Poetry

Porphyria's Lover

Robert Browning, one of the most famous English poets of the Victorian era, wrote “Porphyria’s Lover” in 1836. Browning was well known for his dramatic monologues—psychologically revealing character studies written from the first-person perspective. Many of Browning’s best known dramatic monologues, including “My Last Duchess” and “Porphyria’s Lover,” explore the minds of insane, violent characters. “Porphyria’s Lover” is told from the perspective of a man who meets his lover on a stormy night. As the poem unfolds, events take an unexpected turn, and it becomes increasingly clear that the speaker’s telling of the story is skewed. Much of the poem’s tension arises from the chasm between the reality of the events and the speaker’s unreliable account of them. The poem serves as a fascinating document of the Victorian era in Britain, revealing the grotesque side of society’s wary preoccupation with sexual desire. The speaker dramatizes tense power dynamics between the sexes and inadvertently challenges the strictly enforced gendered roles of this time period. With its elegant style, suspenseful tone, and sharp social insight, “Porphyria’s Lover” is a chilling classic.

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