Elizabeth Barrett Browning 's Sonnets From The Portuguese Essay

Elizabeth Barrett Browning 's Sonnets From The Portuguese Essay

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem, Sonnets from the Portuguese: “XIII” considers the traditional gender roles in poetry at the time, where the woman is portrayed as a silent and pure figure to admire and long for by the man and reverses it. In “XIII”, Browning writes about the love which the female speaker feels towards the man, but is unable to express. Interestingly throughout the poem, Browning uses archaic terms such as “Thou” and “Wilt” which would not have been in widespread usage at the time. This could be an allusion to Shakespeare and his writings, when many of those words had high usage, symbolising that she is continuing the tradition of writing love poetry, which has been done for centuries in a male dominated scene. Browning could have also used these words for dramatic effect in the poem.

The first quatrain of Browning’s octave follows the standard ‘abba’ rhyming structure of Petrarchan Sonnets. The first word in the poem, “AND”, indicates to the reader that this is not the beginning of a conversation between the man and the woman but rather a continuation of an ongoing discussion while also reminding the reader that this sonnet is part of a series: “AND wilt thou have me fashion into speech/ The love I bear thee, finding words enough”. The speaker asks a rhetorical question of her lover; if he wishes her to express her love in words, when they both know that to do such a thing would be improper. This concept is reinforced in the next two lines: “And hold the torch out, while the winds are rough”. The holding of the torch could represent the offer of the speaker to express her love to the man; the torch seen as a metaphor for illuminating and revealing her love to the man. “while the winds are rough” is possibly a c...


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...ost dauntless, voiceless fortitude,/ Lest one touch of this heart convey its grief”. These final words confirm the speaker’s need for silence and that the man must understand her love for him without her speaking of it. Otherwise, she will only convey the grief she feels about the love and the vulnerability that comes with revealing her love, which she cannot express openly.

Elizabeth Browning’s Poem Sonnets from the Portuguese: “XIII” is a poem which reverses the gender roles traditionally displayed in poetry at the period of writing and grapples with the issue of accepted and appropriate behaviour and manner in courtship and love at the time, along with the role and behaviour a woman was expected to display during her life. Love for the poet is a revelation, both spiritually and physically. Something which when found becomes part of the very fibre of their being.

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning 's Sonnets From The Portuguese Essay

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