I Think of Thee (Sonnet 29) Characters

I Think of Thee (Sonnet 29) Character List

Speaker

Like the speaker in the rest of the poems in Browning’s collection titled Sonnets from the Portuguese, the speaker here is no mere fictionalized version of the author, but the real thing. The collection is a cycle of sonnets written not for the purpose of publication but necessitated to a large degree by the secret circumstances of her relationship with the younger man whom she would eventually marry. The poems are a construction of a love affair developing under a variety of tremendous pressures. This particular entry in the series highlights what is almost certainly the most intense kind of pressure weighing down any romantic relationships: how the need to maintain secrecy inhibits the possibilities for physical contact.

“Thee”

The “thee” whom the speaker—Elizabeth Barrett—expresses in inability to stop thinking about is another poet, Robert Browning. Browning’s identity may perhaps explain to some why a love poem seems to be so filled with metaphor and symbol rather than direct address of feelings. Elizabeth is writing not just to express her love but to impress him. Like two athletes deeply in love who nevertheless make every physical exertion an athletic competition, the two lovers here are also lovers of poetry and the poem exists on a second level as a concert attempted to dazzle with her literary talent.

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