Whose character is being examined in "My Last Duchess?"examining charater

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ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although the speaker in the poem is telling his listener about "his last duchess", we actually learn more about the speaker, who is supposedly the Duke of Ferrara, that we do the duchess. Browning allows the Duke to reveal himself by dropping indirect clues which we must piece together. The Duke intends to present himself as a cultured, powerful, and wealthy man but he comes off as being arrogant and controlling. It is obvious by the end of the poem that the duke thought of his wife as a possession who should have bent to his will.

In lines 24-24, the duke complains that his wife did not seem to value her husband's attentions more than other men. However, he refused to talk about his feeling to his wife because, he says, " I..never stoop( lines 42-43) . Most disturbing are his comments that he "gave commands;/Then all smiles stopped together." The implication is that he had his wife killed because she smiled too much at other men. He then goes on without stopping and asks the listener to notice his statue of Neptune "taming a seahorse." The implication is that he thought of his wife as an animal that needed to be tamed. When she refused or didn't recognize his wishes, she was eliminated, much as one would do with an unruly animal.