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Themes

The Duke in "My Last Duchess" is pretty much the green-eyed monster incarnate. He’s almost an allegorical figure for jealousy. He’s jealous of the attention his wife shows to other people – even if all she does is thank them for bringing her some cherries. He’s jealous of every smile and every blush that she bestows, intentionally or unintentionally, on someone else. He’s so jealous that he can’t even bring himself to talk to her about her behavior – murder is the only solution he can come up with. His jealousy isn’t just about romantic attention; it’s about any kind of attention.

Questions About Jealousy

  1. What evidence can you find in the poem to suggest that the Duke suspects the Duchess of having, or at least seeming to have, a lover? Is there any evidence that she’s actually having an affair? Does that matter to the Duke?
  2. Why is the Duke jealous of the smiles and thanks that the Duchess shows to other people? Does he actually value her smiles and thanks? Does he want her to give all her admiration to him, or to stifle her admiring behavior entirely?
  3. When the Duke imagines different ways of telling the Duchess about his jealousy, he comes up with "here you miss, / Or there exceed the mark" (38-39). What is "the mark"? How does the Duke use "the mark" to judge the Duchess's behavior? Is the mark at all related to the "spot of joy" (21)?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The Duke is jealous of the way the Duchess treats other people, not because he loves her and wants all her love for himself, but because he wants her to acknowledge his power over her.

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