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Jealousy Revealed in Robert Browning’s "The Laboratory"

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Jealousy Revealed in Robert Browning’s "The Laboratory" essay
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Jealousy, a simple emotion that can lead people to do things impulsively, and even lead them beyond the boundaries of sanity. In Robert Browning’s dramatic monologue poem “The Laboratory”, the poet portrays a woman who has been betrayed in a relationship with the man she loves. This man constantly deceives his partner, and in doing so, causes the narrator to become relive her hurt an outrage to the point of jealousy. The woman clearly passes over the boundary of sanity when she rationalizes a poison to kill his mistress. Jealousy is often the root of all evil while leading one to do unnecessary, violent actions. Through the use of symbols, personification, and the structure of the poem, Robert Browning clearly demonstrates that jealousy can not be confused with love. Through the importance of symbols within “The Laboratory”, the smoke the narrator is witnessing while the poison is being created represents evil. The smoke is the cause of the evil happenings throughout the rest of the poem.

For example, the smoke is introduced in the poem when it is stated by the narrator, “May gaze thro’ these faint smokes curling whitely” (Browning, 2). The smoke was created when the fatal poison was being made. The poison later then killed someone, proving the purpose of the poison is bad. The fact that something is burnt is a sign it should not be ingested, because it is untasteful and unenjoyable. Even though it was a poison the narrator made for the mistress, she did not attempt to make it taste satisfying. Also, the smoke represents evil because it allows the readers to know the setting (the laboratory) is a place where evil can be created. It allows the reader to receive the thought of the laboratory being a dark location where substances and mixtures can be burnt to create a deadly result. Another symbol illustrated by Robert Browning in the poem is simply just jealousy symbolized as the poison.

The woman’s jealousy becomes so severe that she creates a poison out of spite. The jealousy is the reason she created the poison, killed the mistress, and becomes destructive where her true vices are displayed. For example, in the poem the narrator says, “And Pauline should have just thirty minutes to live! … And her breast and her arms and her hands, should drop dead!” (2, 4). The quote establishes that her jealousy has taken over to the point of insanity. She is clearly jealous of how her romantic partner now prefers to spend his time with another woman. Though morally she may have a right to be jealous, she has obviously shown the reader that her actions were violent and unnecessary. The theme of “The Laboratory” is also shown though personification. While the poison is almost complete the narrator states what the poison is made of. She states that the poison is from a tree, and when people eat the sap which takes the form of gum, the victim will die. This is revealed when the narrator states, “That in the mortar-you call it gum? Ah, the brave tree whence such gold oozings come!”(Browning 1-2). The personification demonstrated in the quote is when the author described the tree as brave.

The tree is described as brave because it contains a deadly sap that so much evil is contained within. Something contained that much evil would have to be brave because it would be considered very risky to contain too much poison. Another example of personification in Browning’s “The Laboratory”, is how the narrator describes how the poison working it’s purpose within the mistress. “Let death be felt and the proof remain; Brand, burn up, bite into its grace-”() demonstrates that the poison is physically painful as poisons cannot physically bite Browning wrote in the last few stanzas. The jealousy has created such an evil poison, it not only kills but will be painful upon the death of his mistress, meaning his mistress will die while suffering. This demonstrates jealousy is the root of all evil because the woman wished that her victim would suffer a great deal of pain as she was in pain when her partner was spending so much time with another woman. The structure of the poem reveals that jealousy is after the root of all evil in two different ways. There is a significant amount of shifts throughout “The Laboratory”. The first shift takes place in the fifth stanza, where the narrator went from discussing the making of the poison, to revealing her thoughts of how her partner’s mistress will die and her feelings connected to the plot of her death. Also, when this particular shift occurs, it also demonstrates a shift in emotion.

At first, while the poison is being created, it is revealed that her partner is committing adultery, making the narrator feel angry and sad as she explains to the reader. After the shift, it is acknowledged that the poet displays the woman’s emotions as excited and passionate when she imagines the moment of her partner’s mistress’ murder. Before the shift, in verse 2, the narrator phrases “What they are, what they do: they believe my tears flow While they laugh, laugh at me, at me fled to the drear”(2,3), demonstrating her sadness for her lover’s betrayal, while in verse 5 the narrator states, “Soon, at the King’s, a mere lozenge to give And Pauline should have just thirty minutes to live!”(2,3), through the use of punctuation proving to the reader the woman is excited to kill his mistress.

This shift shows that jealousy is often the root of all evil while leading one to do unnecessary, violent actions because it shows how a simple feeling of jealousy can transform from sadness to revenge very quickly. Her jealousy alternated from jealousy into pure evil because of her poor, redundant actions. Another shift that demonstrates the theme of the poem is when her partner’s mistress was murdered. After her victory, she feels she has gained even more power from the murder because the murder gave her a sense of power over someone who has wronged her. She now feels that killing someone is an answer to her problems from people who have wronged her.

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Jealousy Revealed In Robert Browning’S “The Laboratory”. (2020, April 30). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 17, 2021, from
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