My Last Duchess

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 10th grade April 2001

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My Last Duchess by Robert Browning Question: Can you please help me understand My Last Duchess by Robert Browning? Answer: The poem is a monologue by a Duke (we hear the Duke talking to us).

He is showing a private portrait of his dead wife (we know it is private because it is hidden behind a curtain) to an anonymous viewer. Fra Prandolf was the artist. It is not until near the end of the poem that we realise that the viewer is a the messenger from a Count who has been sent to the Duke to arrange his next marriage! (A dowry is mentioned, which was the money paid to a new husband from the new wife's father as 'payment' for taking her off his hands!) As the poem unfolds, we find out more and more about the Duke and about the relationship that he had with his first wife.

- He seems to be very proud of her Will't please you sit and look at her? - He knows that she was susceptible to flattery 'Twas not Her husband's presence only, called that spot Of joy into the Duchess' cheek - He knows that she was popular with men She had A heart ...

too soon made glad - He is jealous of the other men who charmed her! He calls one admirer some officious fool.

- He is cross that she did not seem to appreciate marrying a Duke (and taking on a 900-year old name) and this wounded his pride.

- He complains that she never allowed herself to be lessoned (she would not listen to him). It is interesting that now he is talking to a complete stranger about his wife's faults! When he commanded her to do things, her smiles stopped altogether.

(What does this suggest about the real extent of his love for her and hers for him?) - At the...