The Laboratory

In The Laboratory, the courtesan chooses poison as her murder weapon. Poison is often the weapon of choice for female killers. It requires little or no physical strength to administer, and can be done secretly. It also leaves little evidence thus making it difficult to detect the culprit. We believe the act of murder is because of another woman that her lover is with and she feels physically inferior to her rival. We know this because she starts saying ‘What a drop!

She’s not little, no minion like me. ’ The murderer is also fascinated and excited about the poison and power of the poison, she says ‘And yonder soft phial, the exquisite blue sure to taste sweetly’ She thinks that her rival who she is out to kill will think nothing of it and will believe it’s just an ordinary beverage. She then also goes onto say ‘to carry pure death in an earring, a casket. ’ Meaning she is so excited about the whole aspect of being able to carry death in such a small item.

So she plans to slip her rival only known as ‘Pauline’ and give her thirty minutes to live until ‘her breast and her arms and her hands should drop dead! ’ This is what she believes will happen in her head, she believes the murder will happen quickly and she also chose poison because she didn’t want to see it happen. Browning writes ‘The delicate droplet, my whole fortunes fee’ showing that she’s incredibly dedicated in getting this guy and she’s spent her whole fortune on the poison and she’s not going to give up until the deed is complete.

The character is quite evil in a way; not only has she murdered someone but she says ‘ Not that i bid you spare her the pain; Let death be felt and the proof remain; Brand, burn up, bite into its grace- He is sure to remember her dying face! ’ Which is almost saying that he is going to remember this moment for a long time and this is her perfect revenge on him for leaving her for this other woman. The character is also quite optimistic about the whole thing as she doesn’t feel there will be any consequences afterwards.

This optimism and careless attitude towards her murder suggests she has murdered before and she’s not worried about being found out because she is proud of what she has done ‘Now, take all my jewels, gorge gold to your fill, you may kiss me, old man, on my mouth is 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 Porphyria’s Lover the murder weapon is the victims own hair. Browning states in the poem that the murderer debates what to do as he is over the moon that Porphyria has told him that she loved him. That moment she was mine, mine, mine fair, perfectly pure and good’. Earlier in the poem, you are told that all her yellow long hair was displaced and at the point rising up to the murder just by reading it you can almost see the light bulb click above his head for his new bright idea. He was to murder her will her own hair. ‘I found a thing to do, and all her hair in one long yellow string I wound three times her little throat around and strangled her. ’ So the murder happens quite suddenly and again when reading it you can see the pleasure in his eyes while doing it as Porphyria is finally his forever.

Browning uses such techniques as enjambment while the murder is happening so make it seem like the murder is happening quickly and to rise the tension and excitement of it, for example the part where he has the idea and then strangles her, the line gaps and pauses are in the middle of the sentence and not at the end, this makes the reader read faster and could possibly make them breathless. The murderer seems quite adamant that no one will discover what he has done and that his victim felt no pain. No pain felt she; I am quite sure she felt no pain’ This suggests that he might have sympathy for her and wishes that it was a painless death because he wants her to be ‘happy’ and with him forever. Just a few lines down in the poem he then goes on to say ‘I warily oped her lids: again laughed the blue eyes without a stain. ’ He cautiously opens her eyes just to see if there is any life left in her, and is almost relieved that she is dead; the laugh could then be portrayed as a nervous laugh with a sigh of relief.

He then makes sure that there is no evidence to how she died, so he untangles her hair from her neck and then says ‘Her head, which droops upon it still: the smiling rosy little head, so glad it has its utmost will, that all it scorned at once is fled and I, it’s love, am gained instead. ’ This is saying that he’s glad she is dead and all her other lovers cannot place their hands on her anymore as he has gained her love for as long as he lives.

The character’s motives for murder really is jealousy and he’s greedy and wants her for himself, he almost seems a little insane because at the end of the poem he says ‘And thus we sit together now, and all night long we have not stirred and yet god has not said a word’ So he just sits with this dead woman all night and he believes strongly that god does not mind what he has done and understands his motives for the murder of this innocent woman. Finally Browning uses pathetic fallacy to reflect the ood, at the start of the poem he says ‘The rain set early in tonight, the sullen wind was soon awake, it tore the elm-tops down for spite and did its worst to vex the lave’. This is showing us that the weather was miserable and gloomy and the it was ripping leaves off and ‘upsetting’ lakes. So the murders in the poems are completely different to each other, but they almost both show slight elements of revenge in them. With Porphyria’s he almost wanted revenge on the other men who loved her as he didn’t get a chance with her and then in The Laboratory she wanted to ruin his life for leaving her for another woman.

Both the murders are quite peaceful in a way, well not exactly peaceful but not in a violent throat slashing, stabbing murder kind of way, but away where they die quite-ish. They both didn’t take that much effort to do, they were simplistic. Both poems use enjambment which leads up to the murder and creates a sort of tension and quickness about it, and has the reader reading quickly and becoming quite breathless, which grips you and has you wanting more with your heart racing, almost as if Browning wants you to believe you are there and witnessing the murder yourself.

Browning has also used structure in each of his monologues to reflect the mind of the killer and their attitudes. These two poems are structured very differently. In The Laboratory there is a regular verse pattern. This structure suggests a chronological process which seems to contrast with the rather rambling ideas and erratic mood of the speaker. However, she is waiting for a scientific process to be completed (the brewing of the poison), so the structure of the poem probably reflects this, as it is this process that determines her emotions. The poem is written in twelve stanzas, all of four lines, rhymed AABB.

The metre is anapaestic (two unstressed syllables, followed by a stressed one) – and this creates a rather jaunty effect, which seems unsuited to the poem’s subject, if we take it too seriously. It seems like Browning wants the poem almost to be comic and over the top, much like a horror/comedy film where the situations and characters are quite ridiculous. Browning uses alliteration a few times in the poem ‘Moisten and mash up thy paste’ & ‘pound at thy powder’. This adds a little liveliness and excitement to the text and can be quite exaggerated when read.

The rhyming structure of the poem also adds that little bit more excitement and creates a child like element about it. Browning may use this technique because in a sense it makes the reader happier and can have the effect to make them reader faster to see what happens next therefore adding to tension, suspicion and excitement. Also Browning now has the reader gripped and wanting more. Porphyria’s Lover has a fast rhythm to it, much like The Laboratory and also has a slight chronological structure to it, with a little information before hand and then the murder and then it has the aftermath of the murder.

Browning uses just one long verse. The speaker sets the scene for us and explains the events of the evening. The poet uses a lot of enjambment and caesura to mimic the sound of natural speech. The structure of the poem helps to establish the mindset of the lover. Upon first glance, the rhyme scheme seems odd and disjointed. More careful inspection reveals an odd pattern: every two non-indented lines rhyme and every three indented lines rhyme ABABB. So there is in fact a strict logic behind the somewhat chaotic structure. This mirrors the lover’s own mindset.

He is obviously disturbed (chaotic) but within his own mind there is a very strict logic, and he can justify his actions to himself. Browning uses simple, short words. However there are subtle developments in the poem to suggest the speaker’s unusual state of mind and his heightening state of conflict. At first the poem relies almost on description as the speaker recounts the events that have taken place, but as it becomes clear that the events described through the speakers madness the language becomes more metaphorical.

For example in the beginning the character gives a simple physical description of Porphyria ‘and made her smooth white shoulder bare’ but then after he kills her he uses more and more similes ‘as a shut bud that holds a bee, I warily opened her eyes. ’ Relating to the rhyme again, it too like The Laboratory uses enjambment and has the reader reading faster until the breaks in the middle of the sentence. It creates that upbeat rhythm to it which leaves you wanting more and building the tension up to the murder.

Also in this poem Browning uses such techniques as repetition ‘that moment she was mine, mine, fair. ’ This shows the desperation and his undying love to Porphyria, it shows how happy he is that he has her in his life. Finally much like the Laboratory Browning uses alliteration in his poem right after the murder the speaker describes Porphyria ‘blushes, bright, beneath my burning kiss. ’ I believe Browning may have used this particular technique to show the almost insanity of the speaker and the evil side to him, with his ‘burning kiss’.

As in the Laboratory the alliteration was used when she was creating the potion and had the evil side of her come out. I think the way these poems are structured really amplify the evilness and despair of the murderers. The upbeat pace created makes the tension and suspicion rise, which I don’t believe the characters themselves actually create. They seem a little too unrealistic and especially in the modern age the whole strangling his love one with her hair round her neck may seem a little outdated and almost silly.

I think in the laboratory the murder is slightly more realistic as she is using a poison which in this day you see quite a bit of in films and television. It also shows the aspect of revenge which could be related to by a reader of this era. I see how in pe-1914 these poems would have been slightly more realistic and frightening but now due to the influence of films, television and even more recent poetic pieces these murderers and murder choices don’t seem to have the wow factor anymore.

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