How does the revelation in lines 45–47 of "My Last Duchess" impact the development of the Duke's character over the course of the poem?

The revelation in lines 45–47 of "My Last Duchess," that the narrating duke actually had his wife murdered so that he could start over with a new one, shows us the extent of the pettiness and pride he reveals throughout the poem. He wanted his “last duchess” to value him above all else, and when she failed to do this, he refused to speak with her about it, because this would be beneath him. So he had her killed.

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The revelation contained by these lines is that the duke’s “last duchess” is no longer alive and that he is responsible, in a very direct way, for her death. He claims that he “gave commands” and “all [her] smiles stopped together” (lines 45, 46). He has already expressed significant irritation...

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The revelation contained by these lines is that the duke’s “last duchess” is no longer alive and that he is responsible, in a very direct way, for her death. He claims that he “gave commands” and “all [her] smiles stopped together” (lines 45, 46). He has already expressed significant irritation at the fact that she would offer “the same smile” to everyone and anyone, regardless of how trifling their gift to her was (45). The duke wanted her to value him and his “gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name” more than the other things, like a bough of cherries, a white mule, or a pretty sunset (33).

He also says that he would not simply communicate to her what it is that he wanted, that “here [she] miss[es], / Or there exceed[s] the mark,” because he elected “Never to stoop” (38–39, 42–43). In other words, his pride will not permit him to instruct her that she must value him above all others; he wants her to do it without having to be told to do it. So he has her killed by someone, we can assume, to whom he gave the “commands” he mentions in line 45. Until we learn that he has had her killed so that he can start over and find a new duchess who will assuage his ego, we do not really understand the extent of his pride. He is not just petty and proud, but he is also so unyielding as to be murderous as a result.

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Up until the lines just preceding 45–47, the speaker gives the impression that all was well between himself and the Duchess. Then, finally:

[...] I gave commands;

Then all smiles stopped together.

This conveys the admission by the speaker that (not unusually for his time, and later) he became the typical arrogant, domineering husband. Prior to this we saw mere hints of his growing dissatisfaction with her:

[...] 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.

The Duke then states that he never actually told his Duchess what displeased or even "disgusted" him, since this would have been "some stooping, and I chose / Never to stoop."

Altogether, the picture the Duke himself draws in words is that of a dysfunctional marriage; though as we've noted, his own behavior seems quite "normal" in an age when women, even of the aristocracy as here, had few rights. The close of the monologue suggests that he regarded the last Duchess as a possession, on par with the "Neptune [...] which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me."

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In these lines, the Duke tells the Count's emissary that:

This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive.

Prior to saying this, the Duke had been describing the behavior of his former duchess. While he is critical and angry about her behavior, believing her to have to have been overly warm and friendly to people other than himself, we have no indication that she did not die a natural death.

The words above, however, suggest that the Duke had his former wife killed. He says he "gave commands" and her "smiles stopped." He then points to her portrait and says that she is memorialized there as if alive.

All of this is chilling and suggests that the Duke is angrier than even his critical words about his dead wife suggest. These lines indicate that the Duke is willing to go to any lengths to be in control and that he prefers an immobile portrait to a living person. The lines imply that rather than simply being jealous and controlling, the Duke may be sociopathic or severely mentally ill. One hopes the Count relays this information to the father of the prospective new bride.

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The Duke is talking to an emissary of a count. The Duke is trying to marry the count's daughter, so he is trying to impress the emissary. In describing the painting of his most recent duchess, he communicates more about himself than he does of his late wife. He notes that the Duchess's look of "joy" in the painting is not just because he was present during the painting, her joy being caused by his presence. He claims that she had a heart "too soon made glad." In other words, he claims that she liked to be looked at and liked looking at others. This is his coy way of saying she was flirtatious. But what really comes across here is his jealousy. He would not even leave her alone with a friar (Fra Pandold). 

In lines 45-47, he seems to respond to a question posed by the count's emissary, asking if the Duchess ever smiled. The Duke replies that she did smile but that as he became more oppressive (commanding), she stopped smiling. Here, he quite blatantly admits that as he became more domineering, she became less and less happy. He says, "I gave commands; / Then all smiles stopped together." The Duke ends his dramatic monologue to the emissary by calling his attention to a statue of the God Neptune taming a seahorse. The Duke unwittingly illustrates his own behavior towards his late wife in showing his admiration for a God controlling a "lesser" creature. This mirrors his controlling nature. 

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