‘My Last Duchess’ by poet Robert Browning is a very paradoxical poem from the very start to the very end. It is a dramatic monologue that is written in pairs of iambic pentameter (which is also known as heroic couplets).
In the poem, the duke is negotiating with an envoy about his marriage to the daughter of a wealthy family. His previous duchess had recently passed away.
As we continue through the poem, we learn a lot about the duke and his jealous and very controlling nature.
In the first line, it is already apparent that he is very controlling as he wishes to control his last duchess to the very extent of controlling who gets to see the painting of his last duchess - “(since none puts by the curtain I have drawn for you, but I)”.
“She thanked men, -good; but thanked Somehow . . . I know not how . . . as if she ranked My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name with anybody’s gift.” (lines 31-34) this suggests that he expects her to ‘worship’ him, in a sense, and to act as if there is nothing more important than is title. The repetition of certain words, such as ‘Fra Pandolf’ and ‘smile’, suggest that the Duke has some sort of jealous fetish. The duke does not repeat the artists’ name out of admiration but out of suspicion that he was trying to seduce the duchess, “perhaps Fra Pandolf chanced to say, ‘Her mantle laps over my Lady’s wrist too much’”. The following lines suggest that the duke is also suspicious of the duchess apparent ‘seductive’ behaviour – “too soon made glad, too easily impressed; she liked whate'er she looked on, and her looks went everywhere.” (lines 22-23) And “Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt, Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without much the same smile?” (lines 43-45).
The duke says “Even had you skill in speech -- (which I have not)”, claiming to not be a master of speech, yet ironically he is speaking in very high poetic language. But at the same time, we know that he used his ‘poor speech skills’ “to give commands” which...