Study Guide

Porphyria's Lover Sin

By Robert Browning


There's some pretty obvious sinning going on in "Porphyria's Lover" – after all, the speaker describes how he strangled his lover. But there's some less obvious sin here, too. Victorian moralists were all about repressing female sexuality and pretending that it didn't exist. For a woman to acknowledge that she even had sexual desires was considered sinful, and actually acting on those desires was borderline criminal. So for Porphyria to "come through wind and rain" to be with her lover was seriously risqué (line 30).

Questions About Sin

  1. Why is "God" mentioned in the final line of the poem?
  2. What's the effect of allowing the speaker to go unpunished at the end of the poem?
  3. How many different types of "sin" are there in this poem?
  4. Can we describe the speaker's actions as "sinful" if he never acknowledges that what he has done is wrong?

Chew on This

Within the world of "Porphyria's Lover," murder is not condemned; it's only by applying an external system of right and wrong that we're able to gauge the crimes of the speaker.

The final line of the "Porphyria's Lover" teases the reader by flaunting its absence of an ethical system: the only system available in this poem is one that is imposed by the reader.