My Last Duchess Questions and Answers
by Robert Browning

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What is the purpose/message of "My Last Duchess," and how is this message conveyed?

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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"My Last Duchess" deals with the age-old theme of appearance versus reality. The Duke thought that his late wife had everything he could possibly want in a woman. Young, pretty, attractive, and with a lovely smile, she seemed like the perfect bride. One can imagine that, before he married her, the Duke would have seen a portrait of the Duchess. And from that portrait he will have inferred just what kind of person she was.

Unfortunately for him—and even more unfortunately for the Duchess—the appearance was very different from the reality. For although the Duchess did indeed have a beautiful smile in real life, she flashed it too freely at all around her, making her husband feel disrespected. The Duke felt cheated that the Duchess as she existed in real life was not the woman she appeared as in the portrait.

Unable to deal with the reality of the situation, the Duke took the drastic step of having the Duchess killed. And yet one can imagine that this psychotic tyrant will once more...

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