In "My Last Duchess," what repetition occurs and what imagery/symbolism is there?

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amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

My Last Duchess is a dramatic monologue. There's not as much symoblism in the poem as there is reading between the lines or inferences.  As the Duke is speaking (he doesn't really repeat any words...there is no refrain or other repetitions like in other poetic formats), he lets us know that he is a man of power and owns many things--the statues, the art, the painting which now represents his late wife, the last Duchess.  She is his prized possession, and now only smiles for him through her portrait which he keeps hidden behind a tapestry.  Only those he allows to see it enjoy the privilege.  However, there is a warning in  his words as well.  His last Duchess smiled too much on OTHER people and took pleasure in the simple things in life...she did not, in the Duke's opinion, respect the old and affluent name he gave her, nor did she enjoy him and love him as he thought she should have.  So, he gave "commands" and her smiles stopped altogether.  Basically, he had her killed.  The next Duchess had better do better...or so is the message the envoy is to take back to the father of the new woman.

A dramatic monologue is a poem in which a character addresses one or more listeners who remain silent.  The characters in theis one are the Duke and  his last Duchess. The listener to this speech is an envoy representing a Count whose daughter is being considered as the next Duchess.