’s exploit. His jealousy is further emphasized when he blames the painter for influencing his wife to show more flesh in the painting. The Duke wishes it should have been him to make the wife blush, but Fra Pandolf must have convinced her to have “her mantle lap over the wrist too much”.

Sir, as my Count, and serving you as a loyal servant, I would advise you to reconsider marrying away your daughter to the Duke. That is, despite his adorable protective and loving nature, his jealousy seems a little bit precarious. For instance, although the Duke is dodgy in terms of what happened to his wife, his tongue slipped once and mentioned that he “gave commands and her smiles stopped.” This can translate to mean that the Duke is somehow responsible for getting rid of his wife.

Now, as your loyal servant, I would not like to make any conclusions, but the Duke’s behaviors during my visit were very suspicious. For starters, he did not allow me to ask any questions, let alone talk at all. All I did was sitting and listening to his repartee. He then directed downstairs where other visitors were. The brief moment we had together was not sufficient, but he revealed a lot about his character.

Sir, my sincere advice is for you to be steady, gradual and cautious with the Duke’s proposal for your daughter’s hand in marriage.