In Browning’s “My Last Duchess”, the speaker whom we discover to be the Duke and husband of the Duchess in question is an arrogant aristocrat. At first glance, it may seem that he is a grieving husband who is proud to show the portrait of his last wife, but the more that you hear him speak, the more his true personality is demonstrated. He is critical of his late wife and wants to ensure that his visitor understands that she was unworthy to be his Duchess.
In the first line, there is a hint of the Dukes personality for he uses the title of Duchess instead of her name or the word wife. This theme of objectivity continues as he states “That piece a wonder, now”. When talking in terms of a piece, one would think the work of art is the subject being discussed but by adding the word now it strongly suggests he is speaking of his wife. This is the beginning signs of the shallowness of his personality. He also uses the name of the artist twice at the beginning of this conversation. It would seem to imply either, that this is a name the visitor should recognize, or to deride the artist as he later hints at impropriety. Either option is used to elevate himself, through bragging of having a renowned artist do the painting or slandering of the artist for his part in the Duchess’ supposed behavior.
Another sign of his arrogance is that this is not just a portrait that can be moved or discarded, but is actually a painting on the wall. It would seem that only those of great wealth and standing would have a large mural or fresco painting. He clearly keeps it covered because he later states that he is the only one who moves the curtain; “But to myself they turned (since none puts by The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)”. Once again, denoting or referring to his power in the situation; not only is he the only one to draw back the curtain but the wording of “But to myself” shows his inflated sense of self-worth. Another item that points to his personality is when he is talking about “Strangers like you”, it seems that he is isolated from true relationships and has only superficial interactions with people. If he were only showing the painting to strangers, it would lead one to believe he does not have a close group of friends that he has shared this work. That would certainly be understandable as we learn more about his character, as we see more of his possessive and overbearing nature.
In speaking of his wife’s actions, he talks about the look on her face, the passionate glaze, the blush on her cheeks as an indication that she was available to anyone who gave her attention. When speaking of the painting he tells the visitor “Sir,’twas not Her husband’s presence only, called that spot of joy”. He further expounds upon this thought saying she was “easily impressed…too soon made glad” and that she looked to everyone for this attention. His crass narration of his deceased wife’s alleged behavior is unbecoming in a gentleman. This narrative continues to...