How does Browning tell the story in “The Laboratory”?
Robert Browning’s poem “The Laboratory” is set in France before the French Revolution. The dramatic monologue is about the narrator herself and her plotting of revenge against her previous lover and his current mistress and it tells the reader how she plans on doing so. She believes her actions in the story are justified and reasonable.
In the poem, the story’s tone is established with the setting, which also helps create vivid imagery for the readers, making it easier to put into context and understand. Browning uses the title to set the scene for the story, as “The Laboratory” is a place where scientific experiments take place. But oddly, in the poem it’s a place the narrator uses to tell her feelings and plot revenge. The poem is set around the time before the French revolution, which is indicated from the subtitle, “ancient regime” which was at a time of internal conflicts and civil wars, showing that it was at a violent time, which could be linked to why the narrator took such drastic measures. Furthermore, perhaps she felt more confident in committing such a crime because a single murder would be insignificant and probably “brushed under the carpet” in the context of the war period.
The poem is situated mainly around the place in which the apothecary is working, where he is making the poison that will be used to kill the narrator’s adversary. The narrator is close by the apothecary, whilst he is making the poison as she watches it, “curling whitely”, showing she wants to be involved in the preparations and see it come together. This reveals a more menacing aspect behind her character.
The rhyme scheme is regular, with an ABAC structure that makes each short stanza playful until the dramatic break in the last line. The voice of the narrator is delightfully captured, and we see that this woman is revitalised by more than just revenge; she is invigorated by the power that murder allows her to...
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