Barrett Browning’s Poetry: Social & Political Commentary

Lesson rationale

Inspired by her early reading of Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), Elizabeth Barrett Browning gave a voice, in her poems, to many of those oppressed by contemporary injustice: child labourers, the poor, and the enslaved. In this lesson, students will give these voices dramatic form, using the techniques of ‘role on the wall’, ‘still image’ and ‘thought-tracking’ to show their insights into the experiences of those whose plight Barrett Browning describes.

Key questions in this lesson:

  • What kinds of social and political injustice does Barrett Browning describe?
  • How does she depict social and political injustice in her poetry?
  • In what ways can an understanding of the historical context of Barrett Browning’s work illuminate her poetry?
  • How can drama techniques be used to give the oppressed a voice?