Study Guide

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. (Sonnet 43) Love

By Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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Love is a complex, multi-layered and multi-faceted thing in "How do I love thee?" In fact, the entire poem is concerned with finding, describing, and listing different ways of loving someone. Whether these different ways of loving complement or conflict with one another as they overlap is an open question!

Questions About Love

  1. How many kinds of love can you identify in "How do I love thee?"
  2. Why would it be useful or pleasant to count the ways that you love someone? Does counting the ways you love increase the love (because you're talking about it) or decrease the love (because you're tallying it up as though you were balancing your checkbook)?
  3. Which kind of love described in the sonnet seems most familiar to you? Which seems strangest? Why?
  4. Are the ways of loving described in the poem all different, or are they simply different ways of talking about the same thing? Explain.

Chew on This

In "How do I love thee?", the most pure and perfect love possible is created by bringing together many different ways of loving.

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