The Duke is incredibly proud and totally callous. He hoards the painting of his last wife, and he allows "none [to] put by / The curtain" covering her portrait but himself because he wants to control who can see her happy blush. He admits that it angered him that, during...
The Duke is incredibly proud and totally callous. He hoards the painting of his last wife, and he allows "none [to] put by / The curtain" covering her portrait but himself because he wants to control who can see her happy blush. He admits that it angered him that, during her lifetime, she was "too soon made glad." Any thing, no matter how small or insignificant, would produce "that spot of joy" on her cheeks: a beautiful sunset, a bough of cherries from the orchard, a pretty mule. They were all on par with his "favour at her breast," and he could not stand it. She was grateful to everyone for everything and she thanked people, he says,
[...] as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody's gift.
The Duke could not bear the idea that his duchess did not treasure him and his gifts more than anyone else. It angered him that she was grateful for all, that she didn't count herself incredibly lucky as a result of his love alone. He admits that he might have been able to explain this to her, but this would require "some stooping," he says, "and I choose / Never to stoop." He refused to lower himself to explain that she ought to smile more for him than anyone else, be more grateful for his gifts than anyone else's. It would have been humiliating to have to explain such a thing. Instead, he "gave commands; / Then all smiles stopped together." It seems that he must have given an order to have her killed. This way, he gets what he wants: he can pick and choose who gets to see her blushing smile, keeping her all to himself if he desires it—something he could not do while she was alive. We see, then, how proud he is as well as how unfeeling.