Teaching “Porphyria’s Lover” by Robert Browning

As I mentioned over the weekend, on Friday, a colleague allowed me to teach her British literature class. I taught Robert Browning’s poem “Porphyria’s Lover.” This poem is anthologized in some literature texts and not in others; therefore, if you do not have it in your book, you can download it here: “Porphyria’s Lover” by Robert Browning.

First, I gave students some background on Robert Browning, dramatic monologue, and the poem itself. See this Power Point presentation:

I didn’t show students the final slide until after we read the poem. You could, if you like, change that slide so that it reveals some of the information provided. Feel free to download it and mix it up. In order to present the material, you will want access to information about the poem and the disease Porphyria. In addition to our textbook (citation at the end of the post), I used the following links in preparing for the poem:

The meat of the lesson is the debate. If Porphyria’s lover were tried in a courtroom for murder, would the evidence, as presented in the poem, show that he is guilty of murder — that he knowingly took Porphyria’s life, that he was entirely self-aware — or not guilty by reason of insanity — that he was not aware of what he was doing and acted out of madness. Evidence for either argument exists in the poem, and students can argue both sides successfully. They should be going back into the text for support of their argument. This assignment can even be extended into an argumentative or persuasive essay. I chose to make it a class discussion.

Work Consulted:

Pearson Education, Inc. Prentice Hall Literature: Timeless Voices, Timeless Themes: The British Tradition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005.

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One thought on “Teaching “Porphyria’s Lover” by Robert Browning”

  1. Here's two interesting YouTube videos about Robert Browning poems. If I had more class I would have liked for my students to look into a sanity – insanity angle for this poem. Instead, after reading the poem and watching the video, my female students said, "That guy acts like Chris!' Well, at least they sort of related to it.

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