Lesson: Analysing the poem 'Porphyria's Lover' | AQA | KS4 English | Oak National Academy (2024)

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Lesson details

Key learning points

  1. Browning uses pathetic fallacy to reflect the emotional turmoil the speaker initially feels.
  2. Browning uses symbolism to convey the taboo nature of Porphyria's sexuality and the illicit relationship.
  3. Browning reveals the speaker's desire to exert total control over Porphyria by killing her.
  4. In the resolution, Browning conveys the speaker's psychotic lack of remorse for his gruesome murder.
  5. Browning uses the form of a dramatic monologue to explore the motivations and psyche of a murderer.

Common misconception

Porphyria is entirely passive and without agency.

Porphyria displays agency by actively seeking out the speaker and initiating intimacy. Her actions challenge societal norms, reflecting her independence and desire, despite her eventual victimisation.

Keywords

  • Taboo - something forbidden by social norms

  • Pivotal - crucially important

  • Symbolism - using symbols to represent deeper meanings

  • Fallen woman - a woman shunned for moral failings

  • Psyche - the human mind and spirit

If you have time, you may wish to draw parallels in the poem with 'My Last duch*ess', another poem by Robert Browning that explores the cruel acts of an unreliable and insane narrator.

Teacher tip

Equipment

You will need a copy of the poem 'Porphyria's Lover' by Robert Browning which can be found in the AQA 'Love and Relationships' anthology.

Content guidance

  • Contains conflict or violence.

Supervision

Adult supervision suggested.

Licence

This content is © Oak National Academy Limited (2024), licensed on Open Government Licence version 3.0 except where otherwise stated. See (Collection 2).

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Starter quiz

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6 Questions

Q1.

Porphyria's Lover was written by ...

Correct answer:

Robert Browning.

Robert Browning.

Alfred Lord Tennyson.

Thomas Hardy.

Charles Dickens.

Q2.

'Porphyria's Lover' is written from the perspective of a troubled narrator who reveals much about his personal thoughts. As such we would say it is ...

Q3.

Starting with the first, put these events from 'Porphyria's Lover' in chronological order.

1

-

The speaker describes a destructive storm.

1

-

The speaker describes a destructive storm.

2

-

Porphyria enters the cottage.

2

-

Porphyria enters the cottage.

3

-

She removes her damp clothing and unfurls her hair.

3

-

She removes her damp clothing and unfurls her hair.

4

-

Porphyria tells the narrator of her love for him.

4

-

Porphyria tells the narrator of her love for him.

5

-

The narrator is unsure what to do but eventually decides to murder her.

5

-

The narrator is unsure what to do but eventually decides to murder her.

6

-

The narrator kills Porphyria by strangling her with her own hair.

6

-

The narrator kills Porphyria by strangling her with her own hair.

7

-

He then spends all night with her body declaring that God will not condemn him.

7

-

He then spends all night with her body declaring that God will not condemn him.

Q4.

Andeep said: 'Arguably, in 'Porphyria's Lover', Porphyria is presented as a very provocative character, doing several things that would seem

to a Victorian audience.' Which word best fits here?

Correct answer:

transgressive

transgressive

commonplace

amusing

Q5.

Which language device is being described here 'using symbols to explore deeper meanings'?

Correct Answer:

Symbolism

Symbolism

Q6.

If something is 'taboo' then it is

by social norms.

Correct answer:

forbidden

forbidden

encouraged

ignored

defined

Exit quiz

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6 Questions

Q1.

Which of the below are reasonable synonyms of the word 'pivotal'?

Correct answer:

crucial

crucial

Correct answer:

vital

vital

Correct answer:

important

important

perfect

dynamic

Q2.

In Victorian society, a woman shunned for moral failings would have been described as a

woman.

Correct Answer:

fallen

fallen

Q3.

Which of these are effective ways to develop our analysis in English?

Correct answer:

link to relevant context

link to relevant context

Correct answer:

explain the effect on the reader

explain the effect on the reader

Correct answer:

give an alternative interpretation

give an alternative interpretation

Correct answer:

extend our analysis by adding a further quotation

extend our analysis by adding a further quotation

make a link to the writer's childhood experiences

Q4.

Which of the below discourse markers would be effective for comparing and contrasting?

Correct answer:

However

However

For example

Additionally

Correct answer:

Whereas

Whereas

Correct answer:

In contrast

In contrast

Q5.

Which of the below are reasonable points to make about the pathetic fallacy at the start of 'Porphyria's Lover'?

Correct answer:

It reflects the emotional turmoil the speaker initially experiences.

It reflects the emotional turmoil the speaker initially experiences.

The poem is about human relationships, the focus on nature is a contrast.

Pathetic fallacy was a common language device used in Victorian times.

Correct answer:

It creates a foreboding atmosphere, hinting at the violence to come.

It creates a foreboding atmosphere, hinting at the violence to come.

Q6.

Aisha makes a point about 'Porphyria's Lover' - 'As a symbol of her sexuality, Porphyria's hair would have been shocking to a Victorian audience.' Why is this not the most effective use of context?

it is incorrect

Correct answer:

it is too generic

it is too generic

it doesn't include evidence from the poem

it doesn't make a link to Browning's life

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Lesson: Analysing the poem 'Porphyria's Lover' | AQA | KS4 English | Oak National Academy (2024)
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