Irony in My Last Duchess

Text of the Poem 2
"She had A heart—how shall I say?—too soon made glad, Too easily impressed..."   (Text of the Poem)

Browning utilizes a poetic device called verbal irony in this selection to demonstrate how the Duke conveys a meaning that is the opposite of the literal meaning of the phrase. In this case, the narrator implies that he did not like these attributes of his last Duchess.

"Notice Neptune, though, Taming a sea-horse..."   (Text of the Poem)

Notice how Browning uses the statue, which the Duke has had specially commissioned, to ironically reveal the Duke’s inflated self-image: The Duke sees himself as Neptune, the Roman god of the sea, exercising his power over a fragile, defenseless seahorse that symbolizes both his Last Duchess and his future bride.