Robert Browning Poems
Culture of Victorian England Described in Poetry
Two works that reflect the Victorian Era well are Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “Ulysses” and Robert Browning’s “Porphyria’s Lover”. Both pieces speak to the era and culture of Victorian England. Compared to the twenty first century, Victorian England seems like a distant and strange land with a seemingly strange and foreign feel until some of the themes are explored. The themes in the pieces capture the emphasis and bearings of Victorian culture through captivating and thoughtful literature that don’t seem completely unfamiliar at times, yet can conflict with society’s standards today.
In Browning’s “Porphyria’s Lover”, the title doesn’t quite sum up how bizarre and yet interesting the work is. Without reading the poem, one may think that it is a love poem. Instead, this work is about the speaker who murders his girlfriend by strangling her with her hair. The speaker then sits and admires the body of the deceased for the remainder of the night. How shocking, yet really thrilling to read! The speaker could be described as cold-blooded or psychotic for committing such acts. This strictly contradicts the poems of Robert Browning’s wife, Elizabeth Barrett-Browning, who wrote romantic poems that are far more comfortable to read for many readers. This poem reflects the Victorian era in other ways, though. In the last lines of the poem, the narrator says “Porphyria’s love: she guessed not how, her darling one wish would be heard. And thus we sit together now and all night long we have not stirred, and yet God has not said a word!” (Browning 713) The last words, “yet God has not said a word”, is one of the points in this work that reflects the Victorian era.
The scientific advancements of the Victorian era caused many to defect from the widespread Christian beliefs of the era into a more scientific oriented society. Dr. Andrzej Diniejk states that Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species denied a divine hand in creation. (Diniejk) Diniejk goes on to say that those who read Origin of Species inferred that no absolute good or absolute evil exists in the world. (Diniejk) This goes on to theorize that normal moral values are manmade principles. (Diniejk) This radical theory of evolution undermined the value of traditional religion and morality, which had been accepted for centuries as the guiding principle of mankind. (Diniejk) The “godless” society had just begun to take place, and is evident in many works of literature from the time, including Browning’s “Porphyria’s Lover”. This does not mean, though, that Christianity had lost its hold in society. Darwin’s theory of evolution just brought more critical thinking and broadened horizons to those of the time. Darwin’s work really dove into the study of human nature as well. In “Porphyria’s Lover”, the narrator committed murder, and many would be deemed completely wrong and immoral. Yet, as stated above, Darwin’s theory argues against absolute morals, which makes this work more controversial and even more interesting to some. “Porphyria’s Lover” really plays upon the reader’s moral compass since it is the reader who is passing judgement upon the speaker.
There are other view-points about “Porphyria’s Lover” that Catherine Ross explores. Ross suggests that in lines 22-25 that are typically read as a reference to social status (“Too weak, for all her heart’s endeavor, to set its struggling passion free from pride, and vainer ties dissever”) that the author instead could be referencing the pride and fear of a young lady who knew the possible consequences if she let her sexual desires run free outside of marriage in an age with no reliable birth control. (Ross 71) Others think that the line references their narrator and Porphyria’s difference in social status which could have made the murder take place, since social status was cared about greatly during that time. (Ross 71) Ross also suggests that the poem’s last line that references God’s silence to reflect Porphyria’s concerns, not her lover’s, since Porphyria’s age of society taught young women that God would disapprove of women freely expressing sexual desire. (Ross 71)
In Tennyson’s “Ulysses”, the speaker loves to travel and cannot bear to stay in one location for too long. The speaker desires for more than what is available within grasp of mundane life. According to James Nohrnberg, during the time of Tennyson writing this work, the British Empire’s East India Trading company was booming. (Nohrnberg 112) The English were also exploring and researching in the Orient, the Congo, Niger and the Nile. (Nohrnberg 112) The speaker in “Ulysses” states “It may be that the gulfs will wash us down”, which reflects the fearless attitude of the explorer. (Nohrnberg112) This makes the topic of this work extremely feasible considering all of the exploration that was taking place in Tennyson’s time. To have a speaker that was restless and desiring exploration and excitement reflects the era of the period perfectly. However, Tennyson attributed Ulysses determination to triumph over all and to persevere through anything to his own choice to live and carry on after hearing the news of the death of his very good friend. (Nohrnberg 101) The work still has the exploration theme though of exploring new territories woven in, as do many of Tennyson’s works that reflect the Victorian era.
Whether it is exploring new places or testing beliefs, there are some things that haven’t changed too much from the Victorian era to now. There is still a debate over Darwin’s theory of evolution and there are still people exploring the world. Some cultures still shame women for having sexual desires and there are still people who write about psychopaths that kill. It may seem to some that perhaps not too much has changed since the Victorian era. However, there have been advances made and humanity as a whole has evolved some since then. The works by Tennyson and Browning reflect some of what shaped the Victorian era literature in theme. Tennyson’s and Browning’s style of writing, though starkly different in content and writing style, are model examples of Victorian era literature.
Monologues in Robert Browning’s My Last Duchess
The Choice of Dramatic Monologue
“My Last Duchess”
“My Last Duchess”, is a poem written by Robert Browning, with an amazingly creepy tone. Robert Browning is best known for his dramatic monologue, and the poem “My Last Duchess”, is one. Even the title is one example more that leads to the answer that tells us that this poem is a monologue with the pronoun “my”.
Dramatic monologue is a speech performed by one of the characters in the poem. Even though the point of the whole poem is mostly on the speaker it focuses really on the tone and on the subject that is talked throughout poem. The reason why Browning chose to use dramatic monologue in this poem is mostly for the way of narration of the poem. The poem begins in the middle and that makes it even more dramatic for the rest of the poem. The speaker of the poem is the Duke of Ferrara talking about his dead duchess’ portrait. It is all more dramatic because the utterance is made only of single speaker, and at the same time it is an expression of the speakers and authors thoughts. The poem is made that there can be only one speaker and every reader of the poem is actually the one who listens and must keep quiet. The style and the structure of the whole poem plays a huge role in the poem that actually effects the poem. Browning uses a rhyme scheme AA BB, which is very common in the ballad genre of poems. Death and mystery of the poem all make the poem even more intriguing for the reader. This dramatic monologue is used mostly to present the real feelings of the speaker, and the society of the Victorian times, and to present the real effect it all had on female gender. The choice of dramatic monologue Browning used is to make an ignorant kind of characterization that is portrayed in the voice of the speaker. It all makes it more realistic and all the feelings of the speaker come to the top and actually makes it all more worth it for the reader to feel certain emotions towards some particular characters in the poem. The dramatic monologue developed by Browning can display itself in a more of a tone of cynicism actually by the author himself even though not being mentioned in the poem at all. Browning can be portrayed only a medium that serves to translate the words into a speech full of drama and emotions. The speaker is continuously just dismissing the language and uses it as a personal safety, and with that the speaker makes the dramatic tone of the poem even more persuasive for the reader to be alerted that the speaker might be furious and wants everyone to be submissive to him.
To sum it up, Browning’s monologue is a form of poetic writing where the dramatic properties actually define a situation in the poem. To portray the feelings of the speaker and connect them to the readers way of seeing things only as the speaker of the poem wants it to. The choice of monologue of “My Last Duchess”, shaped the words of the poem to fit the authors way of thinking.
Porphyria’s Lover by Robert Browning: Poetry Analysis
Porphyria’s Lover Analytical Essay
The poem “Porphyria’s Lover” by Robert Browning is a dark and twisted monologue that follows the narrator recant of the time he spent with his beloved Porphyria before killing her. The monologue is written in first person, from the perspective of the lover. The poem is separated into two halves- The first half of the poem is a traditional love poem that depicts the relationship between Porphyria and her lover, the second half turns the poem into a tale of horror that describes the narrator committing the gruesome crime of killing Porphyria. Browning uses Love, Jealously, and power as themes to tell the story of Porphyria’s death from a lover’s point of view.
The poem begins with Browning creating a dark, vicious atmosphere through the use of the weather; Porphyria comes into the cottage soon after, this creates a Juxtaposition in order to emphasize the difference Porphyria makes in the setting after she enters the cottage. The narrator provides the weather with human emotions the wind is personified as “sullen wind [that] was soon awake…tore elms down.” which would also describe Porphyria’s lover at the beginning of this poem as he sits in his house alone. The lover then says, “I listened with heart fit to break.” This shows how depressed he is before Porphyria arrives. When Porphyria enters the cottage she “shuts the cold out and the storm” and with her womanly touches is able to make a fire and bring cheer to their home, “And kneeled and made the cheerless grate Blaze up, and the entire cottage warm”. This shows the true power Porphyria’s has on her lover. When she lights a fire into the cheerless grate, it is talking about both the grate in the lover’s house but also the metaphoric grate about the lover’s depressed attitude at the beginning of the poem. This creates an example of the bond between Porphyria and her lover.
As the poem continues, Porphyria embraces the speaker, putting his arm around her waist, and offering him her “smooth white shoulder bare” she also “withdrew the dripping cloak and shawl, And laid her soiled gloves by,”. When Porphyria “untied her hat and let the damp hair fall”, this can be seen as a sexual image, especially as she takes off her dripping cloak and gloves. This can allude to their being a sexual relationship between her and her lover. Porphyria sits by her lover’s side and attempts to talk to him, but he does not reply, “And called me. When no voice replied”. This is the first cue that there is something wrong with the narrator and foreshadows a shift in his emotions towards Porphyria.
The second half of the poem shifts into a tale of horror that describes the narrator committing the gruesome crime of killing Porphyria. Her lover knows that Porphyria worships him, “at last I knew [she] worshipped me” this makes him her God and makes a perfect example of how committed she is to him. The emotion causes the speaker to feel: “happy and proud” as he looks into Porphyria’s eyes, He then says “That moment she was mine, mine, fair,”. The repetition of “mine” indicates his obsession with her, but not only does he want her to be his forever; he wants to preserve this innocent moment of pure bliss. To preserve this moment he kills her by wounding her hair “Three times her little throat around, And strangled her”. The fact that he uses her yellow hair to do so is symbolic because it is describing something that was once so perfect and beautiful used as a weapon. The narrator believes that the only way to conserve their love forever is to kill her, to capture her in her purest and best moment.
At the end of the poem, the narrator then justifies his actions by saying, “No pain felt she; I am quite sure she felt no pain.” He then uses a simile to talk about the life in her eyes. “As a shut bud that holds a bee, I warily opened her lids: again Laughed the blue eyes without a stain” When a bud shuts and hold a bee it is no longer free to pollinate other flowers this is similar to her not being able to leave him and talk to other men because she is dead and she will belong to him forever. His final reaction to Porphyria’s death confirms his insanity. He does not show remorse for killing Porphyria; instead, he imagines that she is “smiling” and that he has done the right thing in killing her. He then says “And yet God has not said a word!” This is enough evidence for the speaker that what he has done is not wrong. He believes God is on his side, despite their being a commandment in the bible saying “Thou shalt not kill”, as God has not come forward and told him it was wrong of him to strangle her. However, use of “yet” assures us that he will pay for his actions.
The Insanity of Blindness: The Narrators in Browning’s “Porphyria’s Lover” and “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister”
With “Porphyria’s Lover” and “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister,” Browning provides two dramatic monologues of madmen in which the narrator’s sheer ignorance of his own insanity is a basic premise integral to the work. Throughout both these poems, the narrator is consistently unaware of the hypocrisy, absurdity, misunderstanding of others, and cruelty that his tirade belies, while the reader is constantly barraged with these realities. As the narrator in each work reveals more and more of his thoughts, his character reaches unrealistic and absurd levels of insanity for the reader to behold. By their mere inability to declare, recognize, or even behold the painful lunacy of their own actions and thoughts, Browning’s flawed madmen narrators condemn themselves. In “Porphyria’s Lover”, the deliberate violence of the narrator upstages Porphyria’s willingness to commit an illicit act by visiting him that night. Up to the climax of Porphyria’s murder, the narration indicates a romantically sullen yet otherwise well-adjusted narrator. On line 5, he “listened [to the wind] with heart fit to break.” Following Porphyria’s arrival, he remains despondent, yet eventually marvels at her love for him. The fact that the sharp turn created by the murder of Porphyria is recounted nonchalantly, unexpectedly, and as a supposedly logical consequence of this romantic love is an early indicator of the true depth of the narrator’s insanity. As if very little has happened, the narrator’s monologue continues, and he recounts the rest of the romantic scene. He fondles her body and treats her as if she were still animate, claiming on line 52 that she smiles, even. There is no doubt that the narrator registers Porphyria’s death, yet his perverse sense of righteousness casts doubt on his sanity. In lines 41-42, he declares that Porphyria felt no pain, indicating that he sees his act as a form of euthanasia, as well as his belief that he is empowered to take such measures. In the closing lines of the poem, the narrator indicates his belief that by entombing Porphyria, he fulfills her desires, that she “gained instead” (55) him in death.In one interpretation of these lines, the narrator speaks of Porphyria’s “darling one wish” (57) with deliberately sadistic irony and selfishness. In another possible reading, the narrator has only the purest of intentions with his mercy killing. Both potentialities would indicate the presence of an abnormal mind. The closing line fits into both conceptions, as well. If the narrator had committed his act with evil intentions, the implication would be that since he had not faced divine retribution for his acknowledged vicious action, he possessed a divine power of his own – thus, the reader would be led to recognize the narrator’s hubris. If the narrator had committed his act with pure intentions, however, the implication would be that God had condoned the murder by virtue of His lack of retribution – thus, the reader would be led to recognize the narrator’s flawed sense of self-righteousness.In “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister”, rather than narrating a full scene as the narrator of “Porphyria’s Lover” does, the speaker delivers a purely self-addressed monologue of his innermost thoughts. There is no plot or climax in this soliloquy, only a patchwork of recollected scenes. Additionally, unlike in “Porphyria’s Lover”, this poem contains no plot turn to drastically warp the reader’s perception of the narrator. Instead, the monk delivering this soliloquy is presented from the start as a hypocritical and insane figure. This element of Browning’s dramatic irony – the narrator is totally unaware of his own shortcomings – is cultivated from the very first stanza. Already, the idea of a brusque, revenge-hungry monk is inherently flawed and naturally ironic. Thus, the monk doesn’t become more desperate as the poem goes forth, nor does the tone become darker – he remains extremely desperate, and the tone stays remarkably morose throughout the entire soliloquy.As each stanza passes, the damning indicators of the narrator’s hypocrisy, cruelty, insanity, and ignorance pile up. In the first stanza, the reader is introduced to a monk consumed with hatred for another man of the cloth, innocuously named Brother Lawrence as a contrast to the nameless, faceless narrator. Already, the narrator is portrayed as ridiculous and mildly insane. The narrator’s anger indicates impiety, and the introduction of this acrimony towards a gardening monk before any sort of justification is offered signifies the illogical nature of this hatred. The next stanza gives a weak explanation of the narrator’s hatred. The narrator introduces us to Brother Lawrence’s conversation, which, although painfully innocuous, drives the monk into a frenzy. In stanza five, he takes issue with Brother Lawrence’s supposed impiety in his inability to follow the ridiculously elaborate table manners supposedly practiced by the narrator. The forceful delivery of the reasoning indicates that this inane material the best justification the narrator has, and signifies a continuing lack of logic and the persistence of an all-consuming animosity. The hypocrisy and false piety of the narrator is further revealed throughout the rest of the poem. In the fourth stanza, the narrator’s own extensive description of a girl whom he accuses Brother Lawrence of glancing at indicates his own prurient focus. The dramatic irony of the narrator’s inability to recognize his own hypocrisy borders on the absurd. In stanzas seven and eight, the narrator’s revelation of a plan to expose Brother Lawrence to heretic thought or pornography inadvertently, yet clearly, reveals the fact that he himself dabbles in both sins. When introducing his plot, he refers to his item as “my scrofulous French novel” (57). The hypocritical implications of his plan to plant his own pornographic novel in Brother Lawrence’s items is pathetically obvious to the reader, yet somehow completely unrecognized by the narrator. Likewise, the narrator is unable to realize that he is being consumed in part by his jealousy, which is made fully salient to the reader in stanza six. The narrators of both works share the absurd inability to recognize the overt implications of insanity and hypocrisy that their own words belie. Discussing their insane machinations in tones of powerful frenzy leads both men to overlook these clear interferences, and this same ignorance further condemns them in the eyes of readers as insane, and ultimately wicked characters.
Hatred in Robert Browning’s Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister
Poetry can often be described as “painting with words.” It is a poet’s attempt to give linguistic form to thoughts and emotions, to create vivid imagery with only a minimum of language, achieved by any number of creative methods. In the lyric poem “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister” the poet Robert Browning uses a dramatic monologue to express emotion, such as intense rage and hatred, which is conveyed by the persona of a bitter and spiteful monk. By inventing a fictional character, which acts as the speaker in the lyric poem, and expressing that character’s hatred in a dramatic situation, Browning has created a sense of heightened emotion within the poem. An analysis of Browning’s “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister” will enable readers to understand how the themes, context, form, and mechanics help to give the impression of violent hatred felt by that of the speaker.At first glance it seems that Browning’s main purpose in “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister” is to present us with the picture of a jealous monk who does nothing but complain about a fellow monk by the name of Brother Lawrence. While the mutterings of an ill-tempted monk are in fact highly entertaining to read the reader later comes to discover that Browning’s true purpose is to show the reader that behind the face of spiritual righteousness lurks the heart of a corrupted and conceited man.Throughout the poem the speaker accuses Brother Lawrence of several sins, such as greed and lust, but later in the poem it becomes obvious to the reader, through the detailed examples of these particular sins, that it is the speaker who is guilty of greed and lust, and not Brother Lawrence. For example, in stanza 4 the speaker describes to us the scene of two local women who come daily to the fountain outside of the cloister to wash their hair. Here the speaker uses the phrases, “Steeping tresses in the tank / Blue-black, lustrous, thick like horsehairs” (27-28) to describe the scene at the fountain, and it is evident by the rich detail that it is the speaker, and not Brother Lawrence, who has been looking at the women. This assertion is further backed up by lines 30 and 31, where the speaker says, “Can’t I see his dead eye glow / Bright as ’twere a Barbary corsair’s?” This simile clearly tells us that the speaker is referring to the stir of passion that he himself has felt upon seeing the women at the fountain. What makes the speaker so interesting is that instead of admitting his own guilt the speaker instead projects his own lust for the women onto Brother Lawrence in the effort to make the innocent monk look blameworthy. Browning has allowed the speaker to unintentionally, through his attitude and malicious words, reveal to the reader his corrupt and evil personality.From the very first two lines of “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister” the object of the speaker’s hatred is revealed. “Gr-r-r—there go, my heart’s abhorrence! / Water your damned flowerpots, do!” The speaker then goes on to list a series of accusations against Brother Lawrence, which range from the way the innocent monk tends to his garden to his enlightened table conversations. Never once does the speaker’s hatred towards Brother Lawrence diminish, but instead it increases with each disturbing remark, so much so that by the last stanza the speaker is willing to take the ultimate risk and sell his own soul to the devil in exchange for Brother Lawrence’s damnation. But what is amusing about this contract with the devil is that the speaker is careful to make an escape clause for himself. “Or, there’s Satan! One might venture / Pledge one’s soul to him, yet leave / Such a flaw in the indenture / As he’d miss till, past retrieve” (65-68). The irony in these lines is that if any one single soul should suffer from damnation it is the speaker’s soul. It is the speaker who lusts after the women at the fountain, and it is the speaker who is the owner of the “scrofulous French novel” (57), which he plans to tempt Brother Lawrence with by putting it among the monk’s possessions. Finally, the very fact that the speaker is the one who wishes to “trick” the devil implies that it is quite apparent that the speaker is the one who lacks morality, and not Brother Lawrence.Perhaps the most fascinating element about the speaker’s personality is the animal-like quality that he shows throughout the poem. He opens and closes the poem with a beast-like sounding “Gr-r-r”, which certainly makes us thinks of him as a wild animal. Another example of the speaker’s carnal nature is the setting of the poem. It is in the monastery garden where the speaker secretly watches Brother Lawrence, who is tending to his plants, much like the way a predator would watch its prey. He slinks around in the background, observing and criticizing his enemy, and then vents his hatred out of the earshot of Brother Lawrence. These types of actions present clear evidence that the speaker has a carnal nature, making the reader question the sanity of this bitter monk.Another method used in the poem that helps to emphasize the malice the speaker feels is the use of the end-stopped lines. Instead of letting his sentences continue uninterrupted into the next line, Browning uses punctuation marks, such as a question mark or an exclamation mark, to create a break in the speech of the speaker and the structure of the poem. Here is an example of how Browning uses the end-stopped lines in “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister”:”Oh, those melons? If he’s ableWe’re to have a feast! So nice!One goes to the Abbot’s table,All of us get each a slice.How go on your flowers? None double?Not one fruit-sort can you spy?Strange! And I, too, at such trouble,Keep them close-nipped on the sly!” (41-48)Few people realize that the poem is not just structured in iambic tetrameter, but that each stanza is also structured as a list of complaints. Stanza by stanza the speaker begins to list each dislike he holds of Brother Lawrence, and in doing so tries to expose the monk’s immorality by listing each of the sins he has supposedly committed. This type of structure created by the speaker brings us to the conclusion that the speaker has long passed the point of being merely annoyed with Brother Lawrence, and that the rage he feels towards the innocent monk has been long endured.Despite all the grammatical structures that help the speaker to express his anger and frustration with Brother Lawrence, what sets this poem apart from Browning’s other works, and also helps to bring a humorous life into the narration of the poem, is the sarcasm used by the speaker. The use of sarcasm within the poem gives strong presence to the speaker’s ridicule of the poor monk, and also helps to express his utter disgust with Brother Lawrence, or perhaps his disgust with himself. One can’t help but smile when the speaker releases a bitter outburst, such as the phrase, “Whew! We’ll have our platter burnished, / Laid with care on our own shelf!” (18-19).Browning emphasizes the sarcastic tone of the speaker by using a great deal of punctuation, which strengthens the speaker’s heated tone and the humorous way in which he expresses these malicious words. When the narrator wishes to lash out at Brother Lawrence, Browning uses an exclamation mark. “God’s blood, would not mine kill you!” (4), or “Hell dry you up with its flames!” (8). When the speaker wants to criticize the object of his intense hatred Browning uses both a question mark and an exclamation mark to emphasize the emotion the speaker is feeling, and to also heighten the sarcasm in the poem. “What? Your myrtle-bush wants trimming? / Oh, that rose has prior claims / Needs its leaden vase filled brimming?” (5-8) or “How go your flowers? None double? / Not one fruit-sort can you spy? / Strange! And I, too, at such trouble, / Keep them close-nipped on the sly!” (45-48).Browning’s “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister” uses several poetic techniques to convey to its audience the rumblings and bitter outbursts of a corrupted monk, who is less holier than the man he despises. Written as a dramatic monologue, “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister” is Browning’s attempt to bring the language of hatred to life by using a cynical persona as his speaker, sarcastic language, and punctuation to emphasize all these strong elements in the poem.
Shelter From the Storm
In Robert Browning’s dramatic monologue, “Porphyria’s Lover,” the love-stricken frustrations of a nameless speaker end in a passionate, annihilating response to society’s scrutiny towards human sensuality. Cleverly juxtaposing Porphyria’s innocent femininity and her sexual transgression, Browning succeeds in displaying society’s contradictory embrace of morality next to its rejection of sensual pleasure. In an ironically tranquil domestic setting, warm comfort and affection come to reveal burning emotional perversions within confining social structures. The speaker’s violent display of passion ends not with external condemnation, but with the matter-of-fact sense of a duty fulfilled. Porphyria’s lover sits next to his murdered love without any regretful aftermath or consequence; from the narrator’s viewpoint, a perception wholly distorted by the forced internalization of his feelings for Porphyria, not even the ultimate hand of God can rob him the serenity of a moment free from judgment.Browning’s presentation of an unreliable narrator is necessarily so, for in the ironically ordinary setting of Victorian simplicity, the speaker’s insanity is justified and accounted for. With traditional notions of nature’s wrath and God’s omnipotence framing the start and finish of the scene, Browning employs the narration’s natural poetic flow in order to heighten the blow of the unexpectedly unorthodox turn of events. The speaker’s great passion comes to parallel that of God, nature, and ultimately, social expectations, thus embodying the force of the “sullen wind” (Line 2) itself. Browning’s poem cannot be seen merely as a character analysis of a nameless speaker; its events frame not only the speaker’s apparent insanity but the primary source of his distorted emotions. The narrator’s own “struggling passion” (23) impedes his ability to think and act in a way that society views appropriate; yet, paradoxically, it is society’s limited notion of what is appropriate that kindles the ultimately fatal fire of his passionate endeavor.Browning grants certain credibility to the narrowness of the speaker’s viewpoint in that it displays the most extreme result of lifelong subservience to the world’s own confining expectations. Introducing nature’s unpredictability at the onset of the poem, Browning suggests the detrimental effect of an outside force and foreshadows the speaker’s equally spiteful gesture: “It tore the elm-tops down for spite, / And did its worst to vex the lake: / I listened with heart fit to break” (3-5). Here the speaker muses about his apparent powerlessness to weather’s force, the symbolic obstacle of the outside world that keeps Porphyria away. Importantly, “When glided in Porphyria” (60), the narrator’s weakened heart has already been broken many times if not once, both by social restrictions on his love affair, and the subsequent limitations on Porphyria’s love for him. Therefore, the speaker’s distance from the world outside becomes also an inability to respond to Porphyria upon her entrance; he sits in the cottage wanting only her love, without need of explanation, so that when he is spoken to, “no voice replied” (15). Soon, Porphyria’s gift of comforting warmth within the storm exacerbates his obsession to the point of insanity-driven violence.Paradoxically, the warmth of Porphyria’s love appears to the narrator to be so temporary that it incites his own predominant passion. Innocently seeking to comfort her afflicted lover, Porphyria forces him to embrace her and makes “her smooth white shoulder bare” (17). Abruptly, Browning’s scene of chilling weather interrupted by warm companionship becomes a picture of overt sexual expression amidst the cottage’s roaring fire. The initial presentation of traditional domesticity, a comforting shelter from a raging storm, turns quickly now to unstoppable, passionate pace. The reader cannot presume to know whether Porphyria’s expressed love for the speaker is true; what is important is that Browning’s speaker sees murderous action as the only way to preserve the moment and eliminate social barriers.The speaker’s lust for precedence over other forces in Porphyria’s life evidently leads to her fatal end. His ecstasy at her new, momentary devotion leaves him at the gate of attaining his dream, but without any sense of trajectory: “Porphyria worshipped me; surprise / Made my heart swell, and still it grew / While I debated what to do” (33-35). On the instantaneous realization of Porphyria’s love, the speaker’s requited passion and rational mind still stand separate to some extent. However, it is not long before his heated desire to keep her “Perfectly pure and good” (37) lead him to find “A thing to do” (38). The narrator’s being situated above social law, if but only once, proves to be so stunningly empowering that he loses rational ability to decipher anything but a self-centered whim.The complacency of Browning’s speaker in carrying out his murderous deed ironically reflects the complacency of society towards the sexual, aesthetic, and sensual pleasures of life. Exhibiting no definite regret beyond the weariness of having taken what was the only available path, the speaker points to the painlessness of his lover’s necessary death: “No pain felt she; / I am quite sure she felt no pain” (41-42). However, Browning’s presenting the reader with an unreliable narrator serves only to intensify the psychological effects of his unrequited love, and says nothing for the supposed convictions and yearnings of Porphyria. While Porphyria finds her way to the speaker through the symbolically oppressive weather of the outside world, the speaker kills her upon realizing not only society’s restrictions on their relationship, but Porphyria’s own unwillingness to love him fully but for the present moment. He proclaims somewhat vehemently, “Porphyria’s love: she guessed not how / Her darling one wish would be heard” (56-57). Browning presents the justifiability of the murder only through the stricken eyes of the narrator; while the poet points to social confines as the cause of the speaker’s insanity, he does not discount the narrator’s moral responsibility for the deed.The narrator perceives to some degree the selfishness of his decision, for “As a shut bud that holds a bee” (43), he limits Porphyria’s sexual freedom by ending her life. Yet in freezing the moment and liberating the two of them from social structures, he distorts the deed to a point where it appears to be a divine event foreseen even by God. In toying with Porphyria’s dead body, the narrator relates not the coldness of sudden death, nor the warmth of sitting with his love, but the blazing, untouchable serenity of enacted passion: “her cheek once more / Blushed bright beneath my burning kiss” (49). In the moment of Porphyria’s death, the existence of her heated love for the speaker appears to him to be so infallible that God cannot even intervene: “All night long we have not stirred, / And yet God has not said a word!” (59-60). Browning presents the viewpoint of a speaker educated in the divine workings of an ultimate force, yet the long-stifled yearnings of an unjustly socialized man color the intensity of the situation. In Browning’s dramatic monologue, God’s hand of judgment shifts away from the murderer himself and onto the culture that first inhibited the speaker’s rational thought.Browning’s characterization of a nameless speaker in “Porphyria’s Lover” forms an unexpectedly conclusive response towards the sensual numbness of Victorian society. While the suggested insanity of the speaker would traditionally indicate the narrator’s unreliability in a moral sense, Browning constructs the isolated scene such that the lover’s emotional internalization is not only understandable, but divinely justified. The musings and actions of this unreliable narrator serve to illustrate the consequence of society’s confines in a shockingly violent release. Through naturally flowing language, this poetic account of burning emotion within a setting of tranquil domesticity presents the all-consuming power of human sensuality in its bleakest attempt to override social structures.
“Her Darling One Wish would be Heard”: How Dramatic Monologue Illustrates Distorted Rationality in “Porphyria’s Lover” and “My Last Duchess”
Of the consequences of maintaining an obsessive nature, its ability to cloud rational judgements and encourage humanity to surrender to his darkest, innermost impulses serves as one of its most tragic aspects. Robert Browning explores this concept through his poems “Porphyria’s Lover” and “My Last Duchess.” Following the entry of Porphyria into the narrator’s cottage in “Porphyria’s Lover,” she verbally affirms her love for the him; as he believes Porphyria’s love will inevitably fail, the narrator turns to murder and necrophilia thereafter in an effort to preserve this moment for which her affection felt genuine. In a similar vein, the Duke of Ferrara at the beginning “My Last Duchess” reveals to his visitor, whose purpose is to negotiate the Duke’s marriage with another family, a portrait of his former spouse, who he had killed due to her inability to, in his mind, stay faithful and maintain affection towards him. Browning illustrates how the inherent obsessive and contradictory nature present in both narrators dismantles their sanity, encouraging them to rationalize their decisions, no matter the extent they violate morality.
Browning employs lustful, contradictory diction with dramatic monologue as the lens in “Porphyria’s Lover” to exhibit the underlying manic mentality within the narrator, and how he perceives his own crime as an ultimate testament to his love towards Porphyria. In the opening lines, the narrator describes her as having “made her smooth white shoulder bare…spread o’er all, her yellow hair,” and that she “worshipped” him (17-20, 33). The narrator’s unnerving focus on the minute details of Porphyria’s sensual behavior as she undresses characterizes her as an object to satisfy his lust, which from his perspective, she approves of. Following her verbal admission of affection to the narrator, he strangles Porphyria using her hair (41). The narrator, in support of his own personal yearning for Porphyria, turns to murder in the moment that she declares her love in an effort to bind her to himself eternally. This exemplifies the major contradiction within the narrator, in that while he is pleased that he has obtained Porphyria’s affection, he hates the possibility of her eventual feelings towards him weakening, and has chosen to preserve this ideal version of Porphyria instead of having to face that potential reality. The narrator additionally claims that this was a fate that Porphyria herself desired (57). The narrator interpreted her assertion of devotion to him as a definitive truth that it was her wish to be sealed in that instance of purity; this emphasizes how the narrator’s obsession with Porphyria has convinced him that his murder is a gesture that illustrates his love for her.
Moreover, Browning utilizes irony in “My Last Duchess” to highlight that while the Duke is unable to possess affectionate feelings towards anybody who fails to fit his ideal standard, he is incapable of quelling his obsession with them. In the initial lines, the Duke describes the painting of his former duchess as having “the depth and passion of its earnest glance” (7). While these comments initially suggest a positive appraisal, the remainder of the poem divulges that these words are ironic; they reveal the Duke’s innermost bitterness and displeasure towards this woman since she did not adequately comply to his view of perfection, and additionally illustrates how prominently she remains in his mind. The Duke presents himself as a captivating and personable individual through his eloquence (13-14). In spite of the Duke’s apparent lack of morality through the murder of his former wife, he still upholds a charming persona while defending his actions, which demonstrates his underlying internal obligation to control his world. Towards the end of the poem, the Duke claims that he “[chose] never to stoop” (43). The Duke chose not to profess his concerns and complaints to his wife in a confronting manner while she was alive as he believed that act would be beneath his standard; however, he instead chooses to communicate them passively following her death, which in reality, is further away from accommodating his standard.
The obsession both narrators have with their objects of aggression and their perceived lack of control over the situation instills within each of them a distorted sense of rationality, stimulating a desire to suspend love in its ideal moment that provides, in their minds, a just cause to take severe measures. The narrator characterizes the murder of Porphyria as a crime approved by God (60). In spite of this clearly amoral act, the narrator himself views it solely as a means of extending his love to Porphyria and preserving her in a state that he perceives as perfect; his belief that not even the highest authority categorizes the act as sinful exemplifies his distorted reality. Similarly, the Duke has turned his former duchess into a painting that he perceives as being an ideal image of her (13-15). As with the narrator’s desire to freeze Porphyria in a genuine condition, the Duke has done same by displaying the most optimal version of his former duchess, which illustrates that while he harbors resentment for the actual woman he had killed, he still maintains an obsession for his version of her ideal-self.
Through the obsessive and contract nature present in both narrators, Browning demonstrates how their skewed perception of rationality encourages them to take extreme measures in an effort to achieve perfection in their lives. The use of language and irony in “Porphyria’s Lover” and “My Last Duchess,” respectively, illustrate the underlying mental dismay that affects the narrators and the consequences that those have on the women they surround themselves with. The chief failing in both characters lies within their demand for power, a demand that drives them to take any means necessary to satisfy.
Individual against Society in A Doll’s House and Porphyria’s Lover
Browning’s dramatic monologues Porphyria’s Lover and My Last Duchess critique Victorian society’s restrictive patriarchal values which suppressed a female’s endeavors for individualism. Meanwhile, Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House condemns the pretense of an idealistic marriage within a social hierarchy through his female protagonist, Nora. Both composers ultimately demonstrate the implications of their characters’ attempts to subvert society’s expectations.
Robert Browning’s dramatic monologue, Porphyria’s Lover, challenges Victorian society’s dominant patriarchal values by critiquing society’s tendency to undermine the role of women. The 1800s in England saw a period of misogynistic values imposed upon women, resulting in the stifling of their autonomy. However, Browning subverts these gender stereotypes through his portrayal of Porphyria, who transgresses social conventions when she visits her lover at night. The pathetic fallacy of ‘The rain set early in to-night/The sullen wind was soon awake’ establishes the persona’s unstable state of mind and foreshadows the consequences of Porphyria’s independence. Furthermore, having “laid her soil’d gloves by” and “let the damp hair fall”, Browning characterizes Porphyria as a ‘fallen woman’ who was condemned by Victorian society for being unchaste. Browning asserts Porphyria’s self-determination through the use of polysyndeton in “And made her smooth white shoulder bare…And spread, o’er all, her yellow hair”, evoking a sensual atmosphere, which challenges Victorian constraints on women’s behavior. However, the repetition in “that moment she was mine, mine fair” demonstrates a role reversal, which epitomizes her lover’s objectification of Victorian women and his possessiveness. The consequences of female independence are revealed in “yellow string I wound…And strangled her”, where Porphyria’s hair, initially a symbol of her femininity, eventually silences her, exaggerating the oppression of Victorian women under patriarchal control. Browning ultimately employs the religious allusion, “And yet God has not said a word!” to ironically underline the acceptability of her lover’s actions, unlike Porphyria’s sexual autonomy which was condemned by the patriarchal society. Thus, Browning condemns the suppression of women’s sexuality in Victorian England through examining Porphyria’s unconventional conduct.
Meanwhile, Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House transgresses Victorian expectations of bourgeois women’s subservience towards their husbands through Nora’s failure to adhere to her ascribed domestic role. The male domination that restrained a female’s self-determination is established in Torvald’s patronizing animal imagery, “my little lark…squirrel”, reflecting the preconceived inferiority of Victorian women. This is reinforced in Ibsen’s stage direction of Nora “playing with buttons, not looking at him”, where her childish frivolity reflects her subservient role in her relationship, and demonstrates the patriarchal dominance of late 19th century society. Furthermore, Torvald’s condescending language towards Nora, “Just like a woman!…you know what I think about that. No debt! No borrowing!” exemplifies society’s presumption of a woman’s fiscal irresponsibility. The assumed dependence of women in this era is further epitomized in Nora’s friend Mrs Linde’s generalization, “A wife can’t borrow without her husband’s permission”. Yet Nora transcends social expectations by “working and earning money. Almost like a man” to repay the loan, the simile signifying her subversion of traditional gender roles, which mirrors Porphyria in Browning’s poem. The frenetic tarantella dance along with Ibsen’s stage directions “[Nora’s] hair falls…she pays no attention” symbolize growing independence and reflects her desire to liberate herself from societal expectations. Thus, Ibsen condemns the suppression of female conduct and emphasizes the need to overcome restrictive patriarchal values within society.
Browning’s dramatic monologue My Last Duchess also critiques society’s constraints by examining the consequences of a female individual’s subversion of social pretenses and hierarchy. The Married Woman’s Property Act in 1882 allowed women to retain their belongings after divorce, subsequently exposing the façade of marriage as women abandoned their marital duties. The diminished importance of women is established through the personal pronoun “my last duchess painted on the wall”, where the artwork symbolizes the Duke’s objectification of his late wife, undermining her existence to mere aesthetics. Through the parenthetical aside, “(since none puts by/The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)”, Browning exemplifies the Duke’s excessive hubris towards his envoy when presenting his deceased wife as an object to validate his social status. The Duke’s disapproval of his wife’s metaphorical “spot of joy…too soon made glad, Too easily impressed” epitomizes his patriarchal condemnation of her inherent geniality, which breaches the class boundaries Victorian women were expected to embody. Furthermore, Browning delineates the Duchess’ undermining of the Duke’s social position through the symbolism in “She liked whate’er she looked on, and her looks went everywhere”, with the negative connotations foreshadowing her downfall. The truncated sentences, “This grew; I gave commands” reflects the Duke’s autocratic behavior, and alludes to the dire consequences of the Duchess’ failure to fulfill her role within the social hierarchy. Browning concludes the monologue with a mythical allusion, “Notice Neptune, though,/Taming a sea-horse”, where the Roman god’s dominance over a fragile creature foreshadows the Duke’s authority over his next wife. Therefore, Browning condemns the suppression of women in a class-conscious society through the repercussions of the Duchess’ unorthodox behavior, and encourages greater female autonomy.
However, unlike the submission of the Duchess in Browning’s dramatic monologue, Ibsen denounces the pretense of marriage within social hierarchy which suppresses autonomy and advocates for a woman’s subversion of her domestic duties to strengthen her identity. While Nora’s costuming as a “little Capri fishergirl” represents youth and sensuality, conventional for 19th century women, the stage direction of “dancing more and more wildly” symbolizes her desire for liberation from her marriage facade. Nora’s stage directions as she secretively “puts the macaroons in her pocket and wipes her mouth” demonstrates her forbidden consumption of sweets which signifies her wish for independence within a restrictive marriage. Furthermore, Nora realizes the pretense of her marriage, epitomized in the symbolic “Changing. No more fancy dress”, where the clothing motif reveals the subversion of social expectations leading to her empowerment, unlike the Duchess who fails to liberate herself from societal confinements. Nora’s epiphany that “I’m your dolly-wife, just as I used to be Daddy’s dolly baby” exemplifies her recognition of social hierarchy that objectifies the female individual and restricts her autonomy. Nora ultimately abandons her maternal and marital duties through her use of personal pronouns, “I think that first I’m a human being, just like you” which delineates her self-determination to strengthen her female identity. The final slamming of the door symbolizes Nora’s emancipation from domestic duties in her confining marriage. Therefore, Ibsen challenges the societal restrictions enforced on females through Nora’s individualistic pursuit of her ideals.
Both Browning and Ibsen expose the consequences of their characters’ individualistic attempts to subvert social expectations. While Browning shocks his audience with the unpredictable consequences of his female individuals in their intentions to transgress female propriety and ascribed domestic roles, Ibsen reveals the empowerment that women obtain after abandoning social mores.
Criminal or Victim: an Analysis of Victimhood in ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ and ‘The Laboratory’
In the case of Robert Browning’s two poems ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ and ‘The Laboratory’, victimhood is complex – in ‘Porphyria’s Lover’, the victim is very clearly Porphyria, but in the case of ‘The Laboratory’, whether there actually is a victim or not is much more debatable.
In ‘Porphyria’s Lover’, the lover “strangled her”, and in his way of killing her, she is undeniably the victim. However, in ‘The Laboratory’, no murder actually ever takes place. The entire poem is plotting, structured in quatrains with a regular rhyme scheme, and although this arguably emphasizes the narrator’s intent on the murder as well as her calculation, there ends up being no actual victim of her crime – only intended ones. However, the narrator attempts to justify her actions and makes it appear as if she is a victim. “They believe my tears flow / while they laugh, laugh at me.” The epizeuxis of “laugh” emphasizes not her malice, but that of her intended victims – and through this presentation it can be argued that the narrator of ‘The Laboratory’ is actually the true victim.
However, in the two texts, perhaps the suggested victims are not the only victims represented in the two poems. For example, in ‘Porphyria’s Lover’, she “kneeled” to warm the cottage for her lover and Browning writes that “she loved me.” The pronoun “she” is active, but “me” is passive as the love is not returned. When her lover murders her, she is left staring up at him in “worship”, immortalized in her love. Since her lover is deviant (due to his criminal nature) but not in prison, but in isolation, he is likely from an upper-class family as in the Victorian era if an upper-class family had a deviant family member they could simply send them away to live in isolation. But the way Porphyria does everything for him implies she is like a servant, lower-class, and this is emphasized by how he kills her with her own “yellow” hair. Yellow typically connotes wealth as it is associated with gold, so in turn could suggest a connotation of the upper-class. Through this description Browning could be presenting how the bourgeoisie abuse the lower classes, and Porphyria becomes a victim of classist society, and Browning shows how lower classes are also victims to Victorian society.
Although the implied antagonist in ‘The Laboratory’ is plotting murder, she could hold some status of a victim. It is interesting that in ‘Porphyria’s Lover’, the lover, an upper-class male, is able to commit his crimes but the likely lower-class female narrator of ‘The Laboratory’ is unable to. This suggests that the narrator of ‘The Laboratory’ is unable to commit her crimes because she is a female in a patriarchal society, thus being completely powerless, and perhaps is a victim of class like Porphyria. Although her criminality is undeniable, the fact that she is so easily betrayed by a man and replaced with other women emphasizes how she is a victim of her own patriarchal society; through this, Browning also suggests that it is women who are victims as they are at the hands of these patriarchal societies and so, contextually, would have been considered less than men.
Porphyria’s status as a victim is emphasized through her lover’s success in possessing her. It is ironic that the title of the poem is ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ as the possessive “-s” implies ownership whilst in the end it is Porphyria’s lover who ends up possessing her. Through killing her in her moment of “worship”, she is objectified forever and is owned, in this sense, by her lover completely. However, in ‘The Laboratory’, there is no actual possession. The narrator is unable to possess the men or the two women as she never kills them. Although, her plotting is driven by the fact she is jealous; she no longer holds any ownership over the man and wants to do so again – and realizes the only way she can own him as well as get justice would be to kill him and the two other women, but she is restricted by her gender and class, shown through how she describes herself as a “minion”. Her powerlessness is emphasized by how she goes to “pray God in” – she has no power and can only rely on God – so she cannot possess him or the two women so they ultimately cannot be victims.
The psyche of the two narrators of their respective dramatic monologues complicates the idea of who the victim is. In late Victorian times, criminals were actually thought to be mentally ill as it was ridiculous to think that crimes could be committed by regular, sane people. So Browning presents both characters as mentally unstable – the narrator of ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ is narcissistic and appears unstable, shown through the fact that in order to keep Porphyria’s lover forever, he murders her; he also sees her love as worship, which suggests he could likely be psychotic. In ‘The Laboratory’, the narrator is obsessive – she is so dedicated to her plot through her obsessive mental state that she sees it as the only solution for justice. So in this way, both criminals are victims of their own psyches rather than a crime against them.
To conclude, in crime writing both criminals and victims are commonly present, but the line between criminal and victim can blur, shown through the presentation of supposed criminals and victims in Browning’s ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ and ‘The Laboratory’.
Love and Its Corruption: Never the Time and the Place, Porphyria’s Lover and Andrea del Sarto
In both Porphyria’s Lover and Andrea del Sarto, Robert Browning explores the notions of love and its capacity to corrupt an individual’s character and potential through his signature diegetic form; the dramatic monologue. While the form of these two poems is based around an implied audience, the primary agent and core subject matter is the narrator, rather than the subjects they speak on. The form itself requires that the reader complete the dramatic scene from within, through the use of inference and imagination, using the clues provided by Browning’s narrators in regard to their obsessions and preoccupations. In a differing manner, Never the Time and the Place varies in metrical poetic structure, and consists of both iambs and anapaests, combined by Browning with the varying indentations and use of enjambment to create a sense of the environment present as being a space of alterity.
Along with the aforementioned alterity, Never the Time and the Place establishes the concept of the intransient nature of love and its spacio-temporal limitations upon the narrator, doing so within the title (and first line of the poem) itself. The negative adverb of time “never”, when used as the first word in the poem, highlights the frustration of the narrator on the nature of his love that is to be explored. The epexegetic conjunction “and” is used by Browning to connote the inseparable nature of space and time, strengthening the totality of which the two are impossible to experience in tandem, and the concluding anapaestic foot “and the place” rushes rhythmically, indicating the desire of the narrator to speak upon the “place” in question. After it is revealed to be a house he lives in with his lover within the liminal spatiality of the dream, this rush illuminates the narrator’s fixation upon experiencing the pleasures of a love that is disallowed to him in waking consciousness. The paratactic hyphenations used by Browning following “This path” and “This May” suggest the inherent hesitation of the narrator in divulging details of the dream, due to his awareness of its transient nature and its inevitable conclusion, forcing his return to the reality of life without his lover. Once the narrator enters the world of the dream, the environment is described by Browning in such a manner so as to indicate it as a force conspiring against the lovers. The pejorative descriptions of the “rain” and “wind” as “hostile” and having “malice”, depict the natural environment as a malign and malevolent entity, providing an existential perspective of the universe itself preventing the love he wishes to attain from being fulfilled in reality. A similar breakdown in cosmic harmony is used by Browning in Porphyria’s Lover with the “sullen wind” that “tore the elm-tops down” and “vex[es] the lake”, a personification of the environment as a destructive force. Similarly destructive traits are noted within Porphyria herself, however, with the incendiary imagery of “blaze up” and “warm” indicating the narrator’s perception of the damage being caused by his lover.
Unlike the contriving universe of Never the Time and the Place, Porphyria’s Lover documents a unique barrier to love that is similarly insurmountable; the jealousy of the narrator. The title of the poem itself adumbrates this concept with the use of the apostrophe of possession, and is reiterated throughout the piece. Combined with the preponderance of the first person pronouns “me” and “my”, the forceful demand for Porphyria to “give herself to me forever” is used by Browning to draw attention to the narrator’s egotistical nature, and his desire for total and unwavering commitment from his lover. Whilst demanding such unequivocal love and loyalty, the narrator remains solely focused on the physical form of Porphyria, rather than deeper emotional or mental connections, evidenced by repetition of her “yellow hair” and commenting upon her “smooth white shoulder bare”. Further to this, Browning employs a syntactical hierarchy when the narrator references that “she put my arm around her waist” in order to contextualize the physical connection of the pair with the possessive disposition of the narrator. Dissimilar to this, the eponymous narrator of Andrea del Sarto is devoid of the same capacity or willingness to exercise control upon his wife. His comment to “bear with me for once” is used by Browning to imply to the reader that the narrator is in fact submissive within the relationship, as opposed to the dominance of the narrator in Porphyria’s Lover. However, the two are united in their shared experience of relational frustration, yet it is addressed in starkly distinct manners. Whilst the narrator in Porphyria’s Lover opts to ensure his ultimate possession of Porphyria through ending her life, Andrea’s remark in iambic pentameter “So free we seem, so fettered fast we are!” is used by Browning to allude to his acceptance of the fleeting nature of time within his relational dynamic, and emphasized through the use of the exclamation mark.
Much like Andrea del Sarto, the concept of temporality as a force working in opposition to the narrator in question is explored in Never the Time and the Place. The failure of the narrator to grasp and operate within the limits of time with confidence is explored in the three-line series “Do I hold the past / Thus firm and fast / yet doubt if the Future hold I can?”. The effect is achieved structurally with the third line, which does not feature the two metrical feet with two iambs and an anapaest of the first two lines. Instead, the third line incorporates tetrameter, along with a syntactical inversion. The combination of these devices is employed by Browning in order to create a disjunctive reality for the speaker, as well as to undermine his confidence in operating within the temporality of waking reality. Instead, he yearns for the liminal spatiality, free from the bounds of time that can finally unite him with his lover; death. The euphemism for death, “sleep”, is depicted by Browning as being a position of positivity for the narrator through the use of the tricolon of adjectives within the semantic field of comfort, “close, safe, warm”. The narrator of Porphyria’s Lover experiences a comparable relational harmony with his lover in death, as instead of the disjunctive pronouns of “I” and “she” from earlier in the poem, the narrator unites himself and Porphyria with the inclusive pronoun “we”. Whilst objectively depriving both himself and his lover of a functioning relational dynamic and the emotional and physical pleasures it affords, Browning uses such pronouns to suggest that the narrator has reached his moment of true connection with Porphyria, despite the process of culminating at this point being imbued with violence and domination of personal agency.