Identify the characters in this poem, and their relationship.

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wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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This poem is a dramatic monologue, in which one person (a duke) does all the talking, in this case to one listener, a visiting ambassador from another principality, in which a Count has a daughter who is being considered as a marriage partner to the Duke.  There are, however, three characters concerning the reader here (and two minor artist characters.)  The third character is the Duke’s now deceased previous partner (the title character, My Last Duchess).  The relationship the Duke and the Last Duchess was abrasive as the duke treated her like a possession; the marriage my have ended in her murder ("I gave commands, and all smiles stopped together").  She is present in the form of a portrait and in the Duke’s description of her (She is... too soon made glad”, etc.)  The Duke’s psychological character is made clear by Browning’s selecting of the Duke’s words, which clearly indicate an avaricious, power-hungry, vain and insensitive human being who treats people like possessions.  The ambassador’s silence is the only clue we have that he is not taken in by the Duke’s performance, and will report back to the Count that this is not a good marriage.  Two artists are also mentioned: Fra Pandolph, the painter of the Duccess’ portrait, and Claus of Innsbruck, a sculptor, whose statue of Neptune caps the monologue.  The ambassador is of course respectful of the Duke’s title, and acts in a  diplomatic way.

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