How Do I Love Thee? by Elizabeth Barrett Browning Analysis Essay Example | GraduateWay (2023)

The poem is also titled Sonnet CHILI from Sonnets From the Portuguese. Elizabeth Barrett was born in Durham England in 1806, the first daughter of affluent parents who owned sugar plantations in Jamaica. She was home-schooled and read voraciously in history, philosophy and literature. Young Elizabeth learned Hebrew in order to read original Bible texts and she learned Greek in order to dead original Greek drama and philosophy.

She began writing poems when she was 1 2 years old, though she did not publish her first collection for another twenty years. Elizabeth Barrett developed a serious respiratory ailment by age 15 and a horse riding accident shortly thereafter left her with a serious spinal injury. Both health problems remained with her all of her life. In 1 828 her mother died and four years later the family business faltered and her father sold the Durham estate and moved the family to a coastal town. He was stern, protective, and even tyrannical and forbid any of his children to array.

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(Video) Critical Analysis of "How Do I Love Thee" : Elizabeth Barrett Browning as a poet of Love

In 1833 Elizabeth published her first work, a translation of Prometheus Bound by the Greek dramatist Aeschylus. A few years later the family moved to London. Her father began sending Elizabethan younger brothers and sisters to Jamaica to help with the family business. Elizabeth was distressed because she openly opposed slavery in Jamaica and on the family plantations and because she did not want her siblings sent away. In 1838 Elizabeth Barrett wrote and published The Seraphim and Other Poems.

The collection took the form of a classical Greek tragedy and expressed her deep Christian entitlements. Shortly thereafter, Elizabethan poor health prompted her to move to Italy, accompanied by her dear brother Edward, whom she referred to as “Brow. ” Unfortunately he drowned a year later in a sailing accident and Elizabeth returned to London, seriously ill, emotionally broken, and hopelessly grief-stricken. She became reclusive for the next five years, confining herself to her bedroom. She continued to write poetry, however, and published a collection in 1844 simply titled, Poems. As also published in the united States with an introduction by Edgar Allan Poe. In one of the poems she raised one of the works of Robert Browning which gained his attention. He wrote back to her, expressing his admiration for Poems. Over the next twenty months Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning exchanged 574 letters. An admiration, respect, and love for each other grew and flourished. In 1845 Robert Browning sent Elizabeth a telegram which read, “l love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett. I do, as say, love these books with all my heart – and I love you too. A few months later the two met and fell in love. Inspired by her love for Robert Browning Elizabeth Barrett wrote the 44 love memos which were collected in Sonnets From the Portuguese and which were eventually published in 1850. Her growing love for Robert and her ability to express her emotions in the sonnets and love poems allowed Elizabeth to escape from the oppression of her father and the depression of her recluse. Her father strongly opposed the relationship so she kept her love affair a secret as long as possible.

The couple eloped in 1846 and her father never forgave her or spoke to her. Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her husband, Robert, went to Pisa, Italy and soon settled in Florence where she spent the est. of her life, with occasional visits to London. Soon Elizabethan health improved enough to be able to give birth to the couple’s only child, Robert. In 1850 she published Sonnets From the Portuguese. Some have speculated that the title was chosen to hide the personal nature of the sonnets and to imply that the collection was a translation of earlier works.

However, Roberts pet name for Elizabeth was “my little Portuguese,” a reflection on Elizabethan darker, Mediterranean complexion, possibly inherited from the families Jamaican ties. While living in Florence, Elizabeth Barrett Browning published 3 ore considerable works. She addressed Italian political topics and some other unpopular subjects, such as slavery, child labor, male domination, and a woman’s right to intellectual freedom. Though her popularity decreased as a result of these choices, she was read and heard and recognized throughout Europe.

(Video) 'Sonnet 43' by Elizabeth Barrett Browning Poetry Analysis

She died in Florence in 1861. Sonnet CHILI, “How Do Love Thee? ” is probably Elizabeth Barrett Borrowing’s most popular love poem. It is heartfelt, romantic, loving, elegant, and simple. It is also quite memorable. The love poem starts with the question, “How Do I Love Thee? ” and proceeds to count he ways. Her Christian spirituality testifies that she loves Robert “to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach. ” She then professes seven more ways that she loves Robert. Her “passion put to use in my old grief” refers to the depth of her former despair.

The love that “l seemed to lose with my lost saints” refers to the lost loves of her mother and her brother. The love poem ends with the declaration that time and death will not diminish her love for Robert because “if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death. ” Repetition – The repetition of “How do I Love Thee” emphasizes the intensity of the speaker’s love. Theme – The poem’s theme can be found in the final six lines: True love overcomes all and is eternal in nature. The poem is a sonnet, a 14-line poem written in iambic pentameter.

Although it does not follow the precise rhyme scheme of an Italian sonnet, the poem’s structure follow the form of an Italian sonnet, consisting of an octet – the first eight lines, and the sestets, the final six lines. The end of the octet is called the Volta, meaning the turning point. In the octet the poem’s speaker lists the depth of her love through hyperbole, or exaggeration, a fitting poetic device or a love poem. The sestets discusses a more mature love, a love that transcends all, including death. “How Do I Love Thee? ” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning Line 1 How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. The speaker poses the question that’s going to drive the entire poem: how does she love ‘thee,” the man she loves? She decides to count the ways in which she loves him throughout the rest of the poem. (For an explanation of why we think the speaker is female and the beloved is male, see the “Speaker” section. ) Now, this all might seem pretty straightforward ? after al, the line is simply “How do love thee? Let me count the ways. ” But we’d like to point out that deciding to “count” the ways you love someone does seem a bit, well, calculating. The speaker’s initial decision to count types of love is intriguing.

For her, love is best expressed by making a list, and that just seems weird to us. However, since she wants to “count the ways” – and she seems to have forgotten the actual numbers ? we’ll try to help her out by putting them back in! As you read on, we’ll keep a count of Ways of Loving. Lines 2-4 love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight For the ends of Being and ideal Grace. The speaker describes her love using a spatial metaphor: her love extends to the “depth” and “breadth” and ‘height” that her soul can “reach. It’s interesting to think of love as a three-dimensional substance filling the container of her soul. Notice also that her love extends exactly as far as her soul in all directions – maybe her love and her soul are the same thing. Cool, eh? The next part of the sonnet is a little bit trickier: “when feeling out of sight / For the ends of Being and ideal Grace” (3-4). This is an ambiguous passage, but we like to interpret this as the speaker ‘feeling for” the edges of her “Being” that are just “out of sight” – just the way that you try to feel for a glass of water on your bedside table that’s just beyond your peripheral vision.

(Video) How Do I Love Thee? Elizabeth Barrett Browning

As she’s trying to feel the full extent of her soul, she realizes that she loves “thee” in every part of it – to the “depth and breadth and height” that it reaches. To put it another way, when the speaker is trying to figure out (“feeling”) how far her soul (her “Being”) extends in the world, she realizes hat her love for the beloved extends just as far (that’s all the “depth and breadth and height” stuff in line 3). Notice that if you put the “feeling” together with the “reach,” this metaphor is very reliant on mages of touch.

We get the sense that the speaker is stretching out with both arms, trying to explain how broad and wide and deep her love is. It’s a much more poetic version of saying love you THIS MUCH” with your arms flung wide. Anyway, this spatial love is the first of the “ways” of loving that the speaker lists. Lines 5-6 love thee to the level of everyday Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light. The poem becomes much more grounded and down-to-earth in the description of the next way to love. As the speaker explains, she loves her beloved “to the level of everyday / most quiet need. This is a reminder that, even though she loves him with a passionate, abstract intensity (see lines 2-4), she also loves him in a regular, day-to-day way. Even though it’s not directly described, we get a sense of everyday domestic living here – the reality of wanting to be with someone all the time in a low-stakes kind of way. This is a “married-and-hanging-out-watching-n/-on-the-couch-each-night” kind of love, instead of a “Romeo-and-Juliet-are-going-to-die-tomorrow” kind. It’s important, however, that this doesn’t mean the love is any less significant The everyday “need” for love may be “quiet,” but it’s definitely there. The speaker completes the description of this everyday love with two images of light: “by sun and candle-light. ” Basically, this is just a way of saying “in the day and at night,” but it also reminds us that the lovers are looking at each other all the time – and that the speaker here loves her beloved no matter what light she sees him in. If you’re counting, this everyday love is the second of the “ways” of loving that the speaker lists. Lines 7-8 love thee freely, as men strive for Right; love thee purely, as they turn from Praise. The first half of each of these lines is extremely simple: “l love thee freely” and “l love thee purely. ” Those seem like pretty good ways to love – after all, you wouldn’t want love to be forced or impure, right? The tricky part comes in the second half of each line, where the speaker describes something else that’s supposed to happen “freely” or “purely. ” First, the speaker tells us, “l love thee freely, as men strive for Right” (7). If you turn this around for a moment, the speaker is implying that “men strive for Right” in a “free” way.

That is, trying to be morally good isn’t something anyone has to do – it’s something they choose to do of their own free will. Isn’t it? Well, in a way it is, because everything we do is a choice, but in another way, people try to do the right thing because they think they ought to. So, if the speaker’s love is just as “free” as being ethically good, then maybe it’s not quite as free as we thought. Maybe it’s something she feels she has to do, even when she doesn’t want to. The poem is getting edgy! Next, the speaker tells us, “l love thee purely, as they turn from Praise. That is, her love is “pure” in the way that being modest and refusing everyone else’s admiration is pure. Perhaps the speaker is also implying that she’s not proclaiming her love in order to be applauded by her readers. She’s not seeking praise for writing a great poem about love; she loves without wanting any reward or commendation. F you’re counting “freely” is the third way and “purely” is the fourth way of loving that the speaker lists. Lines 9-10 love thee with the passion put to use In my old grief, and with my childhood’s faith. First we’ll need to explain what “old grief” are.

Think of an incident in your past that you still feel really angry about. Consider the intensity of your feelings when you think about this incident – you know, the sort of thing that absolutely has you gnashing your teeth and spitting and swearing and absolutely seething with bitter fury. No, no, we’re not thinking of any particular personal example… *ahem*. Where were we? Oh, right, “old grief. ” Incidents like that one – the teeth-gnashing one – are your “old grief. ” Now imagine if you could use all the “passion” and intensity of that bitter lining and convert it somehow into love.

(Video) Analysis of How do I love Thee by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

That’s what the speaker is talking about . It’s a little like when people say “you could power this whole city with the energy he spends playing Mario Kart on his new WI. ” The speaker of this poem is saying “l love you with all the energy I used to spend being bitter about stuff in my past. ” Of course, what we worry about is: how effectively is this bitterness being converted into love, anyway? Maybe some of the bitterness on one side of the metaphor is, well, oozing over onto the other side. This poem is starting to get interesting! The speaker also claims that he loves her beloved “with my childhood’s faith. We’re going to have to do another thought exercise to explain this one… Remember how thoroughly you believed in stuff when you were a kid? You know, stuff, like the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus, and your mom’s ability to fix anything you broke, and your dad’s ability to answer any question, and the way you believed that adults mostly knew what they were doing and everybody followed the rules. That’s your “childhood’s faith. ” Now imagine if you could divert that kind Of energy into loving someone. Yes, our speaker loves her beloved in that way, too.


How Do I Love Thee by Elizabeth Barrett Browning analysis? ›

The theme of Barrett Browning's poem is that true love is an all-consuming passion. The quality of true love the poet especially stresses is its spiritual nature. True love is an article of faith. References to “soul,” “grace,” “praise,” “faith,” “saints,” and “God” help create this impression.

How Do I Love Thee by Elizabeth Barrett Browning introduction? ›

'How do I love thee? ' was first published in the collection Sonnets from the Portuguese (1850), which Elizabeth Barrett Browning dedicated to her husband, the poet Robert Browning. The poem is a conventional Petrarchan sonnet that lists the different ways in which the poet loves her husband.

How do I love thee Sonnet 43 Meaning? ›

Let me count the ways”—the speaker embarks on a project of listing the ways in which she loves her beloved. The poem thus begins as a means of attempting to justify love in rational terms. By expressing her desire to “count the ways,” the speaker suggests that her love can be explained on an intellectual level.

What is the meaning of I love thee to the depth and breadth and height? ›

Browning states that she loves her husband with “the depth and breadth and height/My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight”. She is saying that she loves everything about him; even when she can not touch him or even see him, she still loves him as much as ever.

How do I love thee conclusion? ›

Answer: Near the poem's conclusion, she states that her every breath, smile, and tear is a reflection of her love for her husband. The speaker concludes the sonnet by telling her husband that if God will allow her, she will love him even more after she is gone.

What is browning talking about in the poem? ›

In this poem, The Patriot, Browning introduces a patriot to speak of his fortune that changed in a single year. When the poem starts, the speaker recollects his experiences of this exact day only a year ago. And he claims that his countrymen welcomed him victoriously.

How Do I Love Thee symbolism? ›

In this sonnet, love is everything. Loving the beloved is the way that the speaker actually knows she exists. Trying to list the different types of love that she feels, and to work out the relationships between these different kinds of love, becomes a new way of expressing her affection and admiration for "thee."

What is the hyperbole in Sonnet 43? ›

A hyperbole is a exaggeration or a overstatement. This is a hyperbole because you cant really love someone with all of those things she is describing she is just exaggerating. I love thee freely, as men strive for right; I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.

What is the paradox in Sonnet 43? ›

Shakespeare's Sonnet 43 opens with an apparent paradox: 'When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see'. How can you see most clearly when your eyes are, in fact, closed? The answer: when you're dreaming.

How do I love thee what does the speaker mean when she says I love thee freely as men strive for right? ›

First, the speaker tells us, "I love thee freely, as men strive for Right" (7). If you turn this around for a moment, the speaker is implying that "men strive for Right" in a "free" way. That is, trying to be morally good isn't something anyone has to do – it's something they choose to do of their own free will.

What does the poet mean by the line Your world is as big as you make it? ›

What does the opening line “Your world is as big as you make it” (L 1) mean? This line means that each person has the possibility to live as complete a life as he or she chooses. What each person must do is strive to reach his or her fullest potential.

What is the meaning of the word but in this line I shall but love thee better after death? ›

“I shall love the better after death.” This could possibly refer to her saying that there is no way that she can love “thee” as much as “thee” deserves it, so she states that she will still love “thee” after her life is over.

Why do you think how do I love thee is such a popular love poem What features of the sonnet might make it more accessible or universal than other love poetry? ›

Why do you think "how do i love thee?" is such a popular love poem? What features of the sonnet might make it more accessible or universal than other love poetry? It is different than the typical "why i love you" poem and because it uses how it becomes more open-ended, general and better for all readers to relate to.

How does the speaker express her intense love for her beloved in Sonnet 43 '? ›

The poet then talks about her fondness of her love, revealing that her she lives for her love “ I love thee with the breath, / smiles, tears, of all my life;” (line 12-13), the asyndetic listings of the verbs 'breath', 'smiles' and 'tears', implying that her love can stem from different emotions she feels such as ...

How does the poet describe her love for Browning in the poem? ›

Here she is describing that her love is as deep and wide and tall as it can possibly be. It is so deep and wide and tall, in fact, that she cannot even “see” the edges of it: it is infinite. Barrett Browning uses consonance in line two in order to convey just how much she loves her husband.

What are the three main features of Browning poetry? ›

Characteristics of Robert Browning's poetry.
  • Multiple Perspectives on Single Events. The dramatic monologue verse form allowed Browning to explore and probe the minds of specific characters in specific places struggling with specific sets of circumstances. ...
  • The Purposes of Art. ...
  • The Relationship Between Art and Morality.

What are the major themes in Browning poetry? ›

Robert Browning: Poems Themes
  • Death. Much of Browning's work contemplates death and the way that it frames our life choices. ...
  • Truth/Subjectivity. ...
  • Delusion. ...
  • Beauty. ...
  • The quest. ...
  • Religion. ...
  • The grotesque.
6 Jul 2022

What is the message in i dont love thee? ›

'I Do Not Love Thee' by Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton is as simple as the title says. The exclamation, “I do not love thee!” doesn't come from a heart that is either broken or hurt. It comes from a heart that not only beats but loves. The lady loves that person so much that she can't express it plainly.

How is figurative language used in the poem? ›

The use of figurative language in poetry is a way for writers to create a link or comparison between concrete objects and abstract ideas by using basic words or phrases in a non-literal way to draw on the emotions of the reader.

How do I love thee tone and mood? ›

Answer and Explanation:

In "How Do I Love Thee?", the tone is earnest and worshipful. Tone refers to the speaker's attitude toward her subject.

How do I love thee religious allusion? ›

Allusion Examples in How Do I Love Thee?:

Browning alludes to the Christian saints, who are people recognized within their faith as being exceptionally virtuous, holy, or close to God. Depending on the Christian denomination, some saints are believed to have been chosen by God.

What figure of speech is used in the song? ›

They are metaphor, hyperbole, personification, litotes, and simile. Based on the explanation above, we can see that the type of metaphor most often used in songs is hyperbole.

What is the rhyme scheme of how do I love thee? ›

The rhyme scheme of "How Do I Love Thee?" is abbaabbacdcdcd, although some of the rhymes are created through the use of slant rhyme.

What personality does the speaker have in Sonnet 43? ›

The speaker here, like the speaker in most sonnets, is a shadowy and uncertain figure. We don't know any concrete character details about her. But there are two things we're pretty sure of: she really loves someone, and she's really interested in listing and describing all the different kinds of love she feels for him.

Who does the speaker refer to as thee? ›

'Thee' has been used for the God in the poem. The poet appeals to God to make his county free from every kind of discrimination, fear, illogical thinking an superstition. He wants his countrymen to be truthful, hardworking and broadminded.

What message does the poet gives us in The World Is Too Much with Us? ›

"The World Is Too Much with Us" is a sonnet by the English Romantic poet William Wordsworth. In it, Wordsworth criticises the world of the First Industrial Revolution for being absorbed in materialism and distancing itself from nature.

Why did the poet compare herself to a bird? ›

The child compares himself to a bird because he is unhappy with his school going life and thinks that a bird is very happy and have its own freedom. He wants to be free like a bird.

Can you Summarise the poem in your own words? ›

For the summary, write paragraphs that show a unit of thought or argument. Including an introduction and conclusion is necessary. Know the name of the poet and the year in which the poem was written. Explore the implications that these elements have for the poem and include this information in your introduction.

How do I love thee let me count the ways is a famous line from which poem? ›

"How do I love thee, let me count the ways" is a line from the 43rd sonnet of Sonnets from the Portuguese, a collection of 44 love sonnets written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

What does the speaker mean when he says from rest and sleep which but thy pictures be much pleasure then from thee much more must flow? ›

Donne, however, has no doubts, as his speaker tells death, “From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be, / Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow.” The poem's persona remains completely and calmly convinced that death merely imitates a pleasurable sleep, and because it is long-lasting, humans will derive ...

How many distinct ways does the speaker say that she loves her beloved? ›

Background Information On the Poem

1. How many distinct ways does the speaker say that she loves her beloved? -She says this 11 different times.

What is the message of the poem true love? ›

The poet makes his point clear from line 1: true love always perseveres, despite any obstacles that may arise. He goes on to define love by what it doesn't do, claiming that it stays constant, even though people and circumstances may change. Love never dies, even when someone tries to destroy it.

What message does the speaker trying to convey here I love you? ›

The poem Hear I Love You expresses the sadness of separation. The speaker is (here) in this world and his beloved is (there) far away in the world beyond the mortal's reach.

What is the central idea of the poem love? ›

The theme of the poem is the glorification of love. Love, according to the poet, is the supreme passion of human beings and all the other passions are subordinated to it. They, moreover, contribute something to the passion of love; they stimulate, inspire, and sustain love, and make its fire more steadily and brightly.

Why did Elizabeth Barrett Browning write How do I love thee? ›

Most critics agree that Barrett Browning wrote the sonnets, not as an abstract literary exercise, but as a personal declaration of love to her husband, Robert Browning (who was also an important Victorian poet).

What is the theme of love in a life by Robert Browning? ›

The mysterious "Love in a Life" explores the fear of losing one's beloved. The poem's speaker searches for his lost lover through a vast, maze-like house, but she always seems to have just left each room before he enters.

What is the hyperbole in How Do I Love Thee? ›

A hyperbole is a exaggeration or a overstatement. This is a hyperbole because you cant really love someone with all of those things she is describing she is just exaggerating. I love thee freely, as men strive for right; I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.

Is how do I love thee a dramatic monologue? ›

“How Do I Love Thee?” is a sonnet and Porphyria's Lover is a dramatic monologue. Both the romantic poems were published in early 19th century. The language is natural and the theme of love is common in both these poems but both explore the romance in a different way.

What inspired the author to write the poem How Do I Love Thee? ›

For starters, the inspiration behind the work was Elizabeth's love for the man who had, for all intents and purposes, rescued her from a quietly desperate, reclusive lifestyle she led in London, following the accidental death of her closest brother.

What was Elizabeth Barrett Browning's feelings about slavery? ›

Despite the fact that her comfortable upbringing had relied on wealth from Jamaican estates that used slave labour, Elizabeth was an ardent abolitionist. It is possible that Barrett Browning had slave ancestors, what is certain is that she believed her family was cursed by profiting from slavery.

What themes did Elizabeth Barrett Browning write about? ›

While more conservative women poets wrote about nature, pious religion or the domestic space, Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote about industrialisation, slavery, political leadership, religious controversy, the problems faced by women in society, and what it was like to live in the modern world.

What is love's main theme? ›

Love as a literary theme deals with relationships between people based on affection or desire. It's a fundamental component of many literary works and one of the most prominent themes in art.

What is the main theme of the definition of love? ›

'The Definition of Love' by Andrew Marvell contains several themes. The most important theme of the poem is love. The poet describes the character of his love for his beloved. According to the poet, this love is perfect and therefore unattainable.

How is the speaker's attitude in the beginning of the poem Love in a Life? ›

In the first stanza of 'Love in a Life' the speaker begins by describing how he hunts for his lover throughout the rooms of their house. The first three lines are quite short, but extremely powerful and assertive. The speaker's tone in these lines is determined and confident.


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