Context: In "My Last Duchess" the Duke of Ferrara, having lost his first wife, is negotiating with an agent of a neighboring count his marriage to the count's daughter. Showing the ambassador a portrait of the dead duchess, the duke comments on both the portrait and the woman who posed for it. She did not sufficiently appreciate being honored by the "gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name. . . ." The "spot of joy" that shows in her cheek was too easily brought there by a slight courtesy or a trivial gift from anybody. One would not stoop to complain about "This sort of trifling" or even to instruct her in her wifely duties "and I choose/ Never to stoop." She smiled at her husband but she smiled as readily at others. "This grew; I gave commands,/ Then all smiles stopped. . . ." The duke may have had her killed or simply put her away in a convent. As his little speech ends, the duke indicates his expectation of a munificent dowry with his new wife and then casually comments on another of his works of art, a bronze statue. The monologue begins:
That's my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now: Fra Pandolf's hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will't please you sit and look at her? . . .