Victorian English society had many "ills," among them a world changing from rural and bucolic to increasingly commercial, a widening gulf between the affluent and the poor, an embrace of a patriarchal family structure that marginalized women, and a focus on "respectable" behavior that required excessive formality and placed a taboo on sexuality.
Tennyson, arguably the more famous of the two poets, wrote prolifically on domestic subjects such as arranged marriages, social climbing, and the fact that women were largely denied access to higher education or roles outside wife and mother. In "Maud," the speaker obsesses about an absent woman that he objectifies; she is of a social station above his own, and in the poem, his feelings veer from dislike and suspicion to a fixation on her beauty. "The Princess" offers conflicting views on the education of women, acknowledging that progress for women is positive and inevitable, but predicting that it will be an uphill battle for women in a misogynistic world.
Browning, too, took on subjects relating to class stratification and women; "My Last Duchess," set in Renaissance Italy, speaks of a duke who does away with his young wife when her flirtatious behavior disgraces him. He is especially disgruntled that she has squandered the social value of his family's longtime social prominence, and she is quickly replaced. Another poem, "Porphyria's Lover," explores the idea of sex as a transgressive act that ends with Porphyria's murder at the hands of her lover.