Character Analysis in My Last Duchess
The Duke: Browning reveals the Duke’s character through the words the man uses to describe his deceased wife. The audience learns that the Duke is cruel, jealous, proud, and arrogant. He suggests that he has killed his wife because she was not grateful enough to him for marrying her. He says that she loved cherry blossoms and the setting sun as much the “gift of [the Duke’s] nine-hundred-years-old name.” She also did not fawn over him as he thinks she should have. These two reasons alone suggest the Duke used them to justify his actions. He insinuates that he ordered to have her killed and reveals that he is not only cruel but without feeling.
Character Analysis Examples in My Last Duchess:
My Last Duchess
"since none puts by The curtain I have drawn for you, but I..." See in text (My Last Duchess)
The way the Duke keeps the painting of his last Duchess behind a curtain is evidence of his jealous, controlling nature that regards women as possessions not meant to be shared with others.
"Of mine for dowry will be disallowed; ..." See in text (My Last Duchess)
Browning reveals that the Duke is not interested in a new wife because of love; his interest is only in her dowry, the money that she brings into the marriage. Even though in the next line he assures the Count's representative that he is only interested in the Count's daughter and not her dowry, the Duke's tactless way of masking his motives for the marriage is blatantly obvious.
"painted..." See in text (My Last Duchess)
The painting of the Duke’s last Duchess symbolizes how he objectifies women as property or possessions. Notice how throughout the poem the Duke reaffirms this, and how Browning sets the Duke’s jealousy and reputation against the suspected promiscuity of his last Duchess.
"nine-hundred-years-old name..." See in text (My Last Duchess)
The duke takes pride in the Renaissance-inspired portrait of his wife, as well as his family’s noble legacy. His pride in his status and possessions recur as a theme throughout the poem. However, he is too prideful to believe that others would not value such things as he does, further characterizing him as someone who is rather ignoble.
"Will't please you rise?..." See in text (My Last Duchess)
Notice how the duke directly addresses the assumed audience--presumably shocked after hearing the duke imply that he killed his own wife--and asks them to stand. This line is almost threatening for the assumed audience, especially considering what’s been learned about the Duke’s character.
"There she stands As if alive..." See in text (My Last Duchess)
The Duke doesn't explain what happened between the time the Duchess's smiles ceased and her death. The implication is that her death is not from natural causes and that the Duke was responsible.
"and I choose Never to stoop..." See in text (My Last Duchess)
This statement captures the arrogant, unyielding personality of the Duke. Rather than discuss his feelings with his Duchess, which might have led to an understanding on her part, he chooses to ignore her.