Browning's Last Duchess

Robert Browning: "My Last Duchess"

Use the following links as you explore Robert Browning's poem, "My Last Duchess."

  • Who is the speaker of the poem?
  • Who is the audience in the poem?
  • What is the scene?

Working individually or in groups, read through the poem again and take the perspective of one character within the poem. As you explore your character, use the chart (link below) to help cite the line number(s) from the poem that support your claims. Remember: everything in the poem is from the Duke's perspective, and that as the auditor, it is your job to assess if the Duke is revealing more than he intends. All of your claims must be supported by textual evidence, rather than conjecture.

The Duchess
Prior to your disappearance, you wrote a letter to a friend, telling about your life with the Duke. Describe some of your experiences both in the early years of your marriage and throughout the painting of your commissioned portrait. How do you view life, and what do you think of the people around you, including your husband, the Duke? What sorts of things delighted you?

Count's Envoy
You are the envoy of a Count, who has sent you to Duke Ferrara to negotiate a wedding between the Duke and the Count's daughter. Prior to dining with the Duke's other guests, he pulled a curtain aside and revealed to you the portrait of his last Duchess, whom he described to you. Based on your knowledge of the Duke through his own words, what kind of life can the Count's daughter expect as the new Duchess? Do you recommend that she marry the Duke? Why or why not? Use the Duke's own words to prepare your argument to the Count.

Brother Pandolf
You are Brother Pandolf, who painted the portrait of the Duchess. You keep a journal where you write down your thoughts about all of your paintings, and the experiences that shaped their creation. You have finally decided to write down your feelings about the Duchess and her husband, the Duke Ferrara. Based on your knowledge of the events, describe the Duchess, the Duke, and their relationship. Your assessment should be based on facts, rather than speculation.