Robert Browning’s poem “My last Duchess'; is spoken from the perspective of the Duke and conveys the Dukes personality through the literary form of a dramatic monologue. It involves a fictional account of the Duke addressing an envoy from the Count to talk of details for the hopeful marriage to the Count’s daughter. The subtitle of this monologue is “Ferrara,'; which suggests an historical reference to Alfonso II, the fifth Duke of Ferrara in Italy in the mid-sixteenth century. The objective of the Duke is to attempt to sway the envoy’s opinion of himself to obtain the maximum dowry possible in pursuit of this marriage.
The reader is directed to imagine the Duke walking with the envoy through his art gallery and the Duke stops to show
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This demonstrates his conceited nature that he should be the only focus of her life. “Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt, / whene’er I passed her; but who passed without / much the same smile'; (43-45)? The Duke views the Duchess as someone who would be courteous to all no matter what status they held. He does not share this opinion with the Duchess and he feels that no one of lower status should even be noticed. “She thanked men,--good; but thanked / somehow…I know not how…'; (31-32). The Duke assumes that the Duchess gave men favors of herself and accuses her of being unfaithful to him. This reveals his jealousy towards other men and his paranoia that his wife would behave in such adulterous conduct.
The Duke is also very arrogant in his ways, a birthright that his title and name allow. He is not pleased that the Duchess does not see him in this manner and is rather bitter about it. “As if she ranked / my gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name / with anybody’s gift'; (32-34). He resents the Duchess for not being grateful to have his name bestowed upon her and glory in the high social rank into which she married, but “who’d stoop to blame / this sort of trifling'; (34-35)? His arrogance is verified by his conduct. "I choose never to stoop'; (42-43) never to discuss