My Last Duchess
The subject of the poem is the Duke's late wife, or the "Last Duchess"
The poem also covers the topics of power and control, criticism, and
Point of View ( The speaker's and
The poem is written as a monologue in first person, spoken by the Duke.
Our emotion is changed throughout the course of the poem. We begin
feeling pity for the Duke, who appears to be reminiscing for his wife,
who seems to have died fairly recently. This is shown through "As if she
were alive", as it seems from this line alone he is yearning for her.
We then begin to be a little wary of him, as he begins to talk of how he
was "too soon made glad", as we feel he is being very critical of her,
even in her death.
Finally, we feel disgust towards him, and perhaps even fear him, as it
becomes evident to us that he gave the command for the Duchess to
die, simply because she found joy in many things, and not just him, e.g.,
"All smiles stopped together"
Language and Imagery
The repetitive use of "my" throughout the poem helps us to
understand the possessive nature of the Duke, and his need for
This control is reinforced when he says "as if she were alive", as he is
controlling her in death in a way he may not have been able to in
life, thus showing us one of the reasons he gave the "command" for
her to die.
"Half-flush that dies" shows us the death of her innocence and joy,
and warns us of her imminent fate.
Form and Structure
The strong iambic pentameter and rhyming couplets reflects the
controlling nature of the Duke, as the pentameter itself is strongly
The enjambment and lack of stanzas makes the poem fluid, and
shows how easily the Duke can discuss how he gave the command
for the Duchess to die.
The poem is started with a piece of art, which is the last Duchess in
the painting, finally trapped by the Duke's controlling nature, and is
finished with the sculpture of the "rarity", which could be reflecting
how his next wife should be, in comparison to the humble nature of
the last wife, who only rode a "white mule". Furthermore, it is the idea
that Neptune is "taming" the sea-horse, as he will tame his new wife.
The Duke almost appears to be proud of what he's done, which
further encourages our feeling of disgust and fear. We see his
arrogance when he say that he would not "stoop", and we see his
pride in his "nine hundred-year-old name" when he shows his disdain
at the idea of his wife not appreciating it more than any other gift.
He is also very critical of his late wife because she was a happy and
joyful person, which appears to be the contrary to how we view
Furthermore, the Duke is very boastful of the amount of power he
has, and how he can control the people around him, such as the
idea that only he can open the curtain, behind which is the painting
of the Duchess.
Power and the love of it - Ozymanias
Possession and control - The River God
Criticism, loss and bitterness - The Horse Whisperer