English Poetry: My Last Duchess

What is the background behind this poem?
It relates to the incident where the duke of Ferrara married a young wife and 3 years later the wife died.

What year does this story take place in?
The poem relates to a story in the 1500s.

What did people marry for back in the olden days?
Back in the 1500s people married for wealth, reputation, pride, money and status. You were a fool if you married for love.

What does the structure of the poem say about the character?
The poem is an out pour of thoughts and the Duke never stops talking once or is he interrupted, this shows his high power and status.

Who does the poem serve as a warning to?
The poem serves as a warning to his next wife.

What kind of language is the poem using?
The poem is using archaic language to try to mimic the past references and culture.

‘Fra pandolf’
Fra Pandolf was the artist who painted his wife, he is name dropping to show status and wealth.

The curtain I have drawn for you
He is controlling his wife by putting a curtain over her painting even when she is dead.

The depth and passion of its earnest glance
Other people see her passion but they don’t think a lot of it, they are afraid to ask him about it anyway.

And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
People are questioning, looking at him, why his wife has a blush in her portrait, however they never actually ask, deep suspicions and insecurities.

‘Her mantle laps over my lady’s wrist too much’
The duke imagines the things the painter might’ve said to his wife, he is paranoid, dukes imagination is very wide and broad.

Faint half flush
He sees a blush and a strange look in her eye, he is accusing her of flirting.

Cause enough for calling up that spot of joy
She would have just seen it as the painter being polite, she would have dismissed the flirting. The Duke does not say his wife was flirting deliberately; the fact that she blushes he sees it as a weakness because she is showing emotion, he sees her politeness and gentleness as a weakness.

What is the form of this poem?
It is a dramatic monologue.

In speech- (which I have not)-
Lie, he does have skill in speech

With anybody’s gift.
The bunch of cherries and sunset is equal to his gifts and he is horrified because the wife values everything equally, she is not as stuck up as he is. He however thinks this is very disrespectful.

My favour at her breast
Small gift pinned to her chest

the white mule she rode with
She didn’t discriminate and she liked everything

How can this poem be compared to Ozymandias?
Because of the pride.

How can this poem be compared to Medusa?
Because of the relationships.

‘Just this Or that in you disgust me; here you miss, Or there exceed the mark’
Mimicking what he might have said to his wife had he been strong enough to voice his feelings, he had the power to tell her about his feelings yet this was seen as a weakness.

I choose never to stoop
Weakness, he didn’t want her to have more control than him.

Then all smiles stopped together.
Metaphor meaning she had died.

There she stands
Juxtaposition, she’s gone but he has her captured on the painting

Much the same smile?
He’s jealous because he didn’t have a lot of attention from her, she didn’t realise his status.

At starting, is my object
Ambiguity of his use of the word ‘object’, in this time his wife would have been seen as a possession.

Notice Neptune
Character of status, metaphor, he will not allow his wives to behave in the wrong way

Taming a sea horse
‘Tamed’ the wife by having her killed. Chilling metaphor for her actions. Controls her even after her death.