How is power used in "My Last Duchess?"
This dramatic monologue is especially significant among Browning's works, because it seems to be forward-looking in its understanding of the male-female dynamic of Browning's own time (and earlier, as the setting of the poem indicates). The Duke at first is celebrating the apparent happiness he brought to his Duchess, although he qualifies it by admitting other things made her happy also:
Her husband's presence only, called that spot of joy
Into the Duchess' cheek....
As the Duke continues to speak, he reveals the jealousy of a husband who wants to monopolize the wife's attention; in other words, he doubts the complete power he wishes to have over her:
....She thanked me,—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 "ideal" relationship based on dominance, which the Duke has desired, has deteriorated in his telling of the history of his marriage:
Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt
Whene'er I passed her;...
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