Browning's Presentation of the idea of Love in The Laboratory and My Last Duchess
Robert Browning was born into a wealthy family in 1812 in the suburbs
of London. His education was a mixture of private instruction and
informal schooling. Browning's father had a library of thousands of
books, this helped Browning develop an immense literary knowledge. As
a boy he was intelligent and he cultivated a taste for books and
learned many languages. Browning had a cultured and intellectual
outlook on life, that is reflected in the dramatic monologues we
Browning wrote two of his most famous poems, 'The Laboratory' and 'My
Last Duchess' at the start of the Victorian era, a time when Britain
was experiencing immense change. The contrast between the rich and the
poor was remarkable. A large percentage of the society was poverty
stricken. Not everything was negative though, the industrialisation of
Britain was a very exciting time; art, technology and science were
major areas of interest for the Victorians. As familiarity of these
topics developed, the topics excited, gained curiosity, became
fashions and energised the country. Browning's poems are infused with
the important subjects of the time, 'The Laboratory' features the idea
of medicine and chemistry and 'My Last Duchess' art. They also include
of timeless themes such as love, hatred and jealousy which are always
relevant, even today.
'The Laboratory' has a subtitle of 'Ancien Regime', this give us the
suggestion that the poem was based in the time just before the French
revolution, this occurred in the eighteenth century. 'My Last Duchess'
is set upon a sixteenth century Duke from Italy. We learn about the
Duke in the poem by what he says and how he says it. Through him, we
gain knowledge of his wife, 'My Last Duchess'. Both poem were
published at a similar time but are set in very different periods and
cultures. This shows Browning's intelligence but also strengthens the
idea that these themes of love, hate and jealousy are timeless.
Browning's different choice of periods may give us an indication of
how different the changes were in Victorian Britain and how even the
well educated such as Browning found it tough to cope and were
hesitant of the changes and developments around them or that they
didn't find the changes in their society entirely pleasing.
'The Laboratory' and 'My Last Duchess' both feature people who are
killing to suit their own needs. They don't care about the people that
they are meant to care for and love. Browning portrays love as
something that can lead to very diverse routes and sometimes the
complete opposite, hate.
Browning creates characters we can believe in by using dramatic
monologue. Both poems use dramatic monologue to reveal an effect on
the audience about the narrator to show their...