Poets often use literary techniques to clearly convey the personalities of their speakers. In
“My Last Duchess”, Robert Browning uses point of view, diction, and imagery to achieve
a powerful effect, underlining the attitude and personality of the Duke.
In a dramatic monologue, character development is based on what the speaker
says, and how he says it. In “My Last Duchess”, the speaker of the monologue addresses
a fictional audience, and the reader is seen as an unnoticed third party. It is because of this
viewpoint that the reader is able to analyze the words and actions of the Duke, gaining
insight into his life and personality that he is not aware of giving. While the poet uses his
words to convey his intended meaning, it is up to the reader to draw his own conclusion,
through the witnessed events and conversation. His arrogant and possessive nature must
be inferred of the Duke’s character from the way he speaks, just as the details of the
setting and situation must be inferred from his own words. Although the reader is not
directly spoken to in the poem, evaluation of the Duke’s showy attitude can be inferred
through his concern with the artwork and his nonchalant description of his wife, which is
noticed by the uninvolved reader.
The Duke wants to present himself as a powerful and sophisticated man, and he
does so in the beginning. However, as he continues to discuss his dead duchess, he is
displayed as arrogant and possessive through the chosen diction. The Duke’s “trifling lack
of countenance” is evident in his jealousy of the duchess’s kindness toward others. Her
benevolence “disgusts” the Duke, and causes him to “stoop” down to spouting off
“commands” in her direction. By publicly describing the features that he disliked about
the personality of his duchess, he is shown to be a heartless, arrogant man. His complete
nonchalant manner about the issue of his wife’s death is also seen through his diction. He
seems to care more about impressing his guests than...