The Duke’s Disdain: A Result of Pride or Love?

In Browning’s the The Last Duchess, he provides a monologue that is given by a Duke explaining what I inferred to be a loveless relationship between him and his Duchess. In many of his descriptions, he seems to hold disdain for her. She was “too easily impressed; she liked whate’er She looked on, and he looks went everywhere” (line 23-24). He clearly thought of her as flirtatious and clearly a lover of many things; but she did not seem to love him. He states, “She thanked men-good! but thanked Somehow-I know not how – as if she ranked My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name With anybody’s gift” (line 31-34).

I think these lines are the most revealing of the monologue. It shows that he felt jealousy, dislike, pride, and maybe love. It makes sense that he would be jealous; I would be too. Further along in the monologue he states, “Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt, Whene’er I passed her, but who passed without Much the same smile?” (line 43-45). He seemed to want to find satisfaction in her smiles at him, but he knew that all received the same expression so he smiles at him were not unique. He did not feel admired by her. It made me wonder if it is pride that made him want to be admired by her or did he love her? The rest of the monologue seems to imply that it was because of pride. In line 43, he says that refused to “stoop” (line 43) and tell her his displeasure. I think that if he loved he, he would have voiced his concerns rather than letting the dislike grow into a monster.

Another confirmation of his pride and jealousy is the way he abruptly ends his description of her. He says, “I gave commands; Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands As if alive” (line 54-47). He indicates that he became more unhappy, she began to show the same sentiments, she died, and then he moves on to the next thing in his house. Does he feel remorse for her passing? Does he maybe feel guilt for her death? The manner in which he ends the story implies that maybe he feels some regret, or maybe he really does dislike her so much that he gives her no honor in her passing.

This poem left me wondering, did the Duke love the Duchess and simply want her to resonate his feelings or was he a prideful, slightly abusive man who wanted submission?

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