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The Laboratory
The Laboratory
by Robert Browning
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Eyes

Symbol Analysis

Like a haunted forest from any Saturday morning cartoon, this poem is full of evil eyes. Staring eyes have a kind of magic to them in "The Laboratory." They can enchant and entrap, and they can almost kill. Of course eyes have an ancient poetic history in poems about love. In this case, though, Browning is twisting that standard romantic image into something much scarier. Eek!

  • Line 31: Here the speaker talks about her rival's "masculine eyes." That might just be another way of putting her down, like when she calls her fat in line 29. But those eyes are also what she thinks "ensnared" her boyfriend. There's a lot of pretty subtle stuff in this poem about female and male power. A man can kill with a sword, but a woman needs poison. And a woman has to use magic and sneaky tricks to win a man's affection. Or at least that's what our speaker thinks.
  • Line 34: Ever heard the expression "if looks could kill"? Well that's what this lady is trying to do. She hates her rival so much that she wishes she could kill her just by staring at her. And for a moment, she feels like it's working. Unfortunately for her, it's pretty tough to kill someone by looking at them, so she has to go with a more traditional method: poison.