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As readers, we begin this “tour” of the Duke’s house as respected guests, viewing his art collection as a way of getting to know the Duke, in order to report back to the Count regarding whether the duke is a fit match for the daughter. Browning gradually then starts to show us his true character – controlling, demanding, intolerant, and jealous of his “possessions” (of which he includes the human duchess as one); then Browning shows his hypocritical, fawning side by seeming unconcerned about the “dowry” and pretending an actual attraction to “his fair daughter’s self.” By the time the mini-tour is over (“Neptune taming a seahorse”), we, and the ambassador, have a clear picture of the Duke’s real personality – devious, avaricious, possessive, cruel, and inhuman. Browning uses very subtle clues, often ambiguous words and phrases ("my last duchess") ("looking as if she were alive"), and hints at liaisons that are never substantiated ("the depth and passion of her earnest glance") and subtle details of expression (Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me") to give us the true portrait of the Duke behind the dignified title.
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