Historical Context in Porphyria's Lover

Historical Context Examples in Porphyria's Lover:

Porphyria's Lover 3

"shoulder bare..."   (Porphyria's Lover)

Porphyria's overt sexuality, communicated by her bare shoulder and the “withdrawing” of her clothing, would have been shocking to a Victorian audience. Women’s sexuality was severely repressed at this time and seen as abhorrent, sinful behavior not fit for polite society. This agency moves the poem away from romantic themes to a more modern consideration of sexuality and gender relations.

"gay feast..."   (Porphyria's Lover)

The adjective “gay” means bright or lively, joyful, and full of mirth. For the middle class, Victorian parties were opportunities to make social connections, maintain relationships, and gain social power. That Porphyria leaves this happy party in order to go to her lover is a sign of her social deviance; she abandons this social ritual because her passion and love for this man are more important. The speaker sees this action as a type of weakness: her passion is so great that even her obligations to society cannot “restrain her.” He paints Porphyria as a wild, uncivilized woman who is at the mercy of her passion.

"I listened..."   (Porphyria's Lover)

Much like Browning’s famous poem The Last Duchess, “Porphyria’s Lover” takes the form of a dramatic monologue. A dramatic monologue is a poem in which an imagined narrator describes a particular situation or series of events and inadvertently reveals aspects of their own character. The speaker in a dramatic monologue is generally suspicious as they are not immediately forthcoming with aspects of their personality or actions.