Themes in My Last Duchess

Psychological Portrait: Robert Browning uses word choice, figures of speech, metaphors, and analogies to indicate the speaker’s personality. The speaker seems to be confessing to murdering his wife, but he remains unaware of the implications of his words. This tendency inadvertently confess reveals the speaker’s arrogance and disconnection with the world.

Perspective: The speaker speaks openly about his wife’s “crimes” and suggests that he believes his actions to be righteous. This perspective clashes with social expectations and conventional morality but is in line with the Duke’s personal morality. In other words, the Duke believes that he had the right to kill his wife because she insulted his pride and social status. The Duke’s perspective shapes the version of the story that readers see and should make them question his reliability as a narrator.

Themes Examples in My Last Duchess:

Text of the Poem 1

"nine-hundred-years-old name..."   (Text of the Poem)

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.