In My Last Duchess the poet, Robert Browning describes a seemingly simple scene. A Duke is showing a portrait of a beautiful young woman to the servant of his future father in law, (the Count). As the poem progresses it becomes apparent that the Duke had his previous wife (the Duchess) killed owing to his jealous nature. The Duke became insanely jealous at his Wife’s open nature and, in particular the way in which she would smile at other men. The Duchess’s inability to conform to the standards of behaviour expected of her by the Duke are her undoing,
“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”.
The Duke’s matter of fact description of the events leading to the murder of his previous wife is chilling, the chill being compounded by the manner in which he moves on from speaking about murder to talking of plans to marry the Count’s daughter. (http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173024).
My Last Duchess prompted me to write Claire, a short story regarding the obsession of a man with his beautiful lover. Set in the 21st century Claire draws on Browning’s analysis of how love moves from passion, through to jealousy and thence to murder.
Claire appears in my collection of short stories, The Suspect And Other Tales which is free in the Kindle Store until Saturday 29 November (http://www.amazon.com/The-Suspect-other-tales-Morris-ebook/dp/B00PKPTQ0U).