In these ten very elemental lines of the poem, Browning successfully exposes the true motives of his speaker, the duke, through his voice of reason at play during conversation with a potential “father-in-law. ” At this point in the text, his audience discovers the reasons for his “failed marriage” with his former wife, and also learns of her “faults. ” The speaker is obviously bothered by his wife’s “wanton ways” as she was “too soon made glad,/ too easily impressed; she liked whate’er/ She looked on, and her looks went everywhere”(lines 22-25).
He had much to offer her, not excluding his prestigious “nine-hundred-years-old name” (l. 33). As an appreciator of the finer things and high society, he was disturbed by how easily entertained and amused she was by others and their little efforts. The duke is bothered by her nonchalant ways and cannot understand her excitement over the “bough of cherries some officious fool/ Broke in the orchard for her”(l. 27-28). As if his efforts weren’t enough!
Browning also successfully accomplishes his task as a dramatic monologue with the careful use of words and punctuation. The rushed speech with exclamation points adds to the speakers continuing disbelief in his former wife’s priorities. He is astounded by her practice and misgivings while interjecting his own speech with excitable lines to lure the reader. The duke is unwilling to share the dirty details of the foul relationship, but is eager to explain the situation even if it defaces their credibility or his as a valuable member of society.
He shares with his listener the tendencies of her “heart — how shall I say? — too soon made glad”(l. 23), and although he seems almost reluctant, the reader may also interpret his tone as somewhat fescicious or bitter. This passage is key to the text as a whole because it directly relates the past of the duke with the desires of his future. He tells the story of what went wrong, and what he needs from the man he’s currently making negotiations with.