This poem has one main theme and a minor theme behind it. It is about jealousy and his obsession of his last married love. Throughout the poem, we can really feel his jealousy escalating. He has a beautiful, life like painting of her, which he keeps under a curtain. He keeps her under a curtain, because then the duke can only look upon her. This is because his jealousy overtook him, and could not control her. She can be controlled when not alive and on the wall!
She was a possession to him as a person, and is a possession to him now, that she is a picture. She smiled to everyone she was “too easily impressed” and she “liked whate’er she looked on, and her looks went everywhere”. This then got the duke angry and extremely envois, the fact that “the bough of cherries some officious fool broke in the orchard for her” would “draw from her alike the approving speech, or blush” as much as “she ranks my gift of a nine-hundred-years-old-name”.Order now
He also feels that he should have said something maybe to her, he shouldn’t have to tell her off, but maybe it was necessary, but he didn’t “Just this or that in you disgusts me; here you miss, or there exceed the mark”. With these all adding together, his jealously overtook him, and so he ends up murdering her. Now she is dead, she is all to himself, which is what he wanted in the first place. Throughout the poem, we can feel his jalousie seeping through.
The poem starts with him gazing at the picture with admiration, then he gets carried away and works himself up, until he realises that he has said too much, so he then despises the picture by the end. So he changes the subject. Browning shows this, by before he realises he has said too much, he states everything in short sharp sentences. His arrogance and self-centeredness shows his failure to understand his wife, and the fact that she is generous and genuinely kind. Even though the poem is mostly about him talking about her, it reveals more about the duke than the duchess!
If this is how he treats his wives, then it makes us think, heaven help the next female he marries! The story is a dramatic monologue, which has no brakes. This draws us into the poem, more than a normal poem that has loads of brakes. No brakes, also makes us feel, that he is talking to us/someone, which makes it more realistic and again, draws us in. The tempo speeds up from the beginning to the very end, except the last few lines where he changes the subject then leaves to show off his other works of art.