My Last Duchess

The Poem: 

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/43768

Context:

Browning was classically educated, and could read well in Latin, Greek and French by the age of 14. The poem reflects his interest in art and history. The speaker in the poem is most likely Alfonso II d’Este, the fifth Duke of Ferrara (1533–1598), who, at the age of 25, married Lucrezia di Cosimo de’ Medici, the 14-year-old daughter of Cosimo I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and Eleonora di Toledo.

Robert Browning takes this brief anecdote out of the history books and turns it into an opportunity for readers to peek inside the head of a psychopath. Although Browning hints at the real-life Renaissance back-story by putting the word “Ferrara” under the title of the poem as an epigraph, he removes the situation from most of its historical details. It’s important to notice that the Duke, his previous wife, and the woman he’s courting aren’t named in the poem at all. Even though there were historical events that inspired the poem, the text itself has a more generalized, universal, nameless feel.

Summary:

The poem is set in Italy in the late renaissance. In it, the Duke is entertaining the emissary of the family of his prospective wife. The speaker (the duke) draws by a curtain and shows him a painting of his previous wife, inviting the emissary to admire the painting. He then describes his last duchess, her flirtatious behaviour unbecoming of someone of his illustrious name. After describing how ‘all smiles stopped’, the conversation turns back to a conversation of their wedding arrangements.

Summary Slide:

Download here:

my-last-duchess-overview

Key Themes:

  • Power
  • Jealousy
  • Dominance
  • Status and Reputation

Useful Links:

http://www.shmoop.com/my-last-duchess/

http://www.sparknotes.com/poetry/browning/section3.rhtml

http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/english_literature/poetrycharactervoice/mylastduchessrev1.shtml

 

War Photographer

The poem:

http://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poetry/poems/war-photographer

Context:

The poem is written by Carol Ann Duffy (1955- present). Her poems often explore real events, including dramatizing events from childhood and adolescence. She states “I like to use simple words, but in a complicated way”.

In the 1970s Carol Ann Duffy was friendly with Don McCullin, a famous photographer whose photographs of war were widely published.

The poem explores the dual role of being a War Photographer, having to take pictures of terrible suffering without being able to help. The gap between these sufferings and those viewing the poems is explored through the perspective of a photographer.

Summary:

The poem explores the war photographer’s conflict when he develops his photographs and how the memories of war haunt him. His personal experiences contrast with the general apathy of the British public, in their comparatively safe environment.

Summary page:

Download:

war-phtographer-overview

Key Themes: 

  • Horrors of war
  • Indifference to suffering
  • Personal pain and guilt
  • Motif of religion

Useful Links:

http://genius.com/Carol-ann-duffy-war-photographer-annotated#note-1736312