1. What is significant about the date and location of the “last confession”? Is the speaker kneeling in a confessional?
  2. What in Rossetti’s background would have made this topic seem appealing to him? Would you interpret this as an Italian revolutionary poem? An anti-revolutionary poem?
  3. Can you think of other poems based on the theme of a “last confession”? Why would this be a good subject for a poem? What is added by the fact that the confession is a formal one, made to a priest?
  4. How is the effect of the poem altered by the fact that it is a dramatic monologue? What would be the effect of this tale if told in the third person?
  5. Why does the speaker take so long in making his “confession”? Do we know right from the beginning what is going to happen? What do his evasions and digressions add to the tale?
  6. What is the poem’s rhythm and meter? Are these appropriate for the story?
  7. What is the symbolism of the opening section? What does the reader expect after reading of the daggers worn in women’s garters, a “German lover,” and a knife with a hilt of horn and pearl?
  8. At what point in his story does the speaker begin? (ll. 6-8) What seems to be the speaker’s main preoccupation? Is he mainly concerned for her safety or for himself?
  9. What aspects of the story does the speaker claim the priest cannot know? Does he imply that he can be pardoned? (ll. 18-19) Does his hope for pardon shift within the poem?
  10. How is our response affected by the fact that the names of the speaker and his adopted stepchild are not known?
  11. What do you make of the speaker’s choice of a gift for his ex-girl friend/child?
  12. Why is her laugh so important to him? What seems to have been its tone or implications? What other forms of laughter does it suggest by association? Which form of her laughter haunts him now, and why do you think this is so? (ll. 137-139)
  13. About how old was the girl when the speaker had first found her? What imagery is used to describe her? What seems to have been her history, and how does this affect our view of their relationship?
  14. What does the speaker hold responsible for his death? How do you interpret this? (ll. 95-96)
  15. What effect does the speaker claim his iminent death has upon his memory? (ll. 106-110) Are we expected to believe him?
  16. What role is played by imagery of churches and religious art within the poem? How do these reinforce the poem’s theme?
  17. What imagery is contained in the incident of the broken glass cupid? Do you think this was an appropriate first gift for a child? What foreshadowing occurs in the incident of the bloodied hand?
  18. Do any Pre-Raphaelite paintings use a similar symbolism?
  19. Who was Metternich? Why does the speaker resent him? What is the relationship, if any, between the speaker’s revolutionary activities and the child’s response to him? (ll. 191-198)
  20. What seems to be the speaker’s response to the child’s affection? What changes in her attitude toward herself and his toward her? Is the comparison to a holy thought which changes to a prayer appropriate/disingenuous? (ll. 203-204)
  21. What features seem prominent in the speaker’s descriptions of the now-adolescent girl? What do we learn of her manner, appearance and character?
  22. How is it significant that the speaker describes Italy as “her”? What does he assume will be his fate? What emotions does he associate with his nationalist devotion, and are these entirely ideal? (ll. 160-66)
  23. What is the significance of the remembered song? Why do you think it is included in Italian? What does its content indicate about her/their thoughts?
  24. On the day of her song, what do you think is the object she places away from him? What is the significance of her question, “Weeping or laughing, which [is] best?” (ll. 338-341)
  25. What attitude are we to have toward the eroticism of their relationship? What is the significance of the reference to “the lapping blaze of hell’s environment” (l. 347)?
  26. Would the Victorians have felt that their quasi-parent/child relationship softened the inappropriateness of their attraction, or aggravated it?
  27. Which aspects of their attitudes might be those of a parent and daughter in similar situations?
  28. What significance does the speaker see in his ward’s change in religious devotion? What does he see as her likely future? (ll. 400-403)
  29. Why does the speaker mention the Austrian with the white coat at this point? What has happened between them? Is the speaker repentant?
  30. Why does he not wish to receive a blessing? What does he mean by “this great sin”? Why has he been unable to confess it?
  31. What is now the speaker’s mental state? What visions haunt him and what symbolism do these contain? (ll. 431-442) Does his madness increase or decrease the reader’s sympathy and/or identification?
  32. How does he describe his murder of his former love? What effect is created by his indirection?
  33. What self-defense does the speaker make? What is implied in the images of the pool which loses one’s image and the sun which burns away one’s shadow? What has been the speaker’s mental state?
  34. What hope does the speaker have of a final relationship with his lost love in an afterlife? What does this reveal about his mental state?
  35. What important events happen on the day of their last encounter? What symbolism is contained in the scenes of the clown and the prostitute?
  36. Under what circumstances does he stab her? Was his a premeditated crime, or can we tell?
  37. What are features of his final image of her? In what way does she haunt him? What hope does the speaker/reader believe there may be of forgiveness? What is the effect of the fact that he imagines that she will draw out the dagger and laugh before God?
  38. How may the fact that the speaker is a hunted man or that he is dying as he speaks his confession affect our sympathy for him?
  39. What attitude are we expected to have toward the speaker? Robert Langbaum has argued that the dramatic monologue presents a tension between sympathy and judgment--how much sympathy for him do we have and how much judgment?
  40. Are there thematic parallels between this poem and Rossetti's "Jenny"? Similarities or contrasts with "The Blessed Damozel"?
  41. Is this a good poem, and if so, why?
  42. Do you know of any other poems which treat similar themes of violence against a loved one? Of a murderer seeking reunion with the murdered one in heaven?