what are the characteristics of the Duke in the poem "My Last Duchess"?

1 Answer | Add Yours

sea-treasure's profile pic

sea-treasure | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted on

The Duke has an imperious personality, he is fully conscious of it, and enjoys contemplating its effects on others. He tells the visitor that those who had seen the painting before him did not dare to express their sense of wonder. They could not venture to inquire anything about the Duchess, who though dead still only belonged to her husband. Indeed, the Duke's exposition of his wife's character to a stranger who apparently is much lower than himself in rank and stature would be completely inconsistent with his personality. After he withdrawing the curtain and exposing the painting, the Duke invites the visitor to sit down and look at her for some time. This will undoubtedly embarrass the visitor; he would not have dared to stare at her so intently if she was alive, and now the husband almost orders him to. On the other hand, the Duke remains standing and dominates the scene.

Later on, the Duke professes to have no ''skill in speech''. This is the only statement which seems contrary to his proud nature, and significantly it is feigned modesty. At the end of the poem, the speaker, refusing to ''stoop'' to her level, turned from complete inaction to destructive action.

Yet, the Duke should not be viewed as a callous murderer. He is a keen observer of human nature, and had well understood that of his wife :''she had/A heart-how shall I say?-Too soon made glad,..'' But comprehension does not mean acceptance.

The Duke ends his monologue by pointing out a statue of Neptune taming a sea monster .Like Neptune, the Duke wants to subdue and command all aspects of life, including his wife.

We’ve answered 317,615 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question