The Duke Character in My Last Duchess by Robert Browning

(Used just for representation)

Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess," first published in Dramatic Lyrics in 1842, is one of the best of his many dramatic monologues. It was titled "Italy" but later changed to "My Last Duchess" in 1849. This poem reflects the characters of the selfish and power-loving Duke of Ferrara, Alfonso, all of Italy, and his late Duchess Lucrezia de Medici, who died at 17.


In "My Last Duchess," the character of the Duke is portrayed as having controlling, possessive, jealous and arrogant traits. These traits are not all mentioned verbally but mainly through his actions. Browning reveals the Duke's character through the man's words to describe his late wife. It seems he is speaking about an object rather than someone he loved. He reveals his jealousy as he mentions that she appeared to catch other men's eyes. He says she was" too easily impressed; she liked whatever she looked on, and her looks went everywhere." 

The Duke reveals his arrogance by stating, "as if she ranked my gift of a nine-hundred-year-old name with anybody's gift." He says that she loved the Cherry Blossoms and the setting sun as much as "the gift of [the Duke's] nine-hundred-years-old name. His vanity and pride are obvious as he speaks of his noble heritage and how the duchess does not seem to respect his "gift" he has given her. He expected her to be proud of the name she acquired through him and to flaunt it.


These lines show that she was a very beautiful woman, and he feared losing her. He could not stand how the Duchess treated him like everyone else. This shows his possessive nature. He is not only afraid of losing her, but also he is more concerned over his loss of control over her. The Duke enjoys the power he has over the painting. He could not control his wife in life, but now he can when she is dead.


Throughout the monologue, the Duke also gives the impression that he admires the artwork and appears to have more of a relationship with the painting than his former wife "I call that piece a wonder now."

While showing off a portrait of his last Duchess, the Duke begins to remember their lives together, and although he chooses his words carefully as he speaks, he ends up telling the visitor more than he realizes. By doing so, he not only reveals information about his former wife but also hints that he ordered someone to murder his last duchess "This grew, I gave commands" .here, he implies that he became annoyed with her for ignoring him so gave orders for her to be killed "Then all smiles stopped together." He did this so that he would not have to watch her befriending others.

 The Duke then shows the messenger the statue of Neptune, taming the sea horse made for him. Neptune, the god, is a reflection of the Duke. Just as Neptune tames the sea horse, the Duke also wishes to tame and control his Duchess as he believes the universe revolves around him.


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The Duke reveals his pride, vanity, and need for control throughout the dramatic monologue. His arrogance and jealousy stem from his aristocratic ancestry. He is a shallow human unable ever to show true love to his Duchess.


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