by Robert Browning
There is a ton of talk about poison in "The Laboratory." It's the thing that drives the whole poem's plot. It's why the speaker is in the lab. It's what she's going to use to achieve her ugly desires, and it's the old man's job to make it for her. Even though the speaker only uses the actual word in two lines, poison and the things you can do with it are never far from her mind. And that leads us to consider her own poisoned state. She's so consumed by revenge, it's like her spirit has been contaminated the way a poison might attack a body.
- Line 4: The first time we hear about poison, she says it twice, just so you don't miss it. Notice how Browning drops it in at the end of the first line, too, just to give you a little jolt. It's like the feeling you get when you see a dead body at the beginning of a murder mystery. (Oh, and check out that P-sound alliteration, too!)
- Line 16: Our speaker is peeking around the lab, asking questions about the things she sees. One blue bottle in particular catches her eye, and she asks if that's poison, too. She's definitely got poison on the brain. We also want you to notice that cool thing he does by placing the words "sweetly" and "poison" together. Usually you don't think of poison as being sweet, but that's kind of how our speaker seems—sweet and poisonous at the same time.