Porphyria's Lover Topics for Further Study
by Robert Browning

Porphyria's Lover book cover
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Topics for Further Study

(Poetry for Students)

Compare and contrast “Porphyria’s Lover” with another of Browning’s dramatic monologues, such as “Johannes Agricola” or “My Last Duchess.” What similar patterns do you see in the writing? What differs in their tone and style?

In “Porphyria’s Lover,” what clues suggest that the speaker’s account is unreliable, that what he says cannot be true? What would make you not trust his recounting of what happened?

Do some research into the psychology behind crimes of passions. Based on your research, are crimes of passion only committed by those who are mentally unstable, or are “normal” people also capable of such acts?

Do some research into the way modern U.S. courts evaluate sexually-motivated crimes. Explain how a modern court would address the crime and criminal that this poem presents. What do you consider would be a just punishment for Porphyria’s lover? Explain your answer.

Assume the identity of the speaker and write the defense you would use at your trial to explain the events that led up to the murder.

Do you think there is evidence in the poem to suggest that Porphyria is a vampire? If so, what is it? If not, why do you think this is not a reasonable interpretation of the poem?

Research the treatment of the criminally insane in England in the 1860s and their treatment in the United States in 2002. Write a compare and contrast essay that describes how the speaker in this poem would be treated in these different times and places.