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Last Updated on September 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 347

The Speaker

Rossetti is the author of the collection of poems The House of Life. The collection is clearly based on Rossetti's own life, and the speaker in the poems could be interpreted as a version of Rossetti himself. Reading the poems through this lens, one can infer that Rossetti is a man of passions first and foremost. His writing style and choice of subject reflect a man who is deeply in touch with intimacy and longing. As the collection progresses, the poems reveal a heavy sense of sadness and loss that does not truly seem to be resolved—perhaps mirroring the real life loss of Rossetti's beloved wife. The speaker (and perhaps Rossetti as well) appears to reflect on this sadness and grow inwardly, as he questions life, death, religion, and meaning itself.

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The Wife

Elizabeth Siddal was the wife of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Tragically, she died two years into her marriage with Rossetti. Elizabeth appears to be the inspiration for the wife in The House of Life. The speaker describes his deep passion for his wife in intimate detail. She is depicted as an equally loving and passionate woman with lovely, golden hair. The description of the wife and her abrupt passing conjure an image of a wonderfully bright and lovely person whose light can not be extinguished by death, but rather, passes into the hearts of those who loved her.

The Lover

Jane Morris was the mistress of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the wife of William Morris, Rossetti's colleague. The second lover, who appears to be based on Jane, seems to provide a renewed sense of passion and intimacy in the speaker's life after the death of his wife. In real life, Jane was the artistic Rossetti's muse and inspiration for dozens of passion-filled sonnets. Her relationship to Rossetti as developed in his poetry is clearly complicated, as she finds herself torn between being a wife to William Morris and a lover to Rossetti. She is described as an enigmatic and mysterious beauty who defied traditional standards of beauty and ushered in new perceptions of non-aryan beauty.

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