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Identify Key Themes in 'My Last Duchess'

In this worksheet, students will practise key themes in 'My Last Duchess'.

'Identify Key Themes in 'My Last Duchess'' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 4

GCSE Subjects:   English Literature

GCSE Boards:   AQA, Pearson Edexcel

Curriculum topic:   Poetry, Poetry Anthology Collections

Curriculum subtopic:   Power and Conflict: 'My Last Duchess', Relationships: 'My Last Duchess'

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

Want to revise some key themes in 'My Last Duchess'?

 

You've come to the right place!

 

Thought bubble

 

To quickly recap: The poem is a dramatic monologue, set in the Renaissance period, in which a wealthy man of high nobility- the Duke of Ferrara-shows a marriage broker a painting of his late wife- his 'last Duchess'. The Duke defames his ex-wife, portraying her as someone who is easily impressed and seems to smile too much! Long story short, the Duke is awful, controlling and domineering- it's quite clear that, as the poem unveils, the Duke is revealed to have killed his wife.

 

Throughout the entire poem, the Duke emphasises how powerful he is. However, to a reader, his delusion and thirst for authority becomes more and more apparent. 

 

 

The activity set-up will be quite straightforward. You'll get a quote- just identify the theme that you think is being presented.

 

 

 

 

It'll help if you write down whatever new or important information you learn along the way! 

Tick one key theme in the poem. 

 

Love

Religion

Jealousy

Secrecy

"That's my last Duchess, painted on the wall"

 

 

Fill in the blank in this sentence, with reference to the quote above.

 

 Pick from one of these themes:

 

sexuality

possessiveness

madness

love

Love

Religion

Jealousy

Secrecy

Which of these quotes best shows the theme of art and culture?

 

 

"That piece a wonder now: Fra Pandolf's hands worked busily a day..."

"...too soon made glad, too easily impressed..."

"The dropping of daylight in the West"

"...I gave commands. Then all smiles stopped together."

 

Write down one theme, out of the selection below, shown in the quote above.

Sexuality

Love

Power

 

Write down one theme out of the selection below:

 

"...she had a heart- how shall I say?- too soon made glad"

Paranoia

Jealousy

Power

Which of these themes isn't present in the poem?

 

Sexuality

Arrogance

Art and culture

Love

Power

Have a go at matching the quote to the theme/motif.

Column A

Column B

"As if she ranked my gift of a nine-hundred-years-...
Power
"All and each would draw from her...the approving ...
Genuine manner
"Notice Neptune though, taming a sea-horse"
Arrogance
"...but who passed without much the same smile?"
Jealousy

Write down one theme/motif, out of the selection below, which is presented in the quote:

 

 "Notice Neptune, though, taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity, Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!"

 

 

 

Beauty

Arrogance

Death

Write down one theme out of the selection below which you think is presented in the quote:

 

"The dropping of daylight in the West"

 

 

Power

Sexuality

Nature

Possessiveness

Last one! 

 

Write down what you think is one important/key theme in the poem.

 

 

 

On a sheet of paper, write down why you think this is the most important/key theme. This'll come in handy for the evaluation activity!

 

 

  • Question 1

Tick one key theme in the poem. 

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Jealousy
EDDIE SAYS
The theme of jealousy is huge in the poem. The Duke was and still is jealous of the Duchess.
  • Question 2

"That's my last Duchess, painted on the wall"

 

 

Fill in the blank in this sentence, with reference to the quote above.

 

 Pick from one of these themes:

 

sexuality

possessiveness

madness

love

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
The Duke's possessiveness is highlighted throughout the poem. In the first line of the poem- "That's my last Duchess...", the possessive pronoun "my" depicts the Duke's arrogance, as he believes the Duchess is his property. This highlights the Duke's controlling and arrogant nature. His possessiveness extends to her painting.
  • Question 3

Which of these quotes best shows the theme of art and culture?

 

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"That piece a wonder now: Fra Pandolf's hands worked busily a day..."
EDDIE SAYS
The theme of art and culture is quite big in the poem, after all, the Duke is describing a painting of the Duchess! In this poem, the Duke is a collector and exhibitor of art; he has a gallery of paintings.
  • Question 4

"...I gave commands. Then all smiles stopped together."

 

Write down one theme, out of the selection below, shown in the quote above.

Sexuality

Love

Power

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Power
EDDIE SAYS
This quote emphasises the power of the Duke. We can assume the phrase "I gave commands", implies that the Duke murdered the Duchess. The way that Browning presents the theme of power links tightly with the themes of arrogance and jealousy- the Duke possesses a lot of power but his arrogance and jealousy makes him seem quite weak. Think about why he feels the need to carry on talking about the dead Duchess, even after she's gone or why he even has that painting of her on the wall. Perhaps, she still holds power over him. Perhaps, she reminds him of his own weaknesses?
  • Question 5

Write down one theme out of the selection below:

 

"...she had a heart- how shall I say?- too soon made glad"

Paranoia

Jealousy

Power

CORRECT ANSWER
Paranoia
Jealousy
EDDIE SAYS
Paranoia is quite a large theme in the poem- it highlights the Duke as delusional and irrational, despite the amount of power he has. Similarly, you could have put jealousy and it would've been right, too. One factor that led to the Duchess' murder was the Duke's paranoia and jealousy. He was adamant to prove her unfaithfulness. In other words, he thought she cheated on him. In this quote, a semantic field of sex is created ("half-flush", "faint"). Even after the Duchess' death, the Duke can't let go of the image of the Duchess cheating on him.
  • Question 6

Which of these themes isn't present in the poem?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Love
EDDIE SAYS
Love isn't really apparent in the poem- since it's a dramatic monologue from the arrogant and cruel Duke, it's hard to imagine that he's capable of showing or receiving any kind of love.
  • Question 7

Have a go at matching the quote to the theme/motif.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

"As if she ranked my gift of a ni...
Arrogance
"All and each would draw from her...
Genuine manner
"Notice Neptune though, taming a ...
Power
"...but who passed without much t...
Jealousy
EDDIE SAYS
In being able to link certain quotes to certain themes, you will be able to revise both details and an overview of the poem. It also helps with analysis, where you take a wide theme and narrow it down into a small quote! Have fun with it and be creative in your analysis and interpretation of what you think Browning is trying to present.
  • Question 8

Write down one theme/motif, out of the selection below, which is presented in the quote:

 

 "Notice Neptune, though, taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity, Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!"

 

 

 

Beauty

Arrogance

Death

CORRECT ANSWER
arrogance
EDDIE SAYS
This quote depicts arrogance- the Duke's use of the personal pronoun "me" demonstrates his self-absorption. Alongside this, the Duke seems to be bragging through the use of the imperative (commanding something) "notice Neptune". He's literally commanding the marriage broker to notice the statue, highlighting that his arrogance extends to anyone around him. This quote is the last line of the poem. Remembering the first line of the poem ("That's my last Duchess..."), think about the theme of arrogance and possessiveness. The Duke starts his speech with "my", and ends it with "me". This cyclical nature within the poem, seems to represent the Duke's potential attitude towards his future wife- nothing will ever change and Browning shows this through the cyclical structure of the poem.
  • Question 9

Write down one theme out of the selection below which you think is presented in the quote:

 

"The dropping of daylight in the West"

 

 

Power

Sexuality

Nature

Possessiveness

CORRECT ANSWER
Nature
EDDIE SAYS
The Duchess' love of nature and the natural word seems to contrast with the Duke's arrogance. Look at what the Duchess values- nature, cherries, animals versus what Duke seems to cherish- the painting of the Duchess, which maintains and symbolises his delusional sense of control, and the bronze statue of Neptune which- surprise!- maintains and symbolises his delusional sense of control. The Duchess likes things as they are- things which are simple and natural. The dropping of daylight, or a white mule. A love of nature really represents a love of the simple things in life, a love and appreciation of things which don't revolve around her but, have minds, rituals and patterns of their own. However, the Duke isn't able to appreciate the finer, smaller, more natural things in life. He's too self-involved and arrogant. So, he's shown to love things which reflect his own sense of control and power back to him. He loves things which reflect himself (because he's so arrogant!).
  • Question 10

Last one! 

 

Write down what you think is one important/key theme in the poem.

 

 

 

On a sheet of paper, write down why you think this is the most important/key theme. This'll come in handy for the evaluation activity!

 

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Power
Arrogance
Paranoia
Jealousy
Art and culture
Delusion
Sex
EDDIE SAYS
If you choose a theme that isn't on this list, that's okay, as long as you can find at least two quotes which back up this theme. If you can't, then it's probably not a theme, rather a reference you're thinking of. Remember, always justify why you have picked certain quotes. How do you think it links to the theme?
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