Opening lines of the dramatic monologue by Robert Browning, “My Last Duchess” where the Duke of Ferrara guides a visitor to a portrait
That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now; Fra Pandolf’s hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
As the poem progresses the reader intimates that the Duke had her murdered.
It is this story that gives bite to Richard Howard’s “Nikolaus Mardruz to His Master Ferdinand, Count of Tyrol, 1565” and the speaker is a diplomat arranging a marriage.
as his avarice,
no “cause” for dismay:
once ensconced here as the Duchess, your daughter
need no more apprehend the Duke’s
than his matchless taste.
For I have devised a means whereby
the dowry so flagrantly pursued by our
insolvent Duke (“no
just pretence of mine
be disallowed” indeed!), instead of being
paid as he pleads in one globose sum,
should drip into his
coffers by degrees —
say, one fifth each year—then after five
such years, the dowry itself to be doubled,
that Her Grace enjoys
her usual smiling health. The years are her
Further relishing the moment is provided by the fact that Howard collects this poem in a book entitled Trappings.
And so for day 2216