Worksheet on Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess".

Essay by Shary December 2003

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This poem is called a "dramatic monologue"-as if you were listening to one half of a conversation, performed in a dramatic circumstance-

1. What is this circumstance? Who is speaking to whom? About what business matter? What is the other topic of discussion?

2. Where is this discussion taking place? Why has the Duke brought his auditor there?

3. What is a "duke"? Where is a duke in the hierarchy of nobility? What is a "count"? Where is he in the hierarchy? Would a Duke normally marry a count's daughter? Why does this Duke want to marry this count's daughter, do you suppose?

4. Which lines or phrases can you quote from the poem that describe the personality and character of the Duke?

5. Who is "Fra Pandolf"? What does the title Fra mean? What kinds of paintings would you usually expect such a person to be working on? What about this Fra then? What does the Duke think is going on during the sittings? Is he a reliable authority?

6. From the Duke's point of view, what image are we given of his last duchess's character and personality? Quote and show. Does she seem to be about the Duke's age, younger, or older? What does the Duke value? What did his duchess value?

7. Where can you find evidence of probable bias in the Duke's description of his last duchess? Quote and show. Define: "officious"

8. What information about his relationship with his last duchess does the Duke delay in revealing? Why does he delay? Why does he drop this news when he does?

9. Do you think the Duke is to be taken at his word when he protests he has no skill in speech, and pretends to be reaching for words? (see ll.