My Last Duchess — Lesson 2

Students continue the study of Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess,” building  reading skills through a close exploration of lines 5–21 (from “I said / ‘Frà Pandolf’ by design, for never read” to “For calling up that spot of joy”), in which the Duke further describes the Duchess. Students also begin to practice the important skill of text annotation. Students listen to a reading of the poem before annotating the text in pairs and engaging in small group discussions centered on Browning’s choices regarding the development of the Duke’s character. Student learning is assessed via a Quick Write at the end of the lesson: What does the reader learn about the Duke through his description of the Duchess in lines 1–21 of the poem?  Lesson 2 in Google Docs format

1. Discussion

(Read lines 5–21 of “My Last Duchess.” 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.)

2. Introduction to Annotation

  • Box unfamiliar words.
  • Star (*) important or repeating ideas.
  • Put a question mark (?) next to a section you are questioning or confused about, and note your question.
  • Use an exclamation point (!) for connections between ideas, or ideas that strike or surprise you in some way, and provide a brief note explaining the connection.
  • Besides using the codes, marking the text with your thoughts in relation to the codes is important

3. Review Vocabulary

Add the following vocabulary words and definitions to your journal:

  1. durst (v.)
  2. mantle (n.)
  3. laps (v.)
  4. design (v.)

4. Listen / Read Along

  • 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”) and focus on their observations about the Duke.

5. Answer questions

Answers can be simple phrases, you do not need to use full sentences — I’m primarily assessing your comprehension of the text.

Lines 5-12
  1. To whom does the Duke refer in line 6?

  2. What does by design mean in this context?
  3.  Why does the Duke claim in lines 6–12 that he mentions Frà Pandolf “by design”?

  4.  For what other reasons might the Duke mention Frà Pandolf twice in the first six lines of the poem?
  5. In line 11, what do the words “if they durst” suggest about the Duke’s view of himself?
Lines 13-21
  1. What does the Duke imply when he uses the word only in line 14?
  2. What does the phrase “that spot of joy” suggest about the Duchess? What does the Duke imply in lines 15–21 might have caused such an expression?

  3. What does the Duke mean by the phrase “such stuff” in line 19? What does the Duke’s use of the phrase “such stuff” suggest about his attitude towards Frà Pandolf?

  4. How did the Duchess respond to “such stuff” (line 19)?

  5. What does the Duke imply when he remarks that “such stuff / Was courtesy she thought, and cause enough / For calling up that spot of joy” (lines 19–21)?

6. Short essay response (quick write)

  • Lesson 2. What does the reader learn about the Duke through his description of the Duchess in lines 1–21 of the poem?

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 ( )!

7. Closing

Reread lines 9–10 of “My Last Duchess” (“But to myself they turned (since none puts by / The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)”) and respond in writing to the following prompt:

  • What does the reader learn about the portrait? How does this information develop the Duke’s character?

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