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Explore how Robert Browning explores the idea of character in his poem `The Laboratory.' In
your answer you should include one other poem in the pre-1914 cluster and one by Simon
Armitage and one by Carol Anne Duffy.
Robert Browning is known for his dramatic monologues that produce
characters of an unpleasant or unconventional nature. In The
Laboratory, we are presented with a woman who has been thwarted by
her lover and is planning to poison her rival. It is written from her point of
view and we are given a vivid description of the poisons and the
chemicals that surround her in the apothecary she is visiting, `such gold
oozings come!', is a sensual description displaying the passionate and
sensual nature of the woman's disposition and of the hateful behaviour
she is about to engage in.
The woman's disturbed nature can be compared to Browning's other
poem, My Last Duchess. In this dramatic monologue, we again are party
to a disturbed mind who recounts with an unabashed arrogance the
murder and power games he played with his wife. Whilst showing his
visitor his works of art, of which he includes his wife, he recounts how his
paranoid jealousy drove him to, `gave commands', to ensure, `all smiles
Finally, Armitage's Hitcher recounts the brutal murder committed to an
innocent man. Much like My Last Duchess, we have an insight into a
killing as he, `Let him have it'. The character here is again both
unabashed and shows no sign of any remorse after the deed and the tone
is that of humour as the killers says, `He'd said he like the breeze.'
With all of these characters that have been created by the poets, none of
them show any guilt in their actions. We see the reasons for their actions,
jealousy, love and even boredom but each of the poets has given us
insight into the serial killer, the psychopath or sociopath by the use of
direct speech and the dramatic monologue.