The insanity of the poetic speaker in “Porphyria’s Lover”
Browning’s poem “Porthyria’s Lover” tells a story of a murder seen through the eyes of Porphyria’s lover- the murderer. It takes place on a rainy night, in the speaker’s home, where he sits alone in the dark until Porphyria’s arrival. She lights the fire place, takes off her garments and sits by her lover whispering how much he loves him. He then decides to strangle her with her hair, after which he lays her head once again on his shoulder and they sit as they are for the rest of the night. The poem might be influenced by Browning’s own inner thoughts and feelings, since during his lifetime he has been less appreciated as an author compared to his wife. To modern readers the speaker is most likely considered to be insane, but considering the story is set during the Victorian period there could be doubts about his mental condition. The reasons which could justify the murder as a sane act are a few. The speaker felt inferior in the relationship and had little control over his life. The relationship it self was illegal and therefore immoral in the Victorian period and the murder could be viewed as Porphyria’s salvation from her sinful life. And last, but not least – the victim wanted her own death. These facts do justify the extreme and cruel deed that the speaker has done. But the fact that he does not feel any kind of remorse, guilt or sorrow points to his insanity. Pоrphyria was the dynamic, colorful and bright side of the speaker’s life. She is described with a lot of actions- “glide”, “shut”, “kneeled”, “rose”, “laid”, “untied” and so on, while he is stationary. She has yellow hair, blue eyes and rosy cheeks while he is pale. She speaks, while he is silent. Only when she was with him did he feel truly alive. Coming into the cottage she brought light and warmness to his otherwise dark and cold existence. She was independent, strong and had another life, in which he was not included and had no control...
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