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Critical Analysis of "Porphylia's Lover"

By Alroy25 Apr 15, 2013 785 Words
Alan Barrionuevo

Francis Riggs

English 102


A look into the poem, “Porphylia’s Lover”

There is a lot of uncertainty and misunderstanding in “Porphyria’s Lover” by Robert Browning. This poem has been misinterpreted throughout the years since it was written in 1836. Many would assume that the unnamed speaker in the play was a cold blooded murderer who killed his lover because he was a psychopath. The play begins with a description of the kind of day it was. The speaker describes it as cold, stormy and windy setting the mood for “cloudy and stormy” type chain of events. The speaker proceeds to talk about Porphyria and her visits to the cottage symbolizing a relationship of some sort maybe even a clandestine love affair. The speaker says, “which done, she rose, and from her form

Withdrew the dripping cloak and shawl,
And laid her soiled gloves by, untied
Her hat and let the dam hair fall,
and, last, she sat down by my side
and called me. When no voice replied,
She put my arm about her waist
And made her smooth white shoulder bare” (699)
This describes a moment when both Porphyria and the unnamed speaker are sharing a very intimate moment. She then proceeds to profess her love to the speaker. He says, “She was murmuring how she loved me- she too weak, for all her hart’s endeavor to set its struggling passion free from pride, and vainer ties dissever and give herself to me forever” (699) This part suggests that, she loved him but would not give herself to him because of some “ties.” Porphyria seems to not be able to set her passion free meaning that she loves him very much but can not go through with it. The speaker seems to have a very profound love for Porphyria. This is made evident when he bends over to lay and rub his cheek on her hair. This gives the reader the image of his affection for Porphyria. As the poem continues, it becomes evident that porphyria is suffering from a terminal illness which actually is the meaning of Porphyria. The speaker describes a lot of love amongst both him and Porphyria. He says, “For love of her, and all in vain; may mean that even though he loves her as much as he does it is all in vain because they can’t be together forever. Seems that the speaker knew he had to kill his lover maybe to put her out of misery, from the pain, and her imminent death. He eventually kills her describing the moment in which he decided what he was going to do. He says, “That moment she was mine, mine, fair,

Perfectly pure and good: I found
A thing to do, and all her hair
In one long yellow string I wound
Three times her little throat around,
And strangled her. No pain felt she;
I am quite sure she felt no pain.”(699)
There is a strong message that is in this part of the poem. It shows a lot of passion, love, and determination by the speaker. He describes how at that moment, he found the way to kill his lover. He used her own hair to strangle her, a move that shows the reader that it was a very spontaneous move. When she was dead, the speaker says he was opening her eye lids and looking into her eyes. He says, “Laughed the blue eyes with out a stain.” (699) This may mean that she was happy that she was dead or was content that she died in her lover’s arms.

At the end of the poem the speaker says, “Her darling wish would be heard” (700) which may mean that her wish was to die in the hands of the man she really loved. She seems to have been dying slowly anyways. Her death in her lover’s arms was a way of giving herself to him and only him. The misinterpretation of this poem may come from the unemotional and straight forward tone the speaker uses to tell his story of murder and love. In almost two centuries readers have had their own ways of looking and understanding this poem. There will be many more interpretations of this poem. All the love and passion that is evident in this poem will lead most to believe that, the speaker was not a psychopath but a man very much in love with his girl.

Work Cited

Browning Robert “Porphyria’s Lover.” Compact Literature Ed. Kirszner & Mandel et al. 8th ed. Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2010. 698-700. Print.

JT Best. The Victorian Web. Vastly Misunderstood Poetry. np. 2007. Web. 06 March. 2013.

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