How does the mood of the poem change over the course of Browning's Porphyria's Lover?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Porphyria's Lover is typical of Robert Browning's dramatic monologues in that the poems reveal as much about the dramatic narrators as about the putative subjects of the poem. Several other poems by Browning, of which the best known is probably "My Last Duchess", start with what appears to be a narrator describing his love for a woman. The opening of "Porphyria's Lover" is foreboding, with the weather mirroring the narrator's mood of despair. When Porphyria first appears, the mood changes to tender and romantic:

When glided in Porphyria; straight
She shut the cold out and the storm,
And kneeled and made the cheerless grate
Blaze up, and all the cottage warm;

but the lover's jealousy eventually prevails, and the violence foreshadowed by the opening surfaces:

Made my heart swell, and still it grew
While I debated what to do.
That moment she was mine, mine, fair,
Perfectly pure and good: I found
A thing to do, and all her hair
In one long yellow string l wound
Three times her little throat around,
And strangled her.

The mood of peace at the end, with the narrator sitting with the corpse of Porphyria and the voice of God (and perhaps weather) quiet, adds an eerie twist to the poem.

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