Robert Browning: Poems

Robert Browning and the Representation of Desire

The idea of desire is represented in several different forms in the poetry of Robert Browning. Certain poems communicate a selfless brand of desire expressed by the speaker, particularly directed towards a lover. Other poems, often directed toward a lover, embody a more selfish desire. The interpretation of desire within Browning’s poetry is a process that requires the ability to look beyond the surface. Although some of his poetry can be easily appreciated through a quick, shallow reading, the more subtle nuances that require a bit of further study are worth the extra time and effort.

In particular, in Any Wife to Any Husband, published in 1855, the speaker is, as the title suggests, a wife, and she is speaking to, or more often about, her husband. The poem begins with a sort of lament that she will not always be with him, as they will someday be separated by death. She then expresses a desire not to ‘fade’. This word can and should be interpreted as having two meanings. The most obvious meaning is that the wife desires to keep her beauty for the sake of her husband, so that he might always find her attractive. A deeper meaning betrays her anxiety about death. She wants beauty so that her husband might find her lovely, and she...

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