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View Diary: Books Go Boom!   'My Last Duchess' by Robert Browning (77 comments)

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  •  I've loved this since I first read it (8+ / 0-)

    in my teens. I shudder for the next Duchess, and with this background which is new to me, was relieved in this diary to find that at least this one Barbara escaped his clutches.

    But this is intended. The art (and I never read it without marveling that I'm not aware of the rhymes on any conscious level) is the total believeability of the Duke. I can no longer bear to read Othello; Iago is seen as villainous, but it's Othello who is the abuser whose loving "not wisely but too well" is no love at all but a needing to possess absolutely. Had Othello loved Desdemona, he would have known her truth.

    Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

    by ramara on Sat Sep 14, 2013 at 09:57:25 AM PDT

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    •  So Right (7+ / 0-)

      Othello-- so true to himself he could have no faith in his wife.

      Readers & Book Lovers Pull up a chair! You're never too old to be a Meta Groupie

      by Limelite on Sat Sep 14, 2013 at 10:58:28 AM PDT

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    •  Replying to ramara, Limelite, the whole thread: (4+ / 0-)

      My initial point was just that the Duke did not always despise Lucrezia. At first he was enchanted. But he never wanted a real bird, he wanted that jeweled clockwork bird from the Chinese fairy tale.

      Othello-- so true to himself he could have no faith in his wife.
      There's the rub. Some men are so full of love for themselves, they have no room to love the difference in anyone. If you speak one word outside the peculiar dialect of their heart, you are a traitor. Except that, love just seems alien to the Duke (as it does to Gilbert Osmond): all-consuming pride is closer to it.

      The Duke loved the ornament he thought he'd got - the Lucrezia who turned out to be human, changeable, free, was an affront to him. This is why I think he crushed her:

      In an interview, Browning said, "I meant that the commands were that she should be put to death . . . Or he might have had her shut up in a convent."
      It's awhile since I read Othello. Your points make sense; but he still, in memory, seems warmer and more generous in his passion than the two monsters I mentioned above. But the touchy pride is similar.

      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

      by Brecht on Sat Sep 14, 2013 at 11:04:02 PM PDT

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      •  Othello's touchy pride (4+ / 0-)

        is increased by the racial aspect - part of him cannot accept that Desdemona really loves him, which I think is what Iago recognizes and plays to.

        He has more dimension that the Duke; after all, Shakespeare believed he was the tragic hero of the play, and for that we need to identify with him to a degree.

        I shudder at Browning's "commands;" I always imagined that meant orders to kill her, but if there was a two year separation before her death, a convent would make sense; and who knows, even there he might have ordered her death. Totally chilling.

        The comparison to the nightengale is apt; I never thought of that.

        Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

        by ramara on Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 12:24:39 AM PDT

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        •  Othello & Shylock: Two scapegoats in Venice. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ramara, poco, RiveroftheWest

          Okay, Shylock is mean, and suspicious - with good reason. Here we have two hard-working, proud men, the best at what they do. Every week of their lives, enduring the mocking looks and insults of far smaller men, needling away at their egos. What a cross to bear.

          Iago is the distilled envy and spite of a racist society. It's a very strange and ugly thing, this general Schadenfreude, the hunger to tear down great men, as if in our hearts we felt slighted, that we deserved to be above them. Thinking of Obama, of course. And great women get it too - Hillary, certainly.

          "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

          by Brecht on Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 10:08:19 AM PDT

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