Study Guide

Porphyria's Lover Society and Class

By Robert Browning

Society and Class

This is one of the more understated themes of this poem. Porphyria seems to be of a higher social class than the speaker. Her reluctance to be with him might have to do with her reluctance to give up social standing. Death, however, acts as a social leveler – killing her makes her social class irrelevant.

Questions About Society and Class

  1. What words or phrases in the poem offer hints as to Porphyria's social class? What about the speaker's class?
  2. Would the speaker have felt it necessary to strangle her if they were of the same social class? Why or why not?
  3. The poem isolates Porphyria and the speaker from the rest of society – they are completely alone in his cottage. Why are there references to outside society in the poem? Why are these references necessary, and how would the poem change if they were absent?

Chew on This

The difference in social class between Porphyria and her lover creates a disparity in their power dynamic during the first half of the poem. The speaker murders her in an attempt to bring balance to their relationship.

The difference in social class between Porphyria and her lover makes absolutely no difference: their power dynamic is uneven because of her intense agency and his extreme passivity, not because of her social rank.