The action of “Porphyria’s Lover” unfolds through the recounting of the events of one night— culminating in the murder of Porphyria—by the speaker of the poem. Because the story is not retold to an audience but seems rather to be replayed in the mind of Porphyria’s lover, it is somewhat inaccurate to refer to him as the poem’s “speaker,” but most commentators refer to him as such. Browning masterfully builds up tension in the poem by gradually revealing to the reader, through details provided by the speaker, what has taken place. As it also becomes clear that the narrator is mad, it is up to the reader to decide to what extent to believe the speaker’s statements. The poem is a dramatic monologue told by Porphyria’s lover (who is never named in the poem), and like other Browning monologues, what is learned about this person is to be gained not merely from what he says about himself but from what he does not say and from a sense that his depiction of himself may not be completely trustworthy. The speaker describes how his lover comes to him one night and he kills her, and in doing so he preserves their love forever. And while his portrayal of the situation is designed to show that his actions are justified, it becomes apparent that he is not so certain of this. In this poem Browning offers a complex psychological study of an insane man who uses reason and argument to explain and make sense of his actions.
(The entire section is 2424 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Porphyria's Lover Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!