The Laboratory by Robert Browning

I have to admit that despite owning a beautiful ancient copy of Browning’s poems I am not that familiar with many. The Victorian age seemed to fall between poetic periods that I have studied in detail and it’s only really Tennyson and Rossetti that I know well. The poems of Browning seem to be a popular choice for GCSE anthologies; The Last Duchess has figured in several, as has The Laboratory.

Presumably this is because both poems are excellent examples of the dramatic monologue and both convey a strong sense of the  persona of the narrator.

Most pupils seem to enjoy The Laboratory which provides a wealth of poetic devices to describe, abounding as it does in metaphor, alliteration and onomatopoeia. One of the main ways in which the persona of the narrator – unbalanced, amoral and verging on the pyschopathic – is conveyed is by Browning’s skilful use of rhyme and rhythm. The use of rhyming couplets within quatrains and a strong jaunty anapaestic metre helps to reinforce the narrator’s unhealthy anticipation of her rival’s planned demise. The whole atmosphere is one of unsettling Gothic melodrama.

Plenty for pupils to get their teeth into!

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