Browning conveys the workings of a disease mind in “Porphyria” and “Laboratory” in various ways as he uses personification in both poems to underline the emotions of the character. Both of the poems are dramatic monologues which give us the audience a clear insight into the killers’ warped minds and also convey the emotions of the protagonist in “the Laboratory” and “Porphyria” which is conveyed in a melodramatic way in the 19th century as both poems were written at that time.
Browning’s audience enjoyed these poems very much as horror was a popular genre for the Victorians. “The Laboratory” is a poem which describes the jealousy of a woman and how a human mind could do wicked things to achieve what they desire for. Whereas in “Porphyria” which is quite similar to “the Laboratory” shows how control between two lovers lead to death. In stanza one of “the Laboratory” there is an evil atmosphere being described, “devils smithy” who is the apothecary and when Browning connects it to the devil it conveys evil.Order now
The apothecary seems to be preparing deadly fumes from arsenic “smokes curling whitely” which suggests that arsenic is poison which creates a more evil atmosphere as it shows that something gruesome is going to happen. However in Porphyria, the atmosphere is at a stormy location where the weather describes the lover’s mood “anger”. “Sullen wind soon awake” suggests how the wind is strong, fierce like a person who is angry.
Browning cleverly uses pathetic fallacy and personification to convey the lover’s mood through the weather. In “The Laboratory” the jealousy from the diseased mind is developing as the person is appearing paranoid by the repetition of “they” which could suggest that the protagonist is mentally unstable and insane as you could imagine an insane person talking like that. The person is also thinking a lot about what “they” are thinking which shows that “they” seem to be nameless.
Also on line three of stanza two Browning cleverly uses repetition, “laugh at me” then “at me” shows how an unstable person thinks. However in “Porphyria” the lover is more of a stable person as in line 5-6 “I listened with a heart fit to break” this could suggest that the lover is madly in love and feeling good that his love has come back, however I distinguish it as though he is ready to snap and is unstable. Fit to break” could mean the he is ready to snap. Browning clearly establishes how much jealousy is within the protagonists mind in “The Laboratory” as they’d rather be observing how the poison is made “than go where man wait me and dance at the kings” suggests how the protagonist is ready to inflict the pain upon the rival rather than be in the presence of the kings.
Also in this stanza Browning uses alliteration to convey the harshness of the protagonist “grind, moisten and mash up thy paste” also shows how the protagonists mind is thinking of painful words which also shows how the diseased mind is getting a sense of enjoyment from watching the apothecary “I am in no haste” which evokes that the person is not in a hurry and the mind is very unstable. However in Porphyria there is no sense of harshness, just a lot of melodrama which entice the Victorian audiences.
Everything in this scene seems to be calm and passionate when Porphyria walks in “she shuts the cold out and the storm” evoking the idea that her presence has created calm in the cottage and the atmosphere begins to lighten up. She then “blazes up the fireplace, and all the cottage warm” which is significant because she just changes the atmosphere through her presence and also she is in control over fire “blaze up”. She’s also being described for a high class background “soiled gloves” which shows us that soiled gloves in the 19th century was only worn by high class people.
In “the Laboratory” Browning shows how the protagonist is interested of what pain her poison will inflict her victims. The poison seems to be very valued as it is described as “gold oozing” which is very precious shows how poison is precious to the protagonist. The poison is also being described as “soft phial” for which the poison will be placed in. This is a bottle where in the 19th century was known as a common bottle where poison is stored.
Then the way the poison is being described for the victims “sure to taste sweetly” evokes the idea that the protagonist is being sarcastic but at the same time you can feel that she has some control over the victims. This is linked to “Porphyria” as there is no intention of death approaching. As they are making love Porphyrias lover starts to think whether she’s cunning or not “while I debated what to do” this conveys how in the middle of love the diseased mind switched and the thoughts made him want to kill the lover of his life.
You see the desire for control and more of a diseased mind from the protagonist in “The Laboratory” as the character calls the poison ‘thee and thy treasures’. This conveys again how the poisons are valued by the diseased mind and also shows the reader how desperate she is to kill her victims. The poison is seen as a ‘wild crowd of invisible pleasures’ which is how I would describe something that is very valuable to me. That is how valuable the poisons are to the protagonist. ‘To carry pure death’ shows how the character longs for control over life or death.
It seems there is an obsession with the poisons and it goes on further to show how the mind of this character is diseased. This is linked to Porphyria as the lover wants the control over Porphyria. When she walks in she has the control as she lightens the room, and made the lovers head rest upon her shoulder. This shows how she had the control but when he has killed her he ‘propped her head up as before only this time my shoulder bore her head’ conveying the obsession between thee 2 diseased minds of the protagonists.
They want the control and are willing go take life which Browning also conveys two balances of power. Here is where the gender and a motive to the killing are made clear of the protagonist in “The laboratory”. It seems that the protagonist is a woman whose lover is having an affair with two other women. These are her intended victims. ‘Pauline should have just thirty minutes to live’ this is with the arsenic inside of her. She wants her to suffer but the other victim to drop dead. Pauline and Elise are the intended victims.
It seems the Protagonist is a jealous women as she wants to inflict this upon Elise, ‘her breast and her arms and her hand should drop dead’. This evokes the conception that Elise is a beautiful woman and the protagonist is jealous of her looks. This stanza also gives an insight into the status of the protagonist as she is someone in the higher class and is able to join the likes of the king. This stanza links to Porphyria because the lover was also jealous of her second lover as Porphyria seems to be having a relationship with another man.
The lover knew of this relationship and while they made love he thought of them ‘sudden thought of one so pale’ is referring to the other lover of Porphyria. This is what made him switch and become angry and jealous which are characteristics of the protagonist in the laboratory. In the natural act of love the diseased mind started thinking of another lover which is not a stable thing to do and this leads the lover on to horrific actions. This is where you see more of the diseased character come through in “The Laboratory”.
The protagonist gets overly exited at the thought that the poison is made but when she sees the form of it she is pessimistic as to her the poison should of looked beautiful ‘color to grim, why not soft like the phials’ conveys how she is disappointed at her killing weapons look. The word ‘grim’ is a clever word as it associated with death showing how she is always thinking of death. She wants this to be an attractive death but with a horrific outcome.
Then the way she describes how it should work gives more evidence into how she is obsessed with this poison. ‘Let it brighten her drink’ this conveys how to her the drink will look after the poison has been dropped. This links to Porphyria because you can see how the death is getting closer, he has thought about what to do and then you see him playing with her hair ‘And all her hair in one yellow string’ this quote build s up the tension as you can see him thinking as it is the murder weapon in a way as he loved her hair.
Browning clearly shows in “the laboratory” the murderer is surprised by the small quantity of poison “what a drop! She’s not little” which conveys that her intended victim is not small and dainty like herself. Her intentions are to trap her lover as she believes that he is week so that he could see the victim suffer “ensnared him” which shows how unstable and crazy her mind is once again.
This links in Porphyria as her lover thinks that she is week because her eyes are set on him “mine, mine, fair” which shows that she belongs to him whereas the protagonist in “the Laboratory” her lover is week. In contrast of the two poems the hatred is increasing rapidly of the protagonist in “the laboratory” as she remembers seeing her victim the previous evening with her lover whispering “for only last night, as they whispered” which creates an impression that she has been following them and she’s always watching out for them.
Then she stared them down hoping that the power of her concentrated hatred would “shrivel” her rival but she never felt scared but then the poison she has brought would do the trick “shriveled, she felt not, yet this does it all” this conveys that she is desperate to kill her victims who are Pauline and Elise. However in “Porphyria” her lover is just about to kill her as he doesn’t want her to feel pain “no pain felt she” which shows how obsessed he is about Porphyria
In stanza ten of “the laboratory” the murderer doesn’t care whether she gets caught or not all she wants is to see her victims suffer “let death be felt and the proof remain”. Then she uses evil words saying “brand, burn up, bite into its grace” shows that she want the poison to burn of their beauty which she is jealous of, she really wants her rivals to suffer. Therefore to make it worse she want the man she had lost to remember his lovers dying face “he sure is to remember her dying face” this evokes how extreme the protagonist is going to get her revenge which I think is horror-struck.
However in “Porphyria” her lover uses her hair to kill her so he made sure she felt no pain “I am quite sure she felt no pain” which once again shows how their minds are terribly unstable. And after she had died he opened her lids and laughed at the blue “eyes without strain” which conveys that she never felt pain, she died peacefully. And to make it gruesome he kisses her when she is dead “burning kiss” which shows how much he had loved her but makes us the audience wonder why would he do this.
The protagonist is in control as her victims in “the laboratory” are close to have the poison “it kills her”. She also shows no remorse “if it hurts her, can it ever hurt me” which conveys that she has met her main aim “whole fortunes fee” and she will be getting got rid of the victims she so much wanted to kill. Whereas in “Porphyria” her lover is in control now whereas she was in control before “I propped her head up as before” shows he is in control now. Also her lover has no remorse for her as he believes he has done what she wanted “her darling one wish could be heard”.
Finally the protagonist is ready for her murderous mission in “the laboratory” she also seems to be from a higher class “take off all my jewels” which coveys that people in the 19th century are from a higher class if they have jewelry. She’s very optimistic as she would be “dancing at the kings” which shows that she wants to be the attraction rather that her rivals. However in “Porphyria” her lover still wants to be together with her although she is dead “we sit together now” which gives us a sense that he believes in life after death.
This shows that he is still in love with her although she is dead. In conclusion Browning uses many techniques to empathize the characters emotions in many ways such as rhyming couplets which is the language of love, rhetorical questions, and a lot of alliteration. But overall I think as an audience “Porphyria” was the most effective poem as it is a melodramatic play which would attract many audiences and most importantly it keeps the reader thinking as to what is going to happen to the character.