Character Analysis in 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.