Critical Analysis of Poetry - Sonnet 14

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English Advanced Assessment Task 3
Critical Study of Poetry

If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love’s sake only. Do not say
‘I love her for her smile-her look-her way
Of speaking gently, -for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day’-
For these things in themselves, Beloved, may
Be changed, or change for thee, -and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity’s wiping my cheeks dry, -
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love nearby!
But love me for love’s sake, that evermore
Thou mayst love on, through love’s eternity.

Does love have the ability to last for eternity? I believe it can, and this is the concept Elizabeth Barrett Browning questions in her poem ‘Sonnet 14’. The idea that to be human is to experience the paradox of love and war is also explored in this poem. Barrett Browning delves deeply into the love side of this statement, although it is clear the persona is also undergoing an internal battle.

The octet in ‘Sonnet 14’ describes the qualities that will fade over time, such as her smile, her looks and her voice. Her beauty and the way she agrees with her lover are things that will diminish. The persona wants her lover to love her for her less superficial qualities such as the power to write and have intelligent conversation. This idea of a woman being unequal to her partner was one that was not questioned during the 19th century, when Barrett Browning wrote her poetry. She was fighting for the rights of women to be heard and have a voice.

During the 19th century women’s opinions were suppressed and it was an extremely patriarchal society. Upper class women were expected to uphold their appearances at all times, especially in public situations. It was a disgrace for a woman to be seen looking dishevelled. Barrett Browning was one of the women who fought against these...
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