Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess" does not rely heavily on metaphors. It is rather a monologue delivered by the speaker describing a painting of his wife and his wife as a person when she was still living. The painting can be said to symbolize the wife, the...
Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess" does not rely heavily on metaphors. It is rather a monologue delivered by the speaker describing a painting of his wife and his wife as a person when she was still living. The painting can be said to symbolize the wife, the last duchess. There are a few metaphors sprinkled throughout the poem, though, as the speaker paints a verbal portrait of his former wife.
When the speaker says in lines 1-2 "That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall, / Looking as if she were alive," his choice of words could be considered metaphorical. The duchess herself is not literally on the wall; rather, this is a painting or a likeness of her, which stands in for her throughout the poem. One of the few metaphors in the poem is the "spot of joy" referenced by the speaker. The speaker suggests that most people wonder what exactly makes his lady smile and appear happy in the painting. He replies to this anticipated question,
Sir, ’twas not
Her husband’s presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek
The duchess's rosy colored cheek metaphorically represents her pleasure, which her husband believes could be the result of any number of things. He seems jealous that it is not only himself who gives her joy. The speaker goes on to quote the artist and some of the compliments the artist may have paid the duchess while painting her. He credits these with the "spot of joy," which is referenced a second time:
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy.
The speaker believes that his wife is "too easily impressed" and will blush with pleasure at any small word or gesture of kindness or politeness.
The speaker's jealousy emerges again, even more obviously, when he compares the duchess's reactions to his own love and attention to any number of other gifts she's given by any "officious fool." He relates,
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 speaker is offended that the duchess seems no more loyal to or impressed by his attentions than any others paid to her. The metaphor
here is the "gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name," which is a more abstract, figurative way to describe their marriage. In marrying her, he gives her his family's name, which is quite old and renowned apparently, and history. The name represents their union and her inclusion in that storied family history. However, he is disappointed that she does not rank it above the gifts of others, when he clearly sees it as superior to all others.