In Brownings My Last Duchess, it appears that the Duke would have had the Duchess attend only to him. The Duchess is portrayed as someone that is easily pleased. In the passages:twas not Her husband’s presence only, called that spot Of joy into the Duchess’ cheekShe hadA heart — how shall I say? — too soon made glad,Too easily impressed; she liked whate’erShe looked on, and her looks went everywhere.Browning conveys to us that the Duchess could be easily impressed. Through his use of words, “her looks went everywhere” and the rhythm that he establishes in this passage, the reader is given a picture of the Duchess as a playful and frivolous woman that was quickly impressed by just about anything.
Browning confirms this by providing some examples:My favor at her breast,The dropping of the daylight in the West,The bough of cherries some officious foolBroke in the orchard for her, the white muleShe rode with round the terrace The first example, “My favor at her breast,” shows that she found pleasure in the attention that the Duke showed to her. Yet, Browning leads us to believe that she equated this intimate contact with something as simple as the sun setting, “The dropping of the daylight in the West.” In the following passage the reader is given the first glimpse of what probably led the Duke to such a violent act:She thanked men — good! but thankedSomehow — I know not how — as if she rankedMy gift of a nine-hundred-years-old nameWith anybody’s gift.The Duke, it appears, was jealous of the attention that she gave to others. Browning tells us much about the type of person the Duke was in these lines:Even had you skillIn speech — which I have not — to make your willQuite clear to such an one, and say, “Just thisOr that in you disgusts me; here you miss,Or there exceed the mark” — and if she letHerself be lessoned so, nor plainly setHer wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse– E’en then would be some stooping; and I chooseNever to stoop.
Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt,Whene’er I passed her; but who passed withoutMuch the same smile? Browning conveys to us that the Duke was a proud man that would not convey his feelings to the Duchess regarding her manner. The language chosen, “Just this or that in you disgusts me,” conveys to us just how bothered by her wandering attention the Duke was. The reader could also be led to the conclusion that the Duke was a bit of a coward.
He had predetermined her reaction to a confrontation, “and if she let | Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set | Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse.” As his hidden aggression intensified, his manner with her turned harsh:Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt,Whene’er I passed her; but who passed withoutMuch the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;”Normal” people, in the Dukes situation of extreme psychological turmoil would probably react in one of two ways. They would either confront the Duchess about her behavior by explaining that her actions caused them discomfort and pain or they would react in anger, accusing the Duchess of being unfaithful. A thin line separates the “Normal” from those that resort to violence as a means to and end.
An even thinner line exists between those that react with violence and those that push things just a little too far and commit crimes.There is little value to the type of jealousy the Duke was experiencing. Jealousy in itself is a destructive emotion. It leads people to think irrationally and to envision scenarios that paint the victim in an unfavorable light thus intensifying the jealous feelings and intensifying the situation.