Students begin an exploration of Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess.” After listening to a reading of the poem, which is written in the form of a dramatic monologue, students analyze lines 1–8 (from “That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall” to “The depth and passion of its earnest glance”), in which Browning introduces the speaker and main character, the Duke. Students analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone in the introductory lines of the poem. Student learning is assessed via a Quick Write at the end of the lesson: Identify two specific word choices in the first 8 lines of the poem and explain how they impact the meaning and tone. Lesson 1 in Google Docs format
1. Listen / Read Along
- Listen to the full text.
- Read lines 1–8 of “My Last Duchess” (from “That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall” to “The depth and passion of its earnest glance”) and individually annotate the text by drawing a box around any unfamiliar words, or any words that are used in an unfamiliar way.
2. Review Vocabulary
Add the following vocabulary words and definitions to your journal:
- Duchess (n.)
- Frà (n.)
- countenance (n.)
- earnest (adj.)
- read (v.)
3. Answer questions
Answers can be simple phrases, you do not need to use full sentences — I’m primarily assessing your comprehension of the text.
What specific words and phrases does the speaker use to describe the Duchess?
What do these words and phrases suggest about the Duchess?
- Who is the speaker of the poem? What words and phrases indicate the speaker of the poem?
What does the Duke mean by “that piece” (line 3)?
How does the Duke describe the piece?
Who is Frà Pandolf (line 3)? What words and phrases in lines 3–4 indicate who he is?
- Why might the Duke mention Frà Pandolf in line 3?
- To whom is the Duke speaking?
- Who else speaks in the first five lines of the poem?
- Describe the Duke’s tone toward the listener in line 5. What words demonstrate this tone?
- What is “that pictured countenance” in line 7?
- Explain what the stranger “read[s]” in lines 6–7: “for never read / Strangers like you that pictured countenance.” What might ‘read‘ mean here?
- To what does “its” refer in line 8?
- What are some words that the Duke uses to describe the “glance”?
- What does the reader learn about the Duchess from the description of her portrait in the first 8 lines of the poem?
4. Short essay response (quick write)
- Lesson 1. Identify two specific word choices in the first 8 lines of the poem and explain how they impact the meaning and tone.
Look at your notes or the text itself to find evidence. Include this lesson’s vocabulary wherever possible to develop the topic through the use of well-chosen, relevant, and sufficient evidence. Use your Short Response Rubric and Checklist to guide your written responses. Share your responses ( firstname.lastname@example.org )!
- Read lines 5–21 of “My Last Duchess” (from “I said / ‘Frà Pandolf’ by design, for never read” to “For calling up that spot of joy”). Box any unfamiliar words and look up their definitions. Choose the definition that makes the most sense in the context and write a brief definition above or near the word in the text.