Ulysses is the protagonist in Ulysses while Duke is the narrator in the poem My Last Duchess. Even though there are outstanding differences in the setting of these two works, Ulysses and Duke, share some characteristics. At some point, they both have to deal with their cheating wives and this adds to the differences in their characters given the way they respond to the same. Nevertheless, they have more differences that the similarities they share.
Both Duke and Ulysses are proud. Duke posits that he would not stoop low whatsoever. He says, “However—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 (Browning line 8-12).
The fact that Duke would never “stoop” depicts his pride. His pride comes with insensitivity that he shows his duchess. On the other hand, Ulysses’ pride comes out because of his self-exclusion from the social arena. He does not join the rest of his peers in social events like partying and due to his pride; he has no apologies to make. He just enjoys the physical world.
As aforementioned, the differences between these two characters outweigh their similarities. Whilst Duke rues her duchesses’ concerns about other people, Ulysses celebrates the fact that other men realize his wife. Duke says, “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?”(Browning line 14-18).
The fact that the duchess is concerned about other people irritates Duke. He cannot believe that his duchess does not appreciate his name, which has taken ‘nine-hundred’ years to build. Ulysses on his part is least concerned about his wife’s infidelity. He sees this as a sign of beauty that his wife possesses.
While Ulysses is loving and a pervert at the same time, Duke is domineering and the only thing that he concentrates on is complaining about how his duchess was timid and easily impressed. In episode four Ulysses prepares breakfast for his wife and offers to pick her some things from outside. However, Ulysses is a pervert. When he goes top pick kidney from butchery, he places his order quickly to follow a woman who has left before.
He wants to see her hips swing. On another occasion, he loses concentration whilst speaking to McCoy. He is concentrating on a sexy woman across the road; moreover, at some point, he masturbates and this brings out clearly his perverted personality. He even goes to church because by doing so he would be close to beautiful women.
On the other side, Duke is a commanding and probably unloving man. He says, “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” (Browning line 19-24). He only gave commands to his duchess and this stopped all smiles.
At this point, the reader gets a picture of an unhappy wife. If Duke loved his duchess, then he would not command her, killing her smiles. Duke is also selfish and he wants to control everything in his duchesses’ life. He does not want her to appreciate other people but him alone. This is selfishness.
Duke and Ulysses share few characteristics. They are proud. However, these two characters have numerous differences. While Ulysses loves her wife even after she cheats on him, Duke is always complaining about his wife. Even though the duchess was impressed by almost everything, it is selfish for duke to expect her to think about and appreciate him alone. Ulysses is a pervert and he does many things for the wrong reasons viz. going to church to meet beautiful women.
Browning, Roberts. “My Last Duchess.” In The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volume E: The Victorian Age. Greenblatt, Stephen, Abrams, M., Christ, Carol, & Robson ,Catherine (Eds). New York; W. W. Norton & Company, 2005.