Character Analysis in Porphyria's Lover
Porphyria’s Lover: The speaker—also the titular lover—sets the tone of the poem and sheds his perspective on all the poem’s events. In some ways, the poem, which takes the form of a dramatic monologue, explores the speaker’s psyche more accurately than it does the world around him. And a psychotic psyche it is. Much of the poem’s chilling effect derives from the way we are forced to closely witness the speaker’s twisted obsession with Porphyria, as well as his devilish decision-making.
Porphyria: Porphyria is portrayed as a beautiful young woman with fair skin and long fair hair. She has some sort of romantic relationship with the speaker. However, because we can only encounter Porphyria from the speaker’s biased and twisted perspective, we never really know who she is. Her name comes from porphyria, a medical condition in which the pigment of the red blood cells builds up, causing a number of symptoms, the most obvious of which is a reddening of the skin. Historians suspect that porphyria gave rise to the legends of vampires and werewolves, a tradition Browning likely drew on in his writing of the poem.