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In what part of How do I love thee? by Elizabeth Browning can you tell what the tone is...

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js17 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 19, 2009 at 8:22 AM via web

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In what part of How do I love thee? by Elizabeth Browning can you tell what the tone is and what impact does the tone have on the poem?  Jessie

here is the poem: 

Sonnets from the Portuguese

"How Do I Love Thee?" Sonnet 43 XLIII

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

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mkcapen1 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted December 19, 2009 at 8:54 AM (Answer #1)

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In the poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning the second line sets the tone.  When the poet says "I love thee to the depths and height" the reader begins to see how deeply and strong her love is.  The poem is one that demonstrates the mood/tone of intimacy (the close connection between one person to another), passion (the romantic dimension of a relationship), and love (the completion of the relationship). 

Elizabeth Barrett Browning lived and wrote during an era when women were a silenced minority (the Victorian Era).  Yet, it was an era of mystique and romanticism.  The pen was often their only means for self-expression.  Unlike the women of her day, Elizabeth was schooled, at home, and therefore had the advantage of education.   Elizabeth was addicted to morphine due to a very painful illness.  Her love, Robert Browning, was also a poet and writer, and the great love of her life.

 

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 19, 2009 at 9:10 AM (Answer #2)

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I would submit that the tone of love and emotional intimacy is set from the opening line.  One of the most recognized lines in literature, Browning's opening helps to convey the tone of emotional connection and linking to another.  This impact of full immersion within another resonates throughout the poem as it seeks to explore how much one is devoted to another.  All of Browning's imagery is a development of this idea, a tone that seeks to articulate that which is impossible to fully articulate. Consider the tonal challenges:  How does one express that which cannot be expressed?  How can an individual quantify that which is unquantifiable?  This is the tone that is struck from the opening lines and is substantiated throughout the poem.

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