How Do I Love Thee as a Love Sonnet (2023)

How Do I Love Thee? as a Love Sonnet

How do I Love Thee, ‘Sonnet 43’ is a romantic poem, written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. In the poem she is trying to describe the abstract feeling of love by measuring how much her love means to her. She also expresses all the different ways of loving someone and she tells us about her thoughts around her beloved. The tone of the poem is deep, in a loving way.

The poet starts off by saying “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways,” by which she starts off with a rhetorical question, because there is no reason’ for love. Rather than using “why” she enforces this meaning. But then she goes on saying that she will count the ways, which is a contradiction against her first line. In the rest of the poem she is explaining how much she loves. In the second line she says “I love thee to the depth and breath and height” using normal measurements for something that cannot be measured. This is a spatial metaphor. In this way she is trying to illustrate she loves every single piece of him. That there is nothing that she would change about him. Barrett Browning also never uses markers such as he, she, him or her. This is a sonnet and all sonnets have 14 lines where the two last usually have a broader meaning than the rest of the sonnet. In the final lines she has achieved this by bringing up the subject of the afterlife –

(Video) How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43) by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (read by Dame Judi Dench)

“and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death”.

In the sonnet, Barrett Browning repeats “I love thee” over and over again rather than using different words for love. This is to enforce the already existing knowledge about the strength of her love, and that what she feels is love, nothing more and nothing less. Also, by repeating it she is enforcing it on the readers that she loves him and there is nothing else to do about it, nothing that will make her change her mind. Also in the poem, no gender is implied. She just keeps saying “Thee” which has a certain formality over it. This is a very powerful key factor to the poem because she uses no gender markers such as him, her, she, he which makes it possible for the poem to be read out loud to any gender with any sexual preference. When she mentions her childhood’s faith she is implying the innocence of their relationship and how they can be naive sometimes. But love needs naivety to survive.

In the poem, Barrett Browning says “My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight”. This is an illustration of how much she trusts him. Even though she cannot see the ending of how this love will end, she trusts him and is willing to reach out in darkness, not knowing what’s coming for her. She also says “I love thee with the breath, smiles, tears of all my life!” This is implying that no matter what is going on in her life, whether something horrible happened or it’s just a normal day, she trusts him to stay by her side and that she will love every minute of it.

(Video) How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43) by Elizabeth Barrett Browning - Poems for Children, FreeSchool

Barrett Browning also mentions the sun and candle-light while talking about her love. This is concrete imagery. She is using the image of light being constant and abstract saying that her love will forever go on but with a sense of mystery. The sun is also a very well known image for being strong, powerful, and good. The sun is something human beings can’t live without and this is how Barrett Browning is illustrating her love.

Also Read:

  • How do I Love Thee as a Feminist Poem

Barrett Browning says “I love thee to the level of every day’s most quiet need”, implying that she needs him, even when there is nothing special happening. That she just needs him in her life. Without him it’s not the same. By the end of the poem, the poet says “and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death.” This is a very dramatic ending to such a romantic poem and might be seen as a hyperbole. What she’s saying is that if God gave her a choice between her own life and his, she would choose for him to live and that when she is dead, she can finally love him to the depth that he deserves, without anything standing in her way.

(Video) How do I love thee? || Poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (Sonnet 43)

When the poet mentions “With my lost Saints” she is referring to those people in her life that she trusted and loved, which in the end, betrayed her. When she says “Saints” she is referring to the glorification she put on them, how much she trusted them increasing the power of their betrayal. By using this in a poem about love she makes the reader think that the person writing this is not naive, that she is able to ask questions and not let everything pass her by. She is saying that people have betrayed her before, and that she has learned from her mistakes and that she is one hundred percent sure that he will not betray her, that he is ‘The one’. Earlier on, Barrett Browning says “I love thee purely” meaning that there is no distrust, no judgment in their love. When something is pure it means that his has no flaws. Also, in the line “I love thee freely, as men strive for right” she is saying that she loves him, without expecting anything back. Also that she is willing to fight for him.

In the poem, Barrett Browning is using infrequent rhymes. An example of this is in the line “I love thee to the depth and breath and height” and the third line “My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight”, where ‘height and “sight’ rhymes. This creates a flow to the poem, giving it a sense of purity and also she might be suggesting a sense of completeness in love.

The word “love”, is repeated frequently in the sonnet, increasing the message. Also, the fact that she never uses any synonyms for love makes us realize that what she feels is love. That there is no other words that can be used to describe this, because love is such an abstract word and also is a very difficult word to describe.

(Video) How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43) by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (read by Dame Helen Mirren)

In the end, Barrett Browning achieved what she wanted. She brought out to the world the tremendous, abstract subject of love, and with great success. She warms up our hearts by showing her passion to her beloved, how openly and freely she trusts him. After reading this poem it’s hard to forget it. It also might leave a smile on your face. We are left with the enviable feeling of love, stuck in our hearts and the belief that love can last, if we fight for it.

There is an element of Love as Choice and Freedom in this sonnet. Throughout the poem, the speaker frequently describes love as a free choice based on admiration for a lover’s qualities. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who had little choice in her own life: she lived at home until her forties under the power of a controlling and restrictive father. It is thus not surprising that the poem places a high value on choice and freedom as romantic values. For this speaker, love is not just a source of joy or even spiritual fulfillment; it’s also a means of achieving freedom within constraining circumstances.

The speaker states: “I love thee freely, as men strive for right.” She thus explicitly frames her love as something that is not coerced or influenced by anyone else, but rather as something that comes from her own agency and free choice. By comparing her love to an effort to strive for right,” she also connects romantic love to a broader set of ethical values and goals.

(Video) How Do I Love Thee by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (Sonnet 43) ANALYSIS 🥰

What’s more, the poem is written in a first-person voice that gives the speaker an air of authority and reinforces this theme of agency. For instance, she declares “Let me count the ways,” an imperative sentence that puts her firmly in control of the poem’s narrative. She makes frequent use of the “I” and “me” pronouns, which further adds to this sense that the speaker is asserting her own voice and feelings in the poem.

Ultimately, the poem makes a powerful equation between love, choice, and freedom. The speaker emphasizes that she loves “freely” and that her affection for her partner is a result of her own assessment of his value. It is not a value imposed from external authority like her childhood’s faith,” but is rather an expression of her own agency. “How Do I Love Thee?” is a poem that emphasizes the speaker’s power and agency in making her own romantic choices.

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(Video) Sonnet 43 (How Do I Love Thee) w/ original music


How Do I Love Thee as a Love Sonnet? ›

Intro. 'How do I love thee? ' was first published in the collection Sonnets from the Portuguese (1850), which Elizabeth Barrett Browning dedicated to her husband, the poet Robert Browning. The poem is a conventional Petrarchan sonnet that lists the different ways in which the poet loves her husband.

Is How do I love thee a sonnet? ›

Intro. 'How do I love thee? ' was first published in the collection Sonnets from the Portuguese (1850), which Elizabeth Barrett Browning dedicated to her husband, the poet Robert Browning. The poem is a conventional Petrarchan sonnet that lists the different ways in which the poet loves her husband.

How is love expressed in Sonnet 43? ›

In the poem, the speaker is proclaiming her unending passion for her beloved. She tells her lover just how deeply her love goes, and she also tells him how she loves him. She loves him with all of her beings, and she hopes God will grant her the ability to love him even after she has passed.

What kind of love does the poet express in How Do I Love Thee? ›

Spiritual Love. In “How Do I Love Thee?” true love is depicted as long-lasting and even eternal. However, the poem also reveals a tension between love as an attachment to earthly life and the things of this world, and love as something that transcends life on earth.

What is the rhyme scheme for how do I love thee? ›

Unlike both chief types of sonnet form, How do I Love Thee? is composed of two quatrains and one sestet, rhyming in abba abba ababab. Each line of the sonnet, of which metri- cal foot is iambic pentameter, is isochronous.

Is a sonnet a love poem? ›

Although most sonnets are love poems, they don't have to be romantic. Wordsworth wrote about his love for the city of London. Keats expressed his passionate affection for an English translation of Homer! And John Donne wrote Holy Sonnets to God.

What does a love sonnet mean? ›

A sonnet is a poem, often a love poem, of 14 rhyming lines. Is that a love letter from your secret admirer or a formal sonnet? The word sonnet comes from the Italian sonetto, meaning “little song.” The origin makes sense, since the first sonnets were developed by the Italian poet Petrarch.

What sonnet talks about love? ›

Sonnet 18: The Valentine's Day Sonnet

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? It is a quintessential love poem and that is why it so often used on Valentine's Day. Sonnet 18 is also a perfect example of Shakespeare's ability to explain human emotion so succinctly.

How does Shakespeare describe love in his sonnets? ›

Throughout his sonnets, Shakespeare clearly implies that love hurts. Yet despite the emotional and physical pain, like the speaker, we continue falling in love. Shakespeare shows that falling in love is an inescapable aspect of the human condition—indeed, expressing love is part of what makes us human.

What is the symbolism in How Do I Love Thee? ›

In the sonnet, however, the poet uses the symbol of the soul not as a symbol at all but as a real element of the human psyche, a gift from a real God who monitors the reach, depth, and breadth of a soul that is itself on loan from that same God.

How is the theme of love presented in I think of thee '? ›

The poem expresses the speaker's desire to see and be physically close to an absent lover. It argues that when it comes to love, reality is sweeter than fantasy, and suggests that true love requires deep vulnerability and passion—as well as a willingness to reject restrictive social conventions.

What is the tone of Sonnet 43? ›

In the poem she is trying to describe the abstract feeling of love by measuring how much her love means to her. She also expresses all the different ways of loving someone and she tells us about her thoughts around her beloved. The tone of the poem is deep, in a loving way.

What is the rhyme scheme of love III? ›

It has an ABABCC rhyme scheme with a religious tone and a guilty mood. Furthermore, love, religion, and the relationship between these two are central themes in Love (III).

How do you tell if a poem is a sonnet? ›

A sonnet is a poem of 14 lines that reflects upon a single issue or idea. It usually takes a turn, called a “volta,” about 8 lines in, and then resolves the issue by the end. Shakespearean sonnets use iambic pentameter and an ABAB CDCD EFEF GG rhyme scheme, but don't worry too much about all that.

What are the 3 rules of a sonnet? ›

So, now you have the basics, here are the three simple steps to have you writing your own sonnet in no time:
  • Think of an idea for your sonnet. Your sonnet must be about one single idea. ...
  • Your sonnet must rhyme in a specific pattern. ...
  • Your sonnet must have a metrical pattern.

What makes a sonnet different from a poem? ›

English poets borrowed the sonnet form from the Italian poet Francesco Petrarch. Traditionally, it has fourteen lines of iambic pentameter linked by an intricate rhyme scheme. Iambic pentameter refers to its rhythm; basically, each line of the poem has ten syllables, and every other syllable is stressed.

What is the message of the sonnet? ›

As a unit of writing, the sonnet has an organic beauty that depends on the balance of symmetrical and asymmetrical form and melody. And historically, sonnets have contained strong themes of love. As a result, Shakespeare uses the sonnet form to highlight his message about his beloved and their magnificent appearance.

What is the most romantic sonnet? ›

Sonnet 18. One of Shakespeare's best known and most loved sonnets, this reading explains that the stability of love will immortalise a partner's beauty and youth. 'Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? And summer's lease hath all too short a date.

Why is love is not all a sonnet? ›

The rhyme scheme in Love Is Not All follows that of a Shakespearean sonnet, however, the division of lines indicate a Petrarchan sonnet. It strays away from the extravagant prose of her other poems and instead adopts a more simplistic word choice.

What is an example of a sonnet? ›

Examples of Sonnets

Shakespeare's “Sonnet 18” may contain the most famous opening line in all of poetry: Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate. Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And summer's lease hath all too short a date.

What is Shakespeare's message about love? ›

For Shakespeare's characters, love transforms. It prompts them to change their personalities, to take risks, and to make sacrifices that would otherwise be unthinkable.

How does the poem define love? ›

As Lines so Loves oblique may well Themselves in every Angle greet: But ours so truly Parallel, Though infinite can never meet. Therefore the Love which us doth bind, But Fate so enviously debarrs, Is the Conjunction of the Mind, And Opposition of the Stars.

How do you express love in Shakespearean language? ›

by Editorial
  • Thou art wise as thou art beautiful. — A Midsummer Night's Dream. ...
  • I do love nothing in the world so well as you. — Much Ado About Nothing. ...
  • So is mine eye enthrallèd to thy shape. ...
  • What, with my tongue in your tail? ...
  • By the roses of the spring, ...
  • I do love you more than words can wield the matter,
Feb 12, 2020

What is Shakespeare's best love sonnet? ›

Sonnet 18: Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? 'Sonnet 18' is likely Shakespeare's best known.

Who does Romeo say I have to love thee? ›

Romeo, the hate I bear thee can afford No better term than this,--thou art a villain. Tybalt, the reason that I have to love thee Doth much excuse the appertaining rage To such a greeting: villain am I none; Therefore farewell; I see thou know'st me not.

What is the tone and mood of the poem How Do I Love Thee? ›

The mood of the poem is romantic and hopeful. The symbols in the poem strengthen the idea of a strong, enduring love. The speaker uses them to highlight that her feelings for her beloved cannot be measured.

What is the personification of the poem How Do I Love Thee? ›

Browning also uses personification in the second and third lines. She says "I love thee to the depth and breadth and height/My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight". Browning is saying that even when she cannot touch him with her hand or any part of her body, her soul will still reach him.

How did the heart become the symbol of love? ›

Among the ancient Romans, the association between the heart and love was commonplace. Venus, the goddess of love, was credited — or blamed — for setting hearts on fire with the aid of her son Cupid, whose darts aimed at the human heart were always overpowering.

What is the conclusion of How Do I Love Thee? ›

Answer: Near the poem's conclusion, she states that her every breath, smile, and tear is a reflection of her love for her husband. The speaker concludes the sonnet by telling her husband that if God will allow her, she will love him even more after she is gone.

How do I compare thee to a summer's day? ›

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate. Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And summer's lease hath all too short a date.

How does Shakespeare present the theme of love in the play? ›

Shakespeare presents their initial meeting as passionate, flirtatious and true. "To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss." Romeo suggests that he is 'rough' and not worthy of Juliet's touch. The fact Romeo describes the kiss as 'tender' illustrates Romeo's gentle and true emotions and feelings for Juliet.

What is the main tone of the poem? ›

The poet's attitude toward the poem's speaker, reader, and subject matter, as interpreted by the reader. Often described as a “mood” that pervades the experience of reading the poem, it is created by the poem's vocabulary, metrical regularity or irregularity, syntax, use of figurative language, and rhyme.

What is the tone used in the sonnet? ›

The poem features an affectionate mood portrayed by the poet throughout the poem. The tone of the Sonnet 18 is that of the romantic intimacy of a young man intrigued by a woman's beauty. The mood and the tone, therefore, play a significant role in describing the setting of the poem.

What is the hyperbole in How Do I Love Thee? ›

A hyperbole is a exaggeration or a overstatement. This is a hyperbole because you cant really love someone with all of those things she is describing she is just exaggerating. I love thee freely, as men strive for right; I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.

Is a sonnet 18 is a love poem or not? ›

Answer and Explanation: Sonnet 18 is indeed a love poem, as most of Shakespeare's sonnets were. It is a poem about loving someone so much that the speaker seeks to immortalize him in a poem so that he can never truly die.

Is Sonnet 18 a sonnet? ›

Sonnet 18 is a typical English or Shakespearean sonnet, having 14 lines of iambic pentameter: three quatrains followed by a couplet. It also has the characteristic rhyme scheme: ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. The poem reflects the rhetorical tradition of an Italian or Petrarchan Sonnet.

Why is Sonnet 18 a sonnet? ›

Sonnet 18 contains the elements of a classic sonnet. It is written in 14 lines and contains the rhyme scheme ababcdcdefefgg. The first and third lines and second and fourth lines rhyme, and the pattern continues until the last two lines, both of which rhyme. In addition, the poem is written in iambic pentameter.

Does Romeo and Juliet have a sonnet? ›

The last fourteen lines are a sonnet, shared by Romeo and Juliet. Sonnets are traditionally poems of love.

Why is Sonnet 18 so famous? ›

Sonnet 18 is so famous largely because of its eloquent use of language and perfection of form.

What is Shakespeare's most famous sonnet? ›

Sonnet 18 — “Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?” This sonnet is perhaps Shakespeare's most famous, or at least his most quoted. It begins with the line “Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?” The answer is clearly yes, as the following thirteen lines are devoted to doing just that.

Does Sonnet 18 have a name? ›

Shakespeare, “Sonnet 18”: “Shall I Compare Thee To a Summer's Day?” (1609) “Sonnet 18,” or “Shall I compare thee to a summer's day,” is one of the best-known Shakespearean sonnets. It was originally published as part of the Shakespeare's Sonnets collection by Thomas Thorpe in 1609.

What figure of speech is Sonnet 18? ›

As most good poets do, Shakespeare uses figurative language in "Sonnet 18" to maintain the poetry of his verse and to clearly paint his idea for the reader. Shakespeare employs the use of metaphor, imagery, personification, hyperbole, and repetition as literary devices in "Sonnet 18".

What is Sonnet 18 in simple language? ›

Summary: Sonnet 18

Summer's days tend toward extremes: they are shaken by “rough winds”; in them, the sun (“the eye of heaven”) often shines “too hot,” or too dim. And summer is fleeting: its date is too short, and it leads to the withering of autumn, as “every fair from fair sometime declines.”

What type of poem is Sonnet 18? ›

Iambic pentameter is a type of line consisting of ten syllables, alternating between an unstressed and a stressed syllable (i.e. "da-DA da-DA da-DA), known as an "iambic foot." Sonnet 18 is specifically a type of sonnet called an "English sonnet," or a "Shakespearean sonnet," given Shakespeare's connection to the form.

What is the conclusion of Sonnet 18? ›

In the conclusion of the Sonnet 18, W. Shakespeare admits that 'Every fair from fair sometime decline,' he makes his mistress's beauty an exception by claiming that her youthful nature will never fade (Shakespeare 7).

Is Sonnet 18 in Romeo and Juliet? ›

Sonnet 18 does not appear in Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare published his poetry separately from his plays, and there is virtually no overlap between...

What is Shakespeare Sonnet 18 compared to? ›

Add to anthology

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate. Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And summer's lease hath all too short a date.

How to write a sonnet? ›

How to write a sonnet
  1. Choose a theme or problem. Sonnets usually explore universal elements of human life to which many people can relate. ...
  2. Pick a type of sonnet. ...
  3. Write in iambic pentameter. ...
  4. Organize stanzas. ...
  5. Follow a rhyme scheme. ...
  6. Incorporate a volta. ...
  7. Use poetic devices. ...
  8. First quatrain.

How old is Romeo and Juliet? ›

In Shakespeare's original story, Romeo is given the age of 16 years and Juliet is given the age of 13 years.


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