'My Last Duchess' - Key Quotations

"That's my last Duchess painted on the wall"

CONTEXT:

The opening line of the poem. We are introduced to the speaker and the focus of the poem.

THEMES:

Control; Power

LANGUAGE:

Possessive pronoun = "my" shows that the speaker is claiming to own the Duchess, describing her as being like a possession. This shows his power and his control.

"Fra Pandolf's hands"

CONTEXT:

The speaker refers to a famous artist who created the painting.

THEMES:

Reputation

LANGUAGE:

Allusion = the speaker alludes to a famous painter of the time period, suggesting that he is more interested in the name of the artist than with the Duchess the piece is inspired by.

"...(since none puts by

The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)"

CONTEXT:

The speaker explains how the messenger is in a rare position in being allowed to see the Duchess.

THEMES:

Power; Control

LANGUAGE/STRUCTURE:

Brackets = the brackets here indicate an aside, so the speaker is going slightly off-topic for a moment. In doing this, the speaker is once again showing off his power, for he is allowing the messenger this privilege. 

"if they durst"

CONTEXT:

The speaker discusses how others ask him about the painting, if they dare.

THEMES:

Power; Control; Intimidation

LANGUAGE:

"if they durst" translates to "if they dare", and so the speaker is once again showing off his power and authority, this time by conveying the fear people have of him.

"...Sir, 'twas not

Her husband's presence only, called that spot

Of joy into the Duchess' cheek"

CONTEXT:

The speaker suggests that others believed he wasn't the only one who could make the Duchess happy.

THEMES:

Jealousy

LANGUAGE:

Pun = "spot" suggests a mark, and so the Duchess' face contained happiness and joy, but only a very small amount.

Tone = the tone of this comes across as jealous in that he, as her husband, was not the only person to make her happy (even if that was only a small amount).

"Must never hope to reproduce the faint

Half-flush that dies along her throat"

CONTEXT:

The tone changes and becomes sinister.

THEMES:

Negativity; Death

LANGUAGE:

"dies along her throat" brings about semantic links to violence, pain, and death. This changes the tone by making it darker.

"The bough of cherries some officious fool

Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule

She rode with round the terrace"

CONTEXT:

The speaker describes what brought the Duchess happiness.

THEMES:

Control; Jealousy

LANGUAGE:

Noun phrase = "officious fool" implies that the speaker is angry that another person is making the Duchess happy. He is showing frustration at the fact that his expensive gifts were regarded by her in the same way as cheaper ones.

"...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"

CONTEXT:

The speaker's anger begins to show as he describes the Duchess' responses to other men.

THEMES:

Power; Vanity; Jealousy

LANGUAGE/STRUCTURE:

Punctuation = the use of the exclamation mark along with caesura shows the Duke's rising anger. He is losing control and his frustrations are becoming apparent as he speaks.

The final two lines of the quotation once again show his obsession with titles and names. He doesn't understand why the Duchess wasn't as interested in his heritage as he is.

"...There she stands

As if alive"

CONTEXT:

The speaker looks upon the painting of the Duchess as if she is still alive.

THEMES:

Power; Control

LANGUAGE:

This suggests that the Duke feels the same way about the painting of the Duchess as he did when she was alive - he values her as a possession, and enjoys the control he has over her.

"Is ample warrant that no just pretense

Of mine for dowry will be disallowed"

CONTEXT:

The speaker explains how he fully expects to receive the dowry for his planned future bride.

THEMES:

Expectation; Greed; Power

LANGUAGE:

A 'dowry' is the money/wealth paid to the husband by the parents of the bride.

This suggests that the Duke is more concerned about getting paid than his new wife-to-be. Once again, this shows the Duke as being sinister and neglectful in pursuit of his own wealth and power.

"Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,

Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!"

CONTEXT:

In the concluding lines of the poem, the speaker makes yet another allusion to a famous artist.

THEMES:

Reputation; Power; Wealth

LANGUAGE:

The speaker refers to "Claus of Innsbruck", another famous artist of the time, to once again show his wealth. He has already moved on from discussing and thinking about his previous wife, the Duchess, and is already making plans to have art created that is inspired by his new wife.