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Porphyria's Lover: A poem of its time?

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Porphyria's Lover: A poem of its time? Robert Browning was born in Camberwell in 1812. Although he received little formal education, he had access to the home's large library and his father encouraged him to read. At the age of sixteen, Browning attended London University, but later withdrew. It was in 1833 that he published his first poem anonymously and whilst he sold none, a year later, The Monthly Repository took interest and proceeded to publish several of Browning's shorter poems. His recognition continued to increase until in 1846 he married the poet Elizabeth Barrett. He wrote very little poetry until his wife died in 1846. Browning wrote his greatest work The Ring and the Book after his wife's death. His reputation once again grew and in 1881 the Browning Society was established. Browning died eight years later in 1889. Porphyria's Lover was written by Browning in 1836 and is based around three key events. The first of which is when Porphyria enters and sits with the narrator: "When glided in Porphyria" The narrator then begins to describe Porphyria and her actions. The next key event is the narrator killing Porphyria. He gets a piece of Porphyria's hair and strangles her with it: "Three times her throat around, and strangled her." ...read more.


The third key theme is moral decay. This is linked with the good versus evil and is relevant to the society Browning was writing for as it is something they were experiencing. Browning explores this through his narrator's actions. By murdering, he has done something immoral. Porphyria's Lover is a poem about two lovers. One of whom is Porphyria is of a higher status than the other lover, the narrator who is of a lower status. Porphyria wants them to be together forever, but doesn't want to give up the privileges that come with her status. The narrator, in an attempt to preserve a perfect moment of contentment, murders Porphyria. He then sits with the body believing that they are now together forever. Browning's poem serves as a warning to his readers about moral decay and questioning God or their faith by looking at science. The narrator commits a sin by murdering Porphyria: "I found a thing to do...and strangled her" the narrator represents Browning's society - he has done something immoral. It serves as a warning of what society is heading towards. The narrator questions God at the end of the poem: "And yet God has not said a word!" ...read more.


The word "yellow" (in reference to Porphyria's hair) is repeated throughout the first stanza: "And spread o'er all her yellow hair" It is as if the narrator can't quite believe the colour of Porphyria's hair and has to repeat it to reassure himself that he's not seeing things. Browning's use of adjectives makes the poem effective as it allows the reader to view the scene clearly and see how certain actions are undertaken. Another useful technique the poet uses is the lack of a clear or sane motive. Whilst we know that the narrator wants to preserve a precious moment, we are still left wondering why he took such rash action. Browning finishes the poem well with the line: "And yet God has not said a word!" This is a good end as it links in with a key theme of the poem, good versus evil. Overall, Porphyria's Lover does not appear to be a poem of it's time. Whilst it begins like many poems of it's time, the way in which sex is written of is different from most Victorian poems. Although the prudery of the era is sometimes thought of as a mask to hide the moral decay, Browning's poem would still have shocked the reader both by the sexual content and the actions of the narrator. ?? ?? ?? ?? English Coursework Stephanie Saunders Mrs Baldwin 02/01/2009 Page 1 of 4 ...read more.

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