Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess" is a dramatic monologue in which the speaker takes a conversational tone as he begins to describe a painting of his "last Duchess" and the situation surrounding the painting, a situation that led to tragedy.
The speaker matter-of-factly discusses how Fra Pandolf worked many days to paint the portrait. His tone darkens and turns rather ominous as he warns that no one uncovers that portrait but himself. Then he explains how his Duchess was "too easily impressed" and how she turned her attention to everything and everyone. All things pleased her, when she should have been focusing on her husband alone, the speaker remarks, his tone turning caustic. She dared to rank "[his] gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name / With anybody's gift," he sneers, his pride clearly evident.
His tone hardens further as he tells how he made a command and her "smiles stopped together." She did not allow herself to be taught, the speaker notes, and he chooses "never to stoop." Again, his pride is all too evident, as are his jealousy and malice. "There she stands," he continues, "As if alive."
The speaker's tone then shifts abruptly, back to a calm courtesy. He asks his companion to rise and go back downstairs. They have business to deal with. The speaker's companion is the servant of a Count, and the speaker is making a deal to marry the Count's daughter. He has an object squarely in mind, namely, the young woman, although her dowry is certainly a matter for consideration as well. An undertone of warning sneaks into the speaker's voice here, suggesting that he will get exactly what he wants, or else. But then the speaker begins to point out another fine piece of art in his collection as if he had never said anything remotely frightening or threatening about his last Duchess or his potential new Duchess.