Help with Sonnet 16 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning?

Compare the speaker and her beloved in Sonnet 16 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. How do the poem's language and images affect your understanding of its two main figures. What is the central theme?

And yet, because thou overcomest so,

Because thou art more noble and like a king,

Thou canst prevail against my fears and fling

Thy purple round me, till my heart shall grow

Too close against thine heart henceforth to know

How it shook when alone. Why, conquering

May prove as lordly and complete a thing

In lifting upward, as in crushing low!

And as a vanquished soldier yields his sword

To one who lifts him from the bloody earth,

Even so, Beloved, I at last record,

Here ends my strife. If thou invite me forth,

I rise above abasement at the word.

Make thy love larger to enlarge my worth.

1 Answer

  • The theme is losing oneself from being in love. The speaker feels overwhelmed by her beloved and in a sense resents his dominating her with his love. She looks at him as a conqueror who will debase her with sex, but she invites him to have sex anyway. She will rise above being debased by his sexual advancement toward her, because as a woman she feels inferior to men, (in the culture she was in) and thinks by having sex with him her own worth will increase.

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