Elizabeth Barrett Browning How Do I Love Thee Analysis

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Petrarchan Sonnet, “How do I Love Thee?,” sets out to define how she loves her husband by introducing and developing her desire to do so in the octave, and in the sestet, by expanding upon and settling that desire with connections to her life’s experiences. To better understand and analyze the sonnet, a brief history of Barrett’s life is necessary. Analyzing the octave is crucial in order to see its development and how it eventually connects with the sestet. The analyzation of the sestet will draw connections between Barrett’s love for Browning and the emotions she had for various aspects of her past and as a result, a resolution to the desire will be drawn. Born in 1806, Barrett’s life, filled with a number of pleasant and painful experiences, served as…show more content…
The question implies that Barrett is either thinking to herself or actually asking the person she loves, who is clearly Robert Browning (Browning). Either way, she goes on to develop her answer the question. The idea that love is intangible is created when Barrett describes her love using the words “depth,” “breadth,” and “height,” alongside the words “soul,” “being,” and “grace” (Spacey). Barrett asserts her love as never-changing, no matter the time of day and no matter what is happening around her through the words “candle-light” and “sun” (Browning). Barrett then describes her love as something that is good and pure, as well as a love that gives willingly and expects nothing, no “praise,” in return (Browning). Found throughout the octave, the phrase “I love thee” is used not only to introduce Barrett’s numerous ways of loving Browning but to also emphasize and reinforce that love for him (Spacey). The same “I love thee” phrase is found in the sestet, and the question continues to be
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