Close analysis Sonnet 43 by Elizabeth Barrett analysis ‘Sonnet 43’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning…

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  • Close analysis

    Sonnet 43 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

    www.teachit.co.uk 2016 26304 Page 1 of 3

    Task 1: How?

    The feeling of being in love is one many would find difficult to describe. It might be easy to

    describe what you love about someone, or to explain how they make you feel. But to describe

    how you love can be a challenge.

    Try thinking about the opposite emotion: hate. How could you hate someone? Look at the

    examples below and see if you can think some of your own

    Task 2: Love

    Having considered the idea of how an emotion can feel from the opposite perspective, now see

    if you can do the same for the idea of love.

    Task 3: Considering context

    Before we take a look at the poem, lets consider whether your above responses might be

    affected when considering the following potential influences.

    How might being very unwell affect how you love or your approach to relationships?

    How might being a woman in the 19th century affect how you love or your approach to

    relationships?

    How might being a Christian affect how you love or your approach to relationships?

    Love

    You can hate someone

    until your skin itches.

    You can hate someone like

    a fountain overflowing.

    How do

    you hate?

  • Close analysis

    Sonnet 43 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

    www.teachit.co.uk 2016 26304 Page 2 of 3

    Task 4: Understanding Elizabeth Barrett Browning

    Read and highlight key information in the section below to further your understanding of the

    poet.

    Born in 1806 and died in 1861

    At 15 years old she became ill, suffering terribly

    from spinal pain and headaches. Later in life she

    also experienced problems with her lungs. She took

    laudanum (an opiate) for the pain, but this likely

    also contributed to her ill health.

    She was a passionate Christian.

    She loved literature and read widely. She also

    began writing poetry from a young age.

    During the 1830s she lost her brother who drowned

    in a sailing accident. She was badly affected and

    became reclusive, an invalid partly through her

    physical pain and partly through her grief.

    She attracted fellow poet Robert Browning through her published collection of poetry

    Poems in 1844. They wrote each other many letters and hid their courtship due to fear

    of her fathers disapproval. Indeed once they married (see below) he did disinherit her.

    In 1846 they married in secret and then moved to Italy. They were famously very happy

    and devoted to one another.

    Considering your thoughts after tasks 3 and 4 how do you think Elizabeth Barrett Browning

    might feel about her husband?

    Task 5: Word association

    As one final task before looking at the entire poem consider the series of words in the box

    below. Choose three of them and think about what they might suggest about her feelings

    towards her husband.

    grace depth smiles faith strive candle-light

    praise soul quiet freely sun passion tears

    Word 1: .........................................................................................................

    Word 2: .........................................................................................................

    Word 3: .........................................................................................................

  • Close analysis

    Sonnet 43 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

    www.teachit.co.uk 2016 26304 Page 3 of 3

    Task 6: Analysis questions

    1. What elements of the poem make it feel like the reader is part of a conversation with the

    speaker?

    2. What language choices suggest the speakers excitement and joy within the relationship?

    3. What is the effect of the repetition of and on line 3?

    4. What is the effect of the anaphoric repetition of I love thee, often used at the start of a

    line?

    5. What connotations do both sun and candle-light have? How can we link this to her

    experience of love? Can you link this to Elizabeth Barrett Brownings life?

    6. In which phrase does the poet imply her life has not always been easy? What does this

    suggest about her current life (and future) with her husband?

    7. Which lines reveal the importance of religion in the poets life? How might this differ to

    more modern poems?

    8. How might the sonnet form help to accentuate her exploration of love? You should think

    about:

    a. What associations an Italian (Petrarchan) sonnet might have. Why use a form

    associated with Italy as opposed to a Shakespearean sonnet (given that she is an

    English writer)?

    b. Which words are emphasised by the rhyme scheme and given significance in this

    way?

    9. Where do lines run from one to the next (enjambment)? Where are they broken up part

    way (caesura)? What do these structural devices add to the tone of the poem?

    10. There are lots of plosive p sounds in lines 8 and 9. What effect do you think they have?

    11. Is the speaker really able to count the ways she loves the object of her affection? What

    might this ultimately tell us about love?

    Task 7: Comparison

    Which poems from your anthology do you think share similarities with Sonnet 43? List two and

    explain why.

    Which poems from your anthology do you think contrast with Sonnet 43? List two and explain

    why.

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