Robert Browning: Poems

Life For Love in Browning's Poetry: A Fair Trade?

Robert Browning wrote his poetry during the British Industrial Revolution, a tumultuous time in which society was going through major cultural and lifestyle changes. The modernization of England led to the distribution of newspapers and other literature that thrived on the scandals of others. This in turn contributed to the Victorians being constantly desensitized to occurrences that would previously have been deemed highly outrageous. This general downward spiral of morality inspired Browning to publish poems that were more provocative than real life news, which resulted in some of his best work. He sought to enlighten the public about their newly acquired numbness to immorality. His poems were not solely for shock value, however, as he also managed to pioneer some fascinating themes in his work. One theme, which is both intriguing and shocking, is the idea of murdering one’s lover so that their love will last forever. In Robert Browning’s poems, My Last Duchess and Porphyria’s Lover, the male speaker of each is relating his account of the murder of his respective loved one, and despite an apparent difference in motives, both men achieve their goals of eternal and “exclusive possession” (Crowell 60).

The protagonist of My Last...

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