Robert Browning «The Laboratory» Essay
‘The Laboratory’ by Robert Browning is a dramatic monologue that tells the story of a woman’s plot to murder her romantic rival — Robert Browning «The Laboratory» Essay introduction. The form in which Browning has written this poem subtly reveal aspects of the female speaker whilst allowing the reader to make their own personal judgement on her behaviour and character, which would commonly be that she is a jealous, obsessed, blood-thirsty and sadistic woman. The speaker in the poem demonstrates signs of insanity and instability throughout as she becomes obsessed with poison, and the power and possibilities that come with it. The main objective for the speaker is to have the scientist in the laboratory create her a poison that will effectively help her to kill her ex lover’s new woman. Most of the poem is centred around the speaker’s feelings, desires, plans and fantasies which brings about several themes in the poem such as revenge, jealousy, death and science. The theme of jealousy demonstrates the extreme measures a woman goes to when faced with jealousy and what drives this speaker in particular, on her bloody quest to kill her romantic rival. Revenge exists as an obvious theme as the poem is all about the speaker plotting revenge and we also learn that revenge is often sought as an effect of romantic betrayal. The theme of death is brought about through the effects of poison whilst unveiling the violent reality of it. Science is also another major theme as the title would suggest, it is set in a laboratory and the description of it is told through the speaker’s eyes.
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Browning has divided the poem in to 12 quatrains which is a fairly spaced out structure that suggests that it is a calm and gentle poem which in fact is the complete opposite, also within the poem there is an anapaestic metre, creating a jaunty, nervous rhythm, again contrasting with the suggestive calm structure. There is also an element of control from the absence of enjambment, hinting that the speaker’s thoughts are controlled and focused on her objective. However, this interpretation is only particular in stanza 1 because in in stanza’s 5 and 6 we see the speaker become completely absorbed in her thoughts, loosing focus on the matter at hand or the main objective and begins fantasising about all the women she could kill with poison.
There is a semantic field of religion surrounding stanza’s 1 and 2 identified by the use of biblical language. The speaker describes the laboratory as a “devil’s-smithy” which has connotations of evil and evil science and there is a juxtaposition of religious imagery with stanza 2 where the speaker speaks of a church and praying to God. The speaker is thought by her ex lover and his woman to of fled to the church to pray but in actual fact she has fled to an evil laboratory to perform what could be described as the work of the devil and daydreaming about sinful actions.
The speaker’s obsession and fascination with poison is evident in almost every stanza of the poem. Browning has conveyed this through the speaker’s descriptive language, constant questioning and exclamatives. Stanza 4 is particularly important as the world of science within the laboratory is explored by the speaker as she identifies all the different poisons on display. We can also see her admiration for the poisons through her complementation of the poison’s source, “the brave tree whence such gold oozings come!”. The way the speaker describes the colour of the poison is also of importance as it allows the reader to identify how beautiful they appear to her. One of the poison’s is described to be an “exquisite blue”, indicating the strange beauty she finds so attractive. Lines such as “Sure to taste sweetly” demonstrates how the speaker can envisage the effects of poison in her mind which supports the interpretation of her insanity.
The speaker’s fascination with poison continues in stanza 5 whereby they are called “treasures”. She longs to have all these poisons and is excited by all the possible ways the poison can be masked, “an earring, a casket, a signet…”. Imagining ways in which poison can be hidden behind the beauty of such objects presents a disturbed and estranged mindset within the speaker and the reader can begin to really get a sense of the type of character the speaker is. Perceptions of insecurity within the speaker can be highlighted through her immense jealousy of women. Men are background characters within the poem and women stand forefront and victim to the speaker’s vindictive attitude. Stanza 6 is where the speaker goes off in to a daydream, listing the different ways in which poison can be used. She thinks about the women she would like to kill whilst listing different body parts of each victim which may be the particular aspects of the women she is jealous of and make her feel insecure. The speaker compares herself to her romantic rival in stanza 8 describing her to be “no minion” like herself, which also addresses feelings of insecurity and jealousy.
There is a worried tone and disappointment set within the poem after the poison has been made. This is where the reader can identify the desperation of the speaker and how determined she is to get the poison right, emphasising the strong hunger for revenge. “The colour’s too grim!” , “Why not…enticing and dim?”. It is clear that the speaker wants the poison to be attractive and enticing in order for her rival to consume it and experience the fatalness of poison. “Not that i bid you spare her the pain” hints at the ruthless and unmerciful character of the speaker driven by her want for revenge.
The poem features examples of plosives, sibilance and alliteration. “pound at thy powder” exemplifies the use of plosives and how it provides an element of stiffness and anger and when read aloud, the reader can pick up on the fury and hatred felt by the speaker. Sibilance is used in lines such as “sure to taste sweetly”, the repetition of ‘s’ creates a evil tone which is reflective of the speaker’s actions.
There are elements within the poem which give the reader an idea of the position or status of the speaker. We can tell she has some status as she dances with King’s at court and her wealth is displayed in two areas of the poem, stanza 5 where she lists the wealthy objects which can carry poison and in stanza 12 where she gives the old man all her jewels, (also in stanza 11, “my whole fortune’s fee”). The speaker has given up a lot of her wealth all in the name of revenge and even offers her body, “you may kiss me…on my mouth”, shows her offering more than just gold. This also highlights the desperation and drive to get what she wants. The last stanza presents the idea of corruption, displaying the immoral and dishonest conduct found within people of power.
“The Laboratory” by Robert Browning
The Laboratory is a poem which is set in the 18th century and is about a jealous woman who thinks her husband is cheating on her so she asks a chemist to make poison so she can kill her lover’s mistress. The main themes throughout this poem are love, hate and jealousy which eventually lead to death.
Lady Macbeth is a play which was written in the 17th century and is about a deeply ambitious women who lusts for power and status, her ambition is shown by immediate determination for Macbeth to be king by killing Duncan.
Lady Macbeth and Macbeth become partners in crime which strengthens the attachment they feel for each other.
The Laboratory and My Last Duchess — Assignment Example
The poems “The Laboratory” and “My Last Duchess” written by Robert Browning in 1845 are both set in different periods and places in history and of even different cultures, yet both tell a story of the destructive effect harmful emotions can have. These emotions of jealousy and greed, mixed with power and wealth make suspicion and a fascination with murder, inevitable.
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“My Last Duchess” is set in Ferrara in 16th century Italy at the time of the Renaissance; the poem reflects the popularity at the time of the love of art and the duke reflects this perfectly : That’s My Last Duchess painted on the wall, Looking as if she were alive. I call That piece a wonder now: Fra Pandolf’s hands Worked busily a day, and there she stands”. The Duke of Ferrara expresses his love of art by name dropping a famous artist of the time, and boasting of how it was done quickly, it also serves as a preview of his nature which we learn more about as the Dramatic Monologue progresses.
We learn quickly that the Duke is showing someone around his private art gallery, and while at first we don’t know who the listener is , we know he must be of some importance or he has an aim of some importance because the Duke exclaims that he doesn’t allow just anyone to view the painting of ‘his’ last Duchess: “(Since no one puts by the curtain I have drawn for you, but I)”.
“The Laboratory” is set in pre revolutionary France, a time where the people had an obsession or fixation with poison and the courtier shows her interest almost immediately in the poem, the sixth line being Which is the poison to poison her, prithee? She then in the next stanza reveals her motive for wanting the poison by stating that ‘he is with her’ and they don’t care where she is or what she is up to. She thinks they think she is crying at her loss, laughing at her for praying in church, then exclaims proudly ” – I am here”. It is apparent that she is excl aiming it proudly because it is on its own line. The ghostly cave-like atmosphere helps to reflect this: “These faint smokes curling whitely”
The courtier also uses the metaphor ‘devil’s-smithy’ to describe the eerie setting. This can be compared to ‘My Last Duchess’ where the atmosphere is even more eerie even without the descriptions of a sinister alchemists, with thick white smoke, as the duke is showing a count’s messenger around his private art gallery, which in itself seems rich and glamorous, while the painting he is presenting of his former wife isn’t, because although the painting seems great and the duke is impressed with it, the fact that he prefers the painting to the person makes it all the more sinister.
Robert Browning uses the Duke’s arrogant persona to convey why he prefers the painting to the memory of her. The Duke comes across as arrogant from the start of the poem, even before the poem starts in fact, the title containing the possessive pronoun ‘My’ suggesting he thinks of the Duchess as his possession. In contrast to this in ‘The Laboratory’ the Courtier seems to have a victim complex as she states that “she’s not little, no minion like me! “, again “like me” is on its own line, emphasising the point.
She also uses many personal pronouns early in the poem, the second stanza: my tears flow…… laugh at me, at me fled…. I am here” The Duke’s egotistical behaviour in ‘My Last Duchess’ is also shown through the format of the dramatic monologue, it is all one stanza , which suggests that he will say all he has to say without giving anyone a chance to interrupt.
The poem is carefully rhymed in a way that the rhyming couplets aren’t noticed in the rhythm of the poem as the use of enjambament prevents the reader from pausing at the end of the end to emphasize the rhyme, for example: The bough of cherries some officious fool Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule She rode with round the terrace – all and each Would draw from her alike the approving speech,” The Laboratory however, is set out in separate short stanzas with many words each on their own line. This conveys her rush and eager attitude towards obtaining the poison which is conveyed through the many exclamation marks Browning uses to draw attention to this.
This also increases as she becomes more and more thrilled with the idea of poisoning ‘her’ as she starts to fantasise what it would be like to watch her drinking the poison, disguised by the imagery of attractive colours, by the last stanza a single word or phrase it on separate line every second line: “Now, take all my jewels, gorge gold to your fill, You may kiss me, old man, on my mouth if you will! But brush this dust off me, lest horror it brings Ere I know it – next moment I dance at The King’s”
In contrast to this Browning makes the Duke seems cold, as he does the Courtier, however in a more subtle way that also reflect the duke’s arrogant, unimaginative and businesslike attitude by the lack of imagery used which would make the Duke seem more approachable. The Courtier seems cold in the blatant way that she is plotting to poison someone and makes the reader aware of it from the very start, whereas the Duke tries to make himself seem more approachable by the use of hesitations and parenthesis, making his speech seem more natural: Even had you skill In speech – (which I have not)” However this seems false, also the use of false modesty in this quote.
The Duke tells the listener he had killed his former Duchess in a subtle way “I gave commands and all smiles stopped”. Browning successfully uses the form, vocabulary and imagery of both poems to suit the characters involved in it. Both dramatic monologues are about murder however in the Lab oratory the woman thinks she is killing for a reason and in “My Last Duchess” he kills because he doesn’t think he needs a reason.