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Analysis of Robert Browning's Porphyria's Lover

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Porphyria's Lover - Robert Browning (1836) Robert Chen @ Zwe Kyaw Zwa "Porphyria's Lover" is one of Robert Browning's earliest and most shocking dramatic monologues. It probably takes place during the Victorian age, since most of Browning's poems occur around that time. The poem resolves around the conflicting thoughts of a man obsessed with his lover, Porphyria, and the desire to possess her urges him to strangle her to death, in order to keep her for eternity. Just like other Browning's poems, Porphyria's Lover is also a dramatic monologue, where there is only one speaker and one silent listener, Porphyria. However, in this poem, there is no listener at all since the monologue is all about the Lover's emotions, thoughts and actions. This makes the reader more aware of the his frustrations and debating feelings for his love. Browning has a employed an iambic tetrameter, with a rhyming pattern of ABAAB, CDCCD, etc. Although the meter is constant for the first 4 verse, the 5th one breaks, leading to the fact that the speaker's heart is breaking too. The regular but asymmetrical rhyming pattern indicates that the speaker's mind is unbalanced as well. ...read more.


So, the sin is itself less obvious. Furthermore, he is convinced that Porphyria does not blame him due to her laughing "blue eyes" and her "smiling rosy little head." He also mentions that it is her "wish" to be killed. Finally, he states that God has not judged him, indicating that his action is forgiven. The change in power of passivity is also obvious in a way that Porphyria has been the dominant figure at first, taking in charge of lighting up the cottage and even controlling her Lover's arms. Here, Porphyria is the active character while the Lover is a passive one. Then, suddenly, the power shifts to the speaker when he strangles her to death and props "her head up as before." The reverse event occurs. Looking at the characters, Porphyria and her Lover are a complete contrast to one another. While the description of the first is in bright colours ("smooth white shoulder," "yellow hair," "blue eyes," "rosy little head"), that of the latter is in dull ones ("pale"). She is talkative while he is silent throughout the poem. She is active whereas he is passive, vice versa. ...read more.


This is a memorable image since the Lover has used it to kill her at the end of the poem. Visual imagery can also be seen as blond exemplifies angelic purity. However, the verse, "let the damp hair fall,? can be interpreted that Porphyria is a fallen woman (who has sex outside marriage). Secondly, the storm, mentioned as above, has the mood similar to the speaker and Porphyria can shut it out with her warmth. The third symbol is the eyes."I looked up at her eyes / Happy and proud; at last I knew." It is ambiguous that whether Porphyria or her Lover is happy and proud but it is certain for him that her love is real. The speaker then compares her eyes to "a shut bud that holds a bee." This simile shows the speaker's care of opening the eye-lids, in fear that of getting stung by her eyes, and the alliteration of repeating 'b' sounds further emphasizes this. {*} In conclusion, "Porphyria's Lover" is Browning's attempt to explain the mechanics of human psychology through the themes of love, passion, desire and sensuousness. His traditional technique of using the dramatic monologue exposes a single character, in this case, Porphyria's Lover's personality (development of his feelings and thoughts). Browning has also employed symbols and imagery to support his themes throughout the whole poem. ...read more.

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