Michael Audley and “My Last Duchess”

“He walked straight out of the house, this foolish old man, because there was some strong emotion at work and his heart – neither joy, nor triumph, but something almost akin to disappointment; some stifled and unsatisfied longing which lay heavy and dull at his heart, as if he had carried a corpse in his bosom. He carried the corpse of that hope which had died at the sound of Lucy’s words. All the doubts and fears and timid aspirations were ended now. He must be contented, like other men his age, to be married for his fortune and his position” (Braddon 17).

This passage describes Michael Audley’s emotions after his conversation with Lucy about if she loves him. Lucy’s response was that she does “not love any one in the world”, and this was reassuring to Michael (Braddon 17). In this passage, the word “corpse” is repeated many times. The “corpse” is referring to the emotional burden that Michael is feeling due to his uncertainty of whether Lucy loves him or not. Michael is also described as a “foolish old man”, which could mean that Lucy is lying to him and does in fact love another person (Braddon 17). Michael wishes to be married to someone who truly loves him, and his hope for that “died at the sound of Lucy’s words” (Braddon 17). At the end of the passage, Michael accepts that he is being married for his wealth and status.

This passage reminds me of Robert Browning’s poem “My Last Duchess” because it deals with marriage of people of different economic status. The poem depicts a wealthy duke reminiscing about his wife who has died. Like Michael, the Duke suspects that his late wife had possibly cheated on him or loved another person. In the end of Browning’s poem, it says “I gave commands; Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands, As if alive” This makes it seem like the Duke had her killed, possibly because she loved another man. This might be a stretch, but I wonder if Michael will do something similar to Lucy. This could also be why “corpse” was repeated so many times in the passage as well.

One thought on “Michael Audley and “My Last Duchess””

  1. I found it interesting how similarities between the poem and the novel have grown even greater as the intrigue unfolds. Both prominently feature an uncanny portrait revealing hidden truths through the master artist’s oils and a Pre-Raphaelite fascination with the minute details of significant objects. Although Lady Audley is not a fourteen-year-old-Medici, her young age, childlike manner, and neotenous looks are frequent subjects of conversation and description. Despite these similarities, one difference stands out, Lady Audley’s smile has not once “stopped together” under any tragedy, conspiracy, or scrutiny. However, slight breaks in her impeccably maintained presence are becoming more frequent and obvious.

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