Does the duke lack the qualities of a good husband in "My Last Duchess"?

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dstuva's profile pic

Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Does the duke in Browning's "My Last Duchess" lack the qualities of a good husband?  He killed his wife!  The showing of his wife's portrait to the agent of his new, intended fiance's father, is a veiled threat that he'll do the same to her is she doesn't behave better than his first wife did.  His first wife dared to be friendly to everyone, not just him; she cherished gifts from others as much as she cherished the gift of his "nine-hundred-year-old" name.  Yes, she smiled at him, but she smiled the same way for everyone she met.

As a result:

...I gave commands;

Then all smiles stopped together.  There she stands

As if alive.

Yes, the duke lacks the qualities of a good husband.

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lynnebh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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I would not want him for MY husband.

First of all, he is controlling. Only HE is in charge of showing his late wife's picture to visitors.

But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)

He speaks of his late wife with disdain. When trying to describe why she had that pleasant, smiling look on her face, he remarks that thought it should have been present for him only, she gave that look to everyone:

She had
A heart—how shall I say?—too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.

He states that she did not appreciate the honor of being HIS wife:

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.

He says, who could blame him for trying to explain to her how she annoyed him:

Who’d stoop to blame
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill
In speech—(which I have not)—to make your will
Quite clear to such an one, and say, “Just this
Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,
Or there exceed the mark”

He is haughty; he says he should not have had to stoop to explain this to her. He is jealous:

E’en then would be some stooping; and I choose
Never to stoop.

He has treated his wife like one of his possessions:

Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!

He is meeting with representatives to negotiate the dowry for his next wife. Don't you feel sorry for her? I would say he stinks as a husband.

Read the analysis here on eNotes.   

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