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The Laboratory

The Laboratory


by Robert Browning

The Laboratory Theme of Jealousy

This theme is at the core of "The Laboratory." It's the feeling that drives our speaker on her bloody quest. Basically, if she wasn't crazy jealous of her ex-lover and his new girlfriend, there wouldn't be a reason for this poem to exist. We get all kinds of hints throughout the poem that our speaker feels insanely jealous of other women, and would do almost anything to triumph over them. In that way, then, this poem can be seen as a kind of warning to readers about just how bad the times can be if jealously is allowed to fester unchecked.

Questions About Jealousy

  1. Do you think the kind of jealousy the poem's speaker is feeling is normal? Or is she way off the charts?
  2. Is there a particular line in the poem that makes you really feel the power of the speaker's jealousy? If so, which one and why? 
  3. Do you think jealousy is the most important thing driving our speaker on her evil quest? Is there another emotion that might be even more significant?
  4. Is jealousy an excuse for bad behavior? Or maybe just an explanation for it?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The fire of the speaker's jealousy helps to make her actions seem more understandable. The poem uses the motivation of jealousy to lure us into seeing things her way. Spooky.

Browning uses this story to expose the ugly consequences of jealousy. He wants us to see how a little feeling of envy can snowball into something really terrible. Thanks for the heads up, Brownie!

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