My Last Duchess: Duke's Personality Analysis

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In the poem my last duchess, Robert Browning carefully crafts the character of the duke to illustrate that vengeful male power can lead to dire consequences for women. Firstly, the speeches of the dukes reveal a great deal about his character. For example, the duke says “she thanked men,--good; but thanked /somehow… I know not how”. (Browning 31-32) this shows both his arrogant power and his contempt for his duchess, both of which lead her demise. Here, the duke reveals to his silent listener that his last duchess “thanked” men, inferring something inappropriate. He then says, “…as if she ranked/my gifts of a nine hundred years old name/with anybody’s gift. Who’d stoop to blame/ this sort of trifling?”. (Browning 32—35) in his arrogance, the duke believes that his last duchess should have been attentive to him as he had given her a “900 year old name”. This statement illustrates his power as his old family name shows he is a wealthy and influential man. This statement also illustrates his vengeful nature as he says he would not “stoop” to blame her for being polite to other men. Instead, he exact his chosen punishment; death. Consequently, the reader realizes that the duke has absolute power and he has channeled it in a vengeful and devastating fashion towards his last duchess. Furthermore, Browning continues to reveal the character of the duke when the duke says, “Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt, /Whene'er I passed her; but who passed without/ much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands; /then all smiles stopped together”. (Browning 45-46) with this statement by the duke, browning forces the realization that the duke used his power to give commands to put his wife to death. The duke did this out of spite because=e the duchess did not treat him with reverence and it offended him. Consequently, the last duchess was the recipient of the vengeful cruelty of her husband that resulted in her death. Lastly, the duke’s power is most apparent in his silent listener,...
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