Download Last Duchess...
Alyssa Manikowski 3-17-11
"My Last Duchess", and explanation and opinion
This poem is about a British duke Ferrara's last or soon to be wife and how a painting by Fra Pandolf, is in question. He enjoys the painting, but he held her so dearly that no paint could correctly represent her face. He points out "imperfections" he sees like her smile, her clothes (mantle) being too far on her wrists, and that her "half-flush" dies along her throat. The Duke hints that he is distraught that he married a tramp, and cannot reconcile, or live with it, as in lines 42-45, " --E'en then would be some stooping, and I choose never to stoop. Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt, whene'er I passed her; but who passed without much the same smile? " as he is saying that he wouldn't even stoop to making a reconciliation with her, and that she smiled at him, but also gave everybody else that same smile. He also reveals he may have killed the duchess, presumably by choking or slicing the throat as depicted by in line 18-19, "the faint Half-flush that dies along her throat", line 40, "Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set", and in line 45-46, "This grew; I gave commands; Then all smiles stopped together", as this says he was tired of her smiling at everyone, so he gave the command to have her killed, and the smiles stopped altogether. The probable cause of this was because of how the duchess flirted or treated others, and how she was easily impressed, as seen in lines 14-15, and 23-24, "Her husband's presence [not] only, caused that spot of joy into that Duchess' cheek" and "Too easily impressed; she liked whate'er (whatever) she looked on, and her looks went everywhere." He also states that he had the idea that she repaid men with sex, as in lines 31-32, "She thanked men, --good; but thanked somehow . . . I know not how . . . " Ferrara also states that he does not blame the Duchess for her
actions with, "With anybody's gift. Who'd stoop to blame this sort of trifling?" The Duchess is also described as very bold, and not very courteous as times, lines 36-39, "In speech--(which I have not)--to make your will quite clear to such a one, and say, "Just this or that in you disgusts me; here you miss or there exceed the mark", as this says the Duchess will point out things she doesn't like about people, right to their face, and also things where men "miss or exceed the mark". In the last lines of the poem Ferraro depicts that he is showing people (the company) the painting and that this is to show his generosity. He states he is generous, but it doesn't mean that he has to give a dowry. He also compares her being "cast in bronze for me" to Neptune's taming of a sea horse, as in he tamed her (by having her killed) and cast her in bronze (as in with the painting). This poem in my opinion can be applied today, where people "kill" people (as with slander, suing (divorce), and other things) for being flirty. The Duke was a very jealous person, he did not know FOR SURE that she cheated on him, but just had a hunch. He also listed that the smile she gave him was similar to smiles she gave to other people. This smile could have been just her personality, and not actually that she felt similar to all people. People act this way today by judging how boyfriends/girlfriends treat friends, and can be inferred upon without real proof. I also feel for the Duke because if the Duchess truly cheated on him, he would be angry, and just like what probably would happen today, he would want her dead. The Duke did love her, but did not want her to be shared to others, and wanted her just to himself. I did find myself liking how he held the Duchess' painting so high at the poem's beginning, but then he explained that she was not this beautiful perfect lady that others will tend to believe just looking at the painting without knowing the Duchess in person.