Study Guide

Porphyria's Lover Power

By Robert Browning


The "love" between the speaker and Porphyria turns pretty quickly into a power play. Porphyria seems to be the one who's in control at the beginning of the poem, then the speaker completely reverses things. He seems to want to possess Porphyria, so he reduces her to an object (a corpse, instead of an independently-thinking individual).

Questions About Power

  1. Who is in control in the first half of this poem? In the second half? Where does the change take place?
  2. How does the speaker first assert control over Porphyria?
  3. Why might Porphyria not want to commit fully to the speaker?
  4. How are possession and power connected in this poem?

Chew on This

The speaker of "Porphyria's Lover" murders Porphyria in order to reduce her to an object that can be controlled and admired.

The speaker's power over language breaks down at several key moments in the poem, suggesting that his calm control is only a superficial veneer.