An Explication of "How do I love Thee"

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An Explication of "How do I love Thee"

Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "How do I love Thee" from "Sonnets from the

Portuguese" portrays a relationship and love in an exceptional manner that is not

very common by today's standards. In the opening line, the speaker portrays the

joy and delight felt by this kind of love and relationship. This is presented to the

reader in the form of the rhetoric question, "How do I love thee?" (1). The tone

conveyed is one of happiness showing this love to be as such. In the portrayal of

love, the speaker conveys it to be boundless: "I love thee to the depth and breadth

and height/ My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight" (1-2). The language of this

abstract image portrays love to be uncontainable. This is emphasized by the phrase:

"when feeling out of sight" (3). This image of the love is portrayed as expanding

further than can actually be seen; it accentuates the boundless image of love.


speaker's "soul" adds to the this image as a soul is not an object which can be

contained within the body, as it knows no bounds, so the portrayal of love can be

viewed as eternal. This image also depicts the magnitude of love as the words "depth

and breadth and height" show the vastness the speaker's love. Through out the

entire sonnet the poet presents the idea of pure, unconditional and eternal love.

The poem demonstrates the importance of companionship in a relationship, and it

shows how love in a relationship is adaptable to each person's "Most quiet need by

sun and candle-light" (6). The comparison between the boundless love previously

described and this image of day and night highlights the realistic level that the poem

has achieved. It conveys...