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Evaluate Language Techniques in 'My Last Duchess'

In this worksheet, students will be tested on their evaluation of language. Students will be able to practise why certain words are used and, the effect of these words on the theme and tone of the poem.

'Evaluate Language Techniques in 'My Last Duchess'' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 4

GCSE Subjects:   English Literature

GCSE Boards:   Pearson Edexcel, AQA

Curriculum topic:   Poetry Anthology Collections, Poetry

Curriculum subtopic:   Relationships: 'My Last Duchess', Power and Conflict: 'My Last Duchess'

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

Want to revise your language evaluation skills in 'My Last Duchess'

 

Thought bubble

 

Hopefully, you know 'My Last Duchess' well enough by now to be able to evaluate Browning's choices of language in the poem. Now remember, evaluating language is actually quite simple if you break it down into these two points:

 

What attitudes are expressed by the poet, through this language choice?

 

What effect does this word have on you, the reader?

 

 

When we break up our language evaluation into these two points, it is easier to get into the nitty gritty of word choice. It also helps to evaluate language by putting ourselves into the speaker of the poem's shoes. Why does the poet use specific words and what is the effect of these words?

 

 

Here's an example of language evaluation to get you going.

 

Near the beginning of the poem, Browning uses the personal pronoun '"my" in "that's my last Duchess painted on the wall". The fact that the poem begins with a personal pronoun and title of the Duchess suggests that the Duke is possessive of the Duchess. Of course, as the poem evolves, this possessiveness becomes heightened as we understand that the Duke's controlling nature is probably what caused the Duchess to be murdered. This presentation of the impact of control and possessiveness also hints that the Duke's control over the Duchess has not lessened, he still controls her through the painting he has of her on the wall. This suggests that Browning is conveying the Duke as possessive whilst highlighting his sinister, cruel and controlling nature.

"Fra Pandolf's hands worked busily a day, and there she stands..."

 

 

Fill in the blank spaces with the correct words from below. Don't worry about using quotations!

 

hands

Fra Pandolf

busily

working

sex

love

''Twas not her husband's presence only, called that spot of joy into the Duchess' cheek"

 

Tick one box which analyses this quote the best.

 

The quote suggests that the Duchess cheated on the Duke

The quote suggests that the Duke loved the Duchess

The quote emphasises the Duke's jealous nature, as he is insinuating that other men made her blush from "joy"

The quote suggests that the Duke was blushing from "joy"

Check two examples of metaphor in the poem.

"The faint half-flush that dies along her throat"

"Looking as if she were alive"

"Her mantle wraps over her wrist too much"

"Notice Neptune, though, taming a sea-horse"

"She thanked men-- good! but thanked somehow-- I know not how-- as if she ranked my gift of a nine-hundred years old name with anybody's gift"

 

Tick the one answer which best explains the quote.

 

The quote portrays the Duke's arrogance. He believes his name and title make him above everyone else

The quote suggests that the Duchess was arrogant

The quote suggests that the Duke gave the Duchess many gifts

The quote suggests that the Duke loved the Duchess

"I gave commands; then all smiles stopped altogether"

 

What does this quote suggest?

 

Fill in the blank spaces:

love

killed

semi-colon

colon

full stop

The quote portrays the Duke's arrogance. He believes his name and title make him above everyone else

The quote suggests that the Duchess was arrogant

The quote suggests that the Duke gave the Duchess many gifts

The quote suggests that the Duke loved the Duchess

"Too easily impressed; she liked whate'er she looked on"

 

What does this quote suggest?

 

The use of the hyperbolic "too" suggests that the Duke saw the Duchess as too much

The use of the hyperbolic "too" suggests that the Duke disapproved of the Duchess' happiness

The use of the hyperbolic "too" suggests that the Duke didn't think the Duchess was right for him

"Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt, whene'er I passed her; but who passed without much the same smile?"

 

How does this quote convey the Duke's arrogance?

 

Look at:

The device used

How the quote shows the Duke's arrogance

 

You get two marks for two sentences

Tick one quote which showcases the Duke's manipulative nature.

 

"Even had you skill in speech- (which I have not)- to make your will quite clear"

''Twas not her husband's presence only which caused that spot of joy"

"My favour at her breast"

"Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!"

"Though his far daughter's self, as I avowed at starting, is my object"

 

Evaluate the word 'object' here.

 

You get one mark for one sentence.

"Notice Neptune, though, taming a sea-horse"

 

 

 Evaluate the quote.

 

1. What device is used here?

2. Why is this device significant and what does it suggest about the Duke?

 

You get two marks for two sentences.

  • Question 1

"Fra Pandolf's hands worked busily a day, and there she stands..."

 

 

Fill in the blank spaces with the correct words from below. Don't worry about using quotations!

 

hands

Fra Pandolf

busily

working

sex

love

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Practising how to write out language evaluations should help you get into the swing of things. Let's focus on how the Duke's jealous nature is conveyed here. Look at the verb "busily" and the reference to the artist, Fra Pandolf's "hands". Despite the fact that the Duke is talking about a piece of art, there's a definite connection between the painting of the Duchess and the Duke's sense of jealousy (remember, he doesn't let just anyone look at the painting, suggesting that his control extends to this inanimate painting, the only thing he has left of the dead Duchess). Back in those days, references to hands, especially busy ones, suggested promiscuity. Pair this with the rest of the poem, where the Duke is implying that his late Duchess cheated on him and we see how language is used to stress the Duke's jealousy!
  • Question 2

''Twas not her husband's presence only, called that spot of joy into the Duchess' cheek"

 

Tick one box which analyses this quote the best.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
The quote emphasises the Duke's jealous nature, as he is insinuating that other men made her blush from "joy"
EDDIE SAYS
Option three is correct! Not only is the quote alluding to the Duke's jealous temperament, as he insinuates that the Duchess used to blush around men who weren't her husband, but, the reference is also sexually suggestive.
  • Question 3

Check two examples of metaphor in the poem.

CORRECT ANSWER
"The faint half-flush that dies along her throat"
"Notice Neptune, though, taming a sea-horse"
EDDIE SAYS
Metaphor is a sneaky one, because it's quite hard to pick out, so well done for having a go. This was a tricky question too. The first and last options are correct. Think about the "faint half-flush" and what it represents. The Duke is doing more than simply referencing the Duchess' blushes. He's insinuating that she cheated on him. Therefore, the blush or flush takes on a sexual nature. Alongside this, the way that the flush "dies" along the Duchess' throat is a direct reference to the Duchess' murder. Also, back then an orgasm was referred to as "the little death", so there's a lot to unpack with the first option! The last option is also correct. Neptune is a metaphor for how the Duke sees himself. The sea-horse is probably a reference to the Duchess and any of the Duke's unfortunate future wives. The Duke doesn't see them as women, but as animals, or pets, to be tamed and conquered.
  • Question 4

"She thanked men-- good! but thanked somehow-- I know not how-- as if she ranked my gift of a nine-hundred years old name with anybody's gift"

 

Tick the one answer which best explains the quote.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
The quote portrays the Duke's arrogance. He believes his name and title make him above everyone else
EDDIE SAYS
This quote heightens the Duke's arrogance. He not only believes that his "nine-hundred-years old name" makes him superior, but he also believes that his title is a "gift" which he has bestowed upon the Duchess by marrying her! Furthermore, he's annoyed that she smiles at other men when they give her simpler gifts, such as "cherries" and "a white mule". Basically, he doesn't like the fact that the Duchess doesn't glorify him because of his title, which he was born into. It's interesting that the Duke views something as abstract as his "title" as a gift. There's nothing tangible (something which can be held or felt) in a title, but he views his name as something which the Duchess should be grateful for. The Duke's arrogance is really captured, here.
  • Question 5

"I gave commands; then all smiles stopped altogether"

 

What does this quote suggest?

 

Fill in the blank spaces:

love

killed

semi-colon

colon

full stop

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
What's most interesting about this quote is how sudden it is through the abrupt use of the semicolon, "I gave commands" draws attention to the personal pronoun "I" which suggests that the Duke played a role in killing the Duchess. Whilst the word 'killed' is never explicitly mentioned, the sudden and callous use of the semicolon emphasises the Duke's cruel and cold nature, he remains unphased and unemotional. Furthermore, "all smiles stopped" could suggest that the Duchess' death affected those around her. Perhaps she was such a loving person that people enjoyed spending time with her (that explains why people gave her gifts which made the Duke so jealous). The smiles stopping could reference how the Duchess' death caused the people around her, who loved her, to stop smiling. "All smiles stopped" could also be in direct reference to the Duchess, herself. Perhaps the Duke saw the Duchess as nothing more than a body and face; thus, in killing her, the Duke views the act as killing her "smiles" instead of the Duke seeing the Duchess as a person. The quote could also suggest that he reduced her to a "smile" because he was so consumed with jealousy over her smiling at other men.
  • Question 6

"Too easily impressed; she liked whate'er she looked on"

 

What does this quote suggest?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
The use of the hyperbolic "too" suggests that the Duke disapproved of the Duchess' happiness
EDDIE SAYS
The hyperbolic (when something is exaggerated) "too" emphasises the Duke's jealous nature and his disapproval of the Duchess' happiness.
  • Question 7

"Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt, whene'er I passed her; but who passed without much the same smile?"

 

How does this quote convey the Duke's arrogance?

 

Look at:

The device used

How the quote shows the Duke's arrogance

 

You get two marks for two sentences

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
What's most interesting about this quote is the use of rhetorical questioning, which makes the Duke seem extra controlling. Where at first, it seems like the Duke is questioning whoever he's talking to, in order to convince them of his point of view, the more we read on, the more we start to see that the Duke is manipulating his subject (and the reader) through tactical rhetoric questioning.
  • Question 8

Tick one quote which showcases the Duke's manipulative nature.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"Even had you skill in speech- (which I have not)- to make your will quite clear"
EDDIE SAYS
Option number one is correct! Browning presents the Duke as manipulative, through his use of rhetorical questions and false pretence of humbleness!
  • Question 9

"Though his far daughter's self, as I avowed at starting, is my object"

 

Evaluate the word 'object' here.

 

You get one mark for one sentence.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
The word "object" here really emphasises that the Duke views women as objects!
  • Question 10

"Notice Neptune, though, taming a sea-horse"

 

 

 Evaluate the quote.

 

1. What device is used here?

2. Why is this device significant and what does it suggest about the Duke?

 

You get two marks for two sentences.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
It's a tricky question so well done for attempting it. This'll pay off and help you form a sophisticated and well-honed answer. Think about why Browning has chosen to end the poem with this metaphor. How does this conceptualise the Duke's personality and what he's like?
Try it ---- OR ----

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