Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 204
• Research the critical receptions of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her husband, Robert. To what extent do biographers and critics use the Brownings’ marriage to better understand the poetry produced by this famous couple? To what degree do modern readers think one poet influenced the work of the other?
• “Sonnet XXIX” is one of the forty-four sonnets that comprise the Sonnets from the Portuguese. Compose a sonnet sequence of four or five poems in which you trace a speaker’s emotional or mental activity as Elizabeth does in her sonnet sequence.
• Research the Victorian era to learn about the book-buying public: Who bought books? Specifically, who bought books of verse? Was reading verse strictly for the upper classes, or did the new middle class discover this pleasure as well? Then, see if you can draw any conclusions about Victorian readers and how they responded to women poets: were such poets received with enthusiasm, skepticism, or both?
• Read Rudolph Besier’s 1930 play The Barretts of Wimpole Street, which dramatizes the romance between Elizabeth and Robert Browning. What liberties, if any, does Besier take with the known biographical facts? Is the Elizabeth of Besier’s play seem like the kind of person who could compose “Sonnet XXIX?”
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