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Romeo and Juliet | Sonnet 43

Steph Atkinson | Wednesday April 18, 2012

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Guide Navigation

Part 1 Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet | Part 2 Marvel’s To His Coy Mistress
Part 3 Browning’s Sonnet 43 | Part 4 Owen’s Futility
Part 5 Tennyson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade

Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet 43

Overview and Context

Browning wrote a 44 sonnet series about her love for her fiancé Robert Browning which was never intended for publication. It was entitled Sonnets from the Portuguese with the title stemming from the epithet ‘my little Portugee’ Browning used for her. Sonnet 43 is a Petrarchan sonnet which employs very strong religious imagery, comparable to the frequent religious imagery in Romeo and Juliet.

The first 8 lines (octave) links the speaker’s love and religion, whilst the final 6 lines (sestet) concludes by saying that her love for him beyond death will be the strongest of all – another clear link with Romeo and Juliet.

Some Initial Notes

This poem also invokes Petrarchan convention; whilst, as noted above, this poetic form is conventionally spoken by a male lover and addressed to his female beloved, here it is the empowered female who employs hyperbolic metaphors and excessive language.

As also noted above, Petrarchan sonnets conventionally explore unrequited love but here Browning’s speaker is full of genuine, passionate, quasi-religious adoration; she is, like Marvell, inverting poetic convention
The poem is therefore as much a celebration of Browning’s religious faith as it is of her love for her fiancé.

Sonnet 43

Notes

Line 1: the opening rhetorical question is followed by the gentle imperative ‘Let me count the ways’ – gentle because it is not really a command but an invitation to share in the delineation of the depth of her love

Line 2: here the anaphoric ‘I love thee’ is used for the first of eight instances. The repetition of this phrase serves to strengthen the depth of the speaker’s love and, perhaps, to reiterate her commitment to the...


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