What are the metaphors used in the poem "My Last Duchess" by Robert Browning?

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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...

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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:
Such stuff
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.
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A metaphor is an implicit comparison or one that does not use explicit comparative terms such as "like" or "as". Normally a metaphor is described as comprising a "tenor" (the thing being compared) and a "vehicle" (what it is being compared to). 

"Hands": One might be  able to argue that "Fra Pandolf’s hands/ Worked busily" is a synecdoche (a type of metaphor in which a part stands for the whole) as the hands stand in for the entire artist, but one could also argue that it is not metaphorical, as one does literally use one's hands in the art of painting.

"for never read/ Strangers like you": This one is tricky. If he means "read" as we "read" text literally, then "reading" the painted image of a face or looking at it as though it possessed the same kind of meaning that language possesses could be considered a metaphor

"My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name": The Duchess assuming the name and title of her husband is not literally the husband giving her a "gift" and thus we can say that the Duke is comparing the marriage to a gift he is giving a wife.

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In "My Last Duchess," the "blush" or "spot of joy" is the Duchess blushing. The Duke indicates that this blush is not because the Duchess is embarrassed or shy. Rather, he claims it is a flirtation. Therefore, the blushing "spot of joy" is a metaphor for flirtatious behavior. 

                                             Sir, 'twas not

Her husband's presence only, called that spot

Of joy into the Duchess' cheek; (13-15) 

The painting itself is, "by design," the Duke's conception of his late wife. In the poem, he complains that she did not reserve her smiles just for him. He is jealous that she would give the same kindness to other men. 

                       Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt, 

Whene'er I passed her; but who passed without

Much the same smile? (44-46) 

Earlier in the poem, the Duke says that he rarely reveals the painting for anyone. It is covered by a curtain. Now, the Duke can have the Duchess' smile all to himself. The painting, an object, is the way the Duke wanted the Duchess to be while she was alive: framed, still, obedient, giving smiles/affection only to him. Thus, the painting is a metaphor for the Duke's idea of ideal behavior for a Duchess. The painting is an object, a possession. The Duke objectified his wife in life and in death. The painting is not a memorial of his late wife; it is a metaphor for the Duke's insecure, jealous, and controlling behavior. 

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