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OVERVIEW This is probably Browning most famous dramatic monologue It is often used as a prime example of the form In this poem the speaker the duke of Ferrara is addressing a second character an agent of an unnamed count whose daughter the duke plans to marry The situation is take from the life of an actual sixteenth-century Italian duke but Browning has imagined the specific incident The duke is showing the counts agent a portrait of his first wife She was a beautiful woman but to the dukes mind she had too little pride He was frequently offended by her courtesy to other of lower rank and he found her too easily pleased by a compliment or by a small favor from a servant or some other unimportant person The duke felt that she should derive pleasure essentially only from himself She should glory in the high social rank into which she had married The duke could not lower himself stoop to tell her what she did that annoyed him Instead he took action or gave commands The exact nature of the commands is not made explicit but whatever they were the duchess is gone most likely dead Now the duke is negotiating the terms of a new marriage agreement He tells the counts agent about his displeasure with his first wife in order to make clear to the second woman what sort of conduct he will expect from her but of course he does not stoop to stating his demands explicitly As the poem ends the two men turn away from the
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