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Robert Browning The Laboratory
Transcript of Robert Browning The Laboratory
The Laboratory is set in France in the fifteenth or sixteenth century. It is a dramatic monologue and is spoken by a woman who has come to the laboratory of an alchemist in order to buy poison with which to remove her rivals.
This theme is at the core of the poem as without the speaker feeling this there would be no point in the poem existing. This poem can be see to be warning readers about how bad times can get if jealousy is allowed to manifest within a person.
Quote - He is with her, and they know that I know
Class and society
The speaker of the poem is either a young aristocrat or a member of the royal court as she spends her time with the wealthy and beautiful.
Typical of higher class murderers she does not want to get her hands dirty so uses poison instead of items such as a knife or gun.
The fact that she is a woman allows the reader to sympathize with her as many of us have been betrayed in love however this poem is very anti-feminist as she targets the women who she views as her rivals not the actual man who broke her heart.
Quote - I dance at the kings
Women and femininity
Men are in the background in the poem. The speaker is a woman, her intended victim is a woman. All her anger is directed at other women.
The speaker describes a lot of feminine details around women of her era such as the jewelery. The act of poisoning is also stereotypically female.
Quote - Than go where men wait me and dance at the kings.
Revenge is what the speaker wants throughout, it is her main focus. The speaker wants everyone around her to know the kind of painful, terrible death she can inflict if anyone crosses her.
Browning is painting a ghastly portrait of how terrible the effects of romantic betrayal can be and how low the human mind can sink as a result.
Quote - Which is the poison to poison her, prithee?
The Laboratory is about the idea of death and morality and the dirty, violent reality of poison and murder. The speaker fantasies about killing multiple people. She is excited by the idea of deciding whether people live or die. Murder becomes her form of release.
Quote - To carry pure death in an ear-ring , a casket, a signet, a fan-moun, filigree basket.
The poem is set in a old style laboratory of an alchemist Ipswich is established through the use of language in the poem. There aren't a lot of details given but the ones that are provide the reader with a dark, Gothic, creepy atmosphere.
The speaker in this poem is a woman of high class who describes her feelings, desires, plans and fantasies surrounding her betrayal by her ex-lover.
Her character is depicted as bloodthirsty, sadistic, crazy, jealous and obsessed with death. She is willing to use anything to get what she wants whether its money, murder or her body.
The poem is divided up into four-line stanzas (quatrains).
There are twelve quatrains which gives the poem a calm, controlled feeling even though the subject is the complete opposite.
The rhyme scheme is even and regular spaced . Each quatrain has two pairs of rhyming couplets.
This is important because Browning is working out the balance between beauty and horror. He's talking about ugly things but he does it in a beautiful, orderly and controlled way. Even when he's describing someones death the lines continue rhythmically throughout. This is how the poem gets into the readers mind as it forces you to think about the beauty off ugliness and the ugliness of beauty.
The basic unit of this poems meter is called an anapest - two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable.
da da DUM da da Dum
There are four anapests in each line called a tetrameter so the meter of this poem is a anapestic tetrameter. However
Browning does change the meter of the poem sometimes when it suits the subject matter .
The language used reminds the reader of shakespearen texts with the use of words such as prithee and thy. It is also shown to be of a higher class as slang is not used.
The language used has a natrual rhythm and by using alliteration the poem has a sharp choppy sound which puts the reader on edge.
By using language suited to the subject matter the mood and tone of the poem is weaved without the poem.
The title of this poem not only sets the scene but also builds up the mysterious sinister mood of the poem.
The title is also reminsent of Ghothic literature which makes the reader find a connection between Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and the poem. Therefore the reader imagines the setting themselves without much prompt allowing the reader to feel drawn into the poem and making it personal to them.
The poem is based on the true story of Marquise de Brinvilliers. She was a French aristocrat in the late seventeenth century was poisoned her father and her brothers so she wouldn't have to share her inheritence. She was tried and executed in 1876.
In the Renaissance period and especially in Italy, poisoning almost became a fine art and had its proffesion.
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