My Last Duchess: An Analysis of The Duke
"My Last Duchess" by Robert Browning is clearly a dramatic monologue used to depict the character of the Duke. The agent seems present although he never participates in the conversation and all parts are spoken by the Duke. The Duke describes some of the agent's questions and makes the dramatic monologue possible by answering, for example, the questioning glance he gets from the agent about the "spot of joy on the duchess' cheek". The poem presents the Duke as manipulative, arrogant, self-centered, chauvinistic, jealous, and controlling. All of these characteristics are shown as the Duke discusses the failings and imperfections of his late wife. The Duke unknowingly presents his own failings and imperfections while slandering the name and behavior of his former wife.
During the poem, the Duke tries to portray himself as powerful and successful, but these qualities are contradicted by his speech. Instead of realizing and praising him for his accomplishments, the reader sees through the Duke's façade and realizes that the Duke is simply possessive and jealous. The Duke constantly refers to the Duchess as "My Last Duchess" as if she does not deserve a name because she belongs to him. This is part of his chauvinistic attitude. The Duke does not feel as if women are human but rather objects that need a man to tame them and control their every move. The Duke reveals his jealous streak after discussing the duchess is wandering eyes and smile for everyone. The Duke says, "
she smiled, no doubt, /Whene'er I passed her; but who passed without /Much the same smile
." (line 44). This upset the Duke because he felt she should not treat everyone else as she treated him. He felt she was ungrateful of the "nine-hundred-years-old name" that he bestowed upon her. Since the Duke felt unappreciated, he directly lashed out and caused all "smiles to cease". The reader is left to wonder if this line is saying that the Duke ended the life...
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