My Last Duchess

“My Last Duchess” is a dramatic monologue written by Robert Browning in 1842. The speaker is a Duke who is talking with an agent of the Count whose daughter he plans to marry. The Duke attempts to show his former wife in a dark light, but he instead reveals himself to be a petty, jealous, and murderous man. He begins to show is nature in the opening lines of the monologue when he refers to his wife as a “piece”. “That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall, / Looking as if she were alive. I call / That piece a wonder, now: Fra Pandolf’s hands” (1-3).
As the Duke develops his monologue, he illustrates his warped sense of reality. He begins by describing a painting of his wife and cleverly steers the monologue away from the painting and toward his wife’s supposed infidelities. “…Sir, ‘twas not / Her husband’s presence only, called that spot / Of joy into the Duchess’s cheek:…” (13-15).
The Duke’s social adversities become further known when he negotiates the dowry with the Count’s agent. He reveals himself as a man who is more interested in possessing a woman than he is marrying her. He refers to his potential bride as his “object”. He hurriedly moves the agent out to meet the Count’s entourage anxious to possess another wife. “Though his fair daughter’s self, as I avowed / At starting, is my object. Nay, we’ll go / Together down, sir…” (52-54).
The Duke’s attempts to appear as a husband betrayed by an adulterous wife fall short. Throughout his monologue, he tries to prove that it was his wife’s own actions that led to her untimely death. “Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without / Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;” (44-45).
As he concludes his monologue, he abruptly shifts from discussing the murder of the Duchess to the impending negotiations for his new wife. “Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands / As if alive. Will’t please you rise? We’ll meet / the company below, then. I repeat / The Count your master’s known...