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1. Your thesis statement would depend on your critical analysis: what do you consider the most important theme or point of the poem? Is it that the Duke was jealous of his wife for not liking him alone? Lines in the poem speak to this:

She had 
A heart—how shall I say?— too soon made glad, 
Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er 
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere. 
Sir, ’twas all one! My favour at her breast, 
The dropping of the daylight in the West, 
The bough of cherries some officious fool 
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule 
You could focus on the Duke's personality: what does his jealousy and possessiveness towards his now-dead wife say about him? Or you could focus on a feminist interpretation: is Browning critiquing the Duke's feeling that he has the right to possess his wife as if she were an object? You could also focus on point of view; the Duke tells his story as a dramatic monologue to an emissary sent to make arrangements for a count's daughter to become his new wife, and clearly, the Duke feels justified in having killed his first wife. He expects the listener (and readers) to sympathize with him as the wronged party. Why do we not? What does he reveal about himself that is not sympathetic? Do all of us to some extent suffer from such blind spots?

2. Enotes offers a list of citations of sources for more information about the poem, but before you use any of them on a Works Cited page you would want to read them or parts of them. If you scroll down to near the end of the analysis you will find a bibliography at

3. As for outlining the poem, it is all one stanza, but it falls into three parts that could be outlined: part I draws the listener's attention to the painting, part II describes what the Duke found troubling in the Duchess' behavior and what he did about it, and in part III, the Duke discusses arrangements for marrying his new wife. What does each section tell us about the Duke? You could, for each section, state what it says about the Duke with quotes from the poem to back up your ideas.

4. Finally, a standard critical analysis of the poem might say that the Duke's telling of the story of his former wife from his point of view is ironic, meaning it has the opposite of the intended effect. The Duke means to raise sympathy for how he suffered with his first wife and to convince us that he was justified in killing her, but instead, we come away appalled. We are appalled because the Duchess seems to have done nothing but behave with kindness and generosity to those around her, while the Duke finds it unacceptable that she behaved with any decency to anyone but him. What does that say about him? How might we imagine his second wife will fare with him: will she be happy? Is this new marriage a good idea? 

When you write about the poem, be sure to back up your thesis and analysis with quotes from the poem. 

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