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  1. A poem about a man who makes a poison for his mistress and his love, and imagines the consequences of his actions. The poem explores themes of love, death, and madness, and shows the speaker's obsessive and obsessive-compulsive personality. Read the full text, analysis, and context of this classic poem by Robert Browning.

  2. A dramatic monologue poem about a 17th-century French lady who plans to poison her rival with a poisonous substance in a chemist's laboratory. The poem explores themes of jealousy, sexism, and scientific knowledge through the speaker's voice and imagery. Learn more about the poem's summary, analysis, themes, symbols, poetic devices, and vocabulary.

    • Summary
    • Form and Meter
    • Analysis The Laboratory
    • Stanza Ten
    • Stanza Eleven
    • Stanza Twelve
    • Conclusion
    • Context

    The setting for this monologue is in a laboratory, where a vengeful wife oversees an apothecary as he blends a poison; its intended use is to kill her husband’s lover. Despite the dark subject manner, the tone of the poem is gleeful and energetic; Browning’s character is like a pantomime villain, and we see her excitement mount as she witnesses the...

    The poem is set out in 12 tightly structured quatrains, with rhyming couplets (AABB). The regular rhyme scheme makes each verseplayful and full of macabre fun. This poem is written mostly written in anapestic tetrameter, which consists of two unstressed syllables, followed by a stress. It creates here a staccato rhythm which suggests the adrenaline...

    Stanza One

    Browning immediately creates an eerie scene. We sense the villainous wife looking on with deep interest, through the ‘faint smoke’. The use of the word ‘gaze’ suggests that she is staring in wonder; fascinated as she looks on. Immediately we are aware that this is a sinister place, as Browning employs the metaphor ‘devil’s-smithy’. Normally we would assume that an apothecary is where one visits to find healing medicines, but this one is being used for the opposite purpose. The alliteration an...

    Stanza Two

    Here we gain an insight into the affair which is spurring the wife to commit this act of vengeance. The use of repetition in the first monosyllabic line, creates a mirrored effect, and highlights how brazen the couple are, as they flaunt their adulterous relationship. It seems that they almost have contempt for the cuckolded wife, and the repetition of ‘laugh’ compounds this sense. However, the narratortells us, she will have the last laugh. They believe her to be seeking solace in a cold, gr...

    Stanza Three

    This stanza is full of active verbs such as ‘grind’, ‘pound’, ‘moisten’ which vividly recreate the actions of the apothecary as he prepares the deadly elixir. This is illustrated by the dash and exclamation mark in the second line. The plosive ‘p’ sounds and assonancealso replicate the motion of the process, which the Speaker clearly enjoys watching, even more than she would go to court to dance.

    Browning is determined not to hide the depth of this spurned woman’s hatred. She instructs the apothecary to ensure that her victim suffers. The strong alliterative plosive ‘b’ sounds, along with the monosyllables, reinforces that she wants to savor her distress. She also wants her husband to witness it to inflict pain and trauma upon him too.

    The orders continue and we sense her eagerness to get started with the plan. The fact that she orders the apothecary: ‘be not morose’ suggests that he was, perhaps, an unwilling accomplice, and is regretting ever agreeing to this heinous business. The speaker, however, is untroubled, saying firmly ‘It kills her’. Sensuous language is used in the de...

    In gratitude, she tells the apothecary ‘take all my jewels’ and urges him to ‘gorge gold’ if he so wishes: the combination of assonance and alliteration here accentuatesthese words. his effect creates a rather gruesome image of her reluctant partner in crime gobbling up her gold and poisoning himself into the bargain. Browning seems to be really en...

    Poison obtained, the spurned wife gleefully heads off to put it to use, leaving to go to the court to mingle with the other aristocrats, who suspect nothing of her cunning plan. She is not unlike arch-villain Lady Macbethwho tells her husband: ‘look like th’innocent flower, /but be the serpent under’t.’

    Robert Browning (1812-1889) was born in London, though he lived the latter years of his life in Italy with his wife, Elizabeth Barrett-Browning. He published this poem in 1844. Although he also wrote children’s work, such as The Pied Piper of Hamelin, it is for dramatic monologues such as this, with the psychological and historical commentary which...

    • Female
    • English And French Teacher
  3. The Laboratory (1895), painting by John Collier, inspired by Browning's poem "The Laboratory" is a poem and dramatic monologue by Robert Browning. The poem was first published in June 1844 in Hood's Magazine and Comic Miscellany, and later Dramatic Romances and Lyrics in 1845.

  4. The Laboratory. Robert Browning. Track 34 on Browning’s Shorter Poems. The poem is a dramatic monologue narrated by a young woman in the presence of the unseen, silent figure of an apothecary...

  5. Robert Browning’s poem “The Laboratory” is a haunting exploration of a woman’s desire for revenge against her unfaithful lover. Set in a mysterious laboratory, the poem takes readers on a journey through the protagonist’s twisted thoughts and actions as she concocts a deadly poison.

  6. Poem analysis of Robert Browning's The Laboratory through the review of literary techniques, poem structure, themes, and the proper usage of quotes.