The Poetry of Robert Browning

Contributor: Melissa Kowalski. Lesson ID: 11619

There's a lot of dark, creepy stuff on TV and in the movies these days, so Browning's poetry may not seem so out-of-place, but it's worth analyzing and even illustrating with your own picture book!


Literary Studies

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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What do jealousy, death and violence, and delusion all have in common?

Robert Browning, 1858

Image by Michele Gordigiani courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain. 

Jealousy, death and violence, and delusion were all prominent themes in Robert Browning's poetry.

Although these themes might lead you to believe that Browning had a dark or depressing life, Browning was the son of doting parents and had a happy marriage until the death of his wife in 1861. By the end of his life, Browning was considered one of the most important poets of the Victorian Era, and he even lived to see the founding of the Robert Browning Society in 1881, dedicated to the scholarly study of his theatrical and poetical works.

To learn more about Robert Browning's life, read this biography on Robert Browning from the Poetry Foundation. As you read, answer the questions on a separate sheet of paper:

  • What influence did Browning's mother and father have on shaping Browning's literary career?
  • Why did Robert Browning's father have to give up his dream of becoming an artist?
  • What type of education did Browning receive as a child?
  • Why did Browning write his famous poem, "The Pied Piper of Hamelin"?
  • What two aspects of Browning's poetry did Victorian literary critics dislike?
  • Why did Browning write little poetry during his marriage to Elizabeth Barrett?

After you've answered the questions, discuss what you have learned with your parent or teacher.

As you have seen, Browning produced most of his poetry before and after his marriage to Elizabeth Barrett. The late 1860s was the height of Browning's literary productivity. To learn more about the themes that Browning used in his poetry, view this Prezi presentation by Jennifer Stewart, Jonathan Kirchman, and Natasha Adams, Common Themes throughout Robert Browning's Poetry:

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Why do you think Browning frequently incorporated these themes into his poetry? Share your thoughts with your parent or teacher.

Why did you think Browning often wrote about jealousy, death and violence, and delusion? One reason is because these are universal themes — just about everyone experiences one or more of these themes in his or her lifetime. Also, these themes provide opportunity to stretch one's imagination, and writers often have very active imaginations that they constantly try to incorporate in their writing.

Move on to the Got It? section to take a closer look at a few of Browning's popular poems. As you read and analyze each poem, look for these themes as they relate to the subject, and give your personal thoughts and feelings as to why Browning chose these themes based on what you learned from his background.

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