My Last Duchess
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.
Will't please you sit and look at her? I said
"Fra Pandolf" by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
the curtain I have drawn for you, but I)
And seemed they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, 'twas not
Her husband's presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess's cheek: perhaps
Fra Pandolf chanced to say "Her mantle laps
Over my lady's wrist too much," or Paint
Must never hope to reproduce the faint
Half flush that dies along her throat": such stuff
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of you. She had
A heart--how shall I say?--too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whate'er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, 'twas all one! My favor at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace--all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,
Or blush, at least. She thanked men--good! but thanked
Somehow--I know not how--as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody's gift. Who'd stoop to blame
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill
In speech--(which I have not)--to make your will
Quite clear to such a one, and say, "Just this
Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss
Or there exceed the mark"--and if she let
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set
her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse
--E'en then would be some stooping; and I choose
Never to stoop. Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt
Whene'er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive. Will't please you rise? We'll meet
the company below, then. I repeat
The Count your master's known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretense
Of mine dowry will be disallowed
Though his fair daughter's self, as I avowed
At starting, is my object. Nay, we'll go
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea horse, thought a rarity,
Which claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!
Duke of Ferrara
(Husband of Lucrezia de Medici)
His Last Duchess
This is a tale of love and lust. Ms. Kimm does an excellent job of weaving the strings together to create a compelling story of love gone very wrong and lust unsatisfied. At least within the confines of the marriage of Lucrezia and Alfonse. That does not mean it isn't found elsewhere.
Based on the poem by Robert Browning called, His Last Duchess, Ms. Kimm recreates the sixteenth century in its glory.
Alfonse d'Este is desperate to produce an heir so that his 900-year-old family line will continue. He is also a bit mad. He marries Lucrezia de Medici, a very young girl from a family he considers quite beneath him but she comes with a very large dowry. History shows Lucrezia dying a few short years after the marriage and poisoning was suspected.
Author Gabrielle Kimm has written a luscious and provoking tale based upon the poem by Robert Browning, My Last Duchess, which recounts the legend of Lucrezia di Medici and her husband Alfonso II, the Duke of Ferrara.
The author did a wonderful job of painting 16th Century Renaissance Italy in all its glory and richness. She has interpreted Lucrezia as an innocent sixteen year old who is thrust into marriage with Duke Alfonso, a cold, decadent man touched with madness in order to soothe the discord between their two families.
The main conflict of the story begins immediately when Alfonso is unable to consummate the marriage. He blames Lucrezia for his sexual failure. Unmanned by the beauty and innocence of his wife, he turns to his whore, Francesca, and takes his frustrations out on her through brutal sexual encounters and his fists. As time progresses, he believes Lucrezia is sharing the secret of his failure in bedding her to others and they are laughing at him behind his back. The added pressure of the Pope’s threat to repossess his lands if he does not produce an heir drives Alfonso further into madness and he comes to view Lucrezia as a threat towards his destruction.
Alone and isolated, Lucrezia falls in love with Jacomo, an assistant to Fra Pandolf, a famous Renaissance painter who Alfonso has commissioned to paint Lucrezia’s portrait. Jacomo and Lucrezia risk their lives with every meeting.
Convinced he must rid himself of Lucrezia because she is mocking his sexual inadequacies and he cannot sire an heir upon her, Alfonso’s desperation drives him to arrange Lucrezia’s poisoning.
The plot of this luscious tale intensifies with every page turn as the characters converge to an exciting climax. The tension mounts with every chapter, keeping me interested until the end. And who cannot resist a tale of love and lust sprinkled with the madness and desperation of an evil antagonist set in the luscious background of the Renaissance? I immensely enjoyed this novel and very highly recommend it – guaranteed to please.