'My Last Duchess' Questions for Study and Discussion

Discuss a Famous Victorian Classic

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"My Last Duchess" is a famous dramatic monolog by poet Robert Browning. It first appeared in Browning's 1842 essay collection Dramatic Lyrics. The poem is written in 28 rhyming couplets, in iambic pentameter, and its speaker is a Duke talking about his late wife to the father of his second wife-to-be. They are negotiating the terms of the second marriage to come when the Duke reveals a portrait of his first wife (the Duchess of the title), which is hidden behind a curtain. And when the Duke begins speaking about her, what appears to be a poem about a man mourning his first wife becomes something else altogether by the end of "My Last Duchess." 

Discussion Questions

Can you determine what the Duke is really saying to his future father-in-law? 

Here are a few questions for study and discussion, to gain a better understanding of this important literary work: 

How significant is the title of the poem toward our understanding of the Duke, and of his late wife? 

What do we learn about the personality of the Duchess? 

Is the Duke a reliable narrator? Why or why not? 

How does Robert Browning reveal character in "My Last Duchess"?

If you were going to describe the Duke, what adjectives would you use? 

What are some symbols in "My Last Duchess"?

How can we interpret the lines "I gave commands/ Then all smiles stopped forever"? 

Was the Duke responsible for his first wife's death? If so, why would he admit this to his future father-in-law? 

What is the theme of this poem? What was Browning trying to portray in the character of the Duke?

Would you let your daughter marry this Duke? 

How does the poem compare to other works from the Victorian period?

How is "My Last Duchess" similar or different from Browning's other poems?

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Lombardi, Esther. "'My Last Duchess' Questions for Study and Discussion." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/my-last-duchess-questions-for-study-740829. Lombardi, Esther. (2023, April 5). 'My Last Duchess' Questions for Study and Discussion. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/my-last-duchess-questions-for-study-740829 Lombardi, Esther. "'My Last Duchess' Questions for Study and Discussion." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/my-last-duchess-questions-for-study-740829 (accessed May 31, 2023).