Monday, 28 April 2014

The Laboratory: Ancien Regime Robert Browning


1.Answer the following questions in two or three sentences
Why does the speaker call the laboratory the ‘devil’s smithy’? What is the motive behind her visit to that place?   -The speaker of the dramatic monologue “The Laboratory: Ancien Regime” is a wicked woman who wants to kill her enemies with delicious poisonous drink or sweets. This poison is prepared in the laboratory by an old and experienced chemist. The chemist is misusing scientific knowledge in order to earn a lot of money. The chemist is greedy for wealth and he is ready to make very dangerous poison for the lady. This is why she calls the laboratory ‘the devil’s smithy’ and the devil is the old chemist. She visits the place to get the poison.
2. Why does she say that the poison in the phial is sure to taste sweetly? While the old chemist is preparing the poison in the phial, the speaker is watching it with great curiosity. The poison is bright blue and very attractive. So she is sure the poison tastes delicious and her rival will eat it greedily and will die.
3. How does the woman propose to kill Pauline and Elize?  -  The woman proposes to kill Pauline by giving her the poisoned sweet which looks like bright blue and she will be dead in thirty minutes. Similarly Elise will be given a poisoned pastille and lighted it. Elize will inhale the fumes, and fall dead.
4. “She’s not little, no minion like me!”  What makes the speaker pass such a comment on her rival? The speaker makes this comment on her rival shows that the rival is taller and healthier and more beautiful than the speaker. It also shows that her rival needs a big dose of poison to die.
5. What intentions must have prompted the chemist to prepare the poison according to the speaker’s wish?       -The old chemist in the laboratory must have been prompted by a huge amount offered by the speaker who is a wicked woman and the chemist has prepared the poison demanded by the woman. In addition to the amount, she also allowed him to kiss her on the mouth.
6. “Not that I bid you spare her the pain!
      Let death be felt and the proof remain;
      Brand, burn up, bite into its grace—
      He is sure to remember her dying face!”  - Explain
These lines are quoted from Robert Browning’s famous dramatic monologue “The Laboratory: Ancien Regime”. The speaker of the poem is a great danseuse at the king’s palace. But unfortunately she is a wicked woman who wants to kill her rival. The rival is in love with the woman’s lover. The speaker visits the old chemist’s laboratory to get poison in order to kill her rivals. While the old chemist is preparing the poison, the speaker is telling him that the poison should be painful to the victim and the man who betrayed the speaker and fell in love with the victim should notice the pain of death reflected on the face of the dying victim. The death of her rival should be a lesson for the man who betrayed the speaker. In these lines we get a clear picture of the wickedness of the speaker.

II. Answer in a paragraph of not more than 100 words.
Comment on the character of the old chemist as the silent listener in the poem “The Laboratory”

Robert Browning’s poem “The Laboratory: Ancien Regime” is a dramatic monologue, a single character speaking throughout the poem. The poet does not interfere or speaking anything. The poem begins at a crucial point and therefore it is a dramatic monologue. Here the speaker is a woman who is a great danseuse at the king’s palace. But she is a wicked woman who wants to kill her rival with deadly poison. This is why she has come to the laboratory and the old chemist is offered a huge amount for making such a strong poison. While the old chemist is engaged in the preparation of the poison, the speaker is talking. The old chemist is a silent listener. However we get a clear picture of the character of the chemist from the talk of the woman. The old chemist is very skilful and experienced chemist. His chemical preparations have amazed the danseuse and she is highly satisfied and trusted him. But the chemist is a wicked man because he has misused scientific knowledge for killing innocent people in return for a huge amount. Although he is old, his greed for wealth is disgusting! In addition the speaker has allowed him to kiss her on her mouth. In spite of his scientific knowledge, his age and experience, he is not happy in his life. He knows well that he is doing devil’s work. When he looks gloomy, she tells him “be not morose”. She tells him that his laboratory is ‘devil’s smithy’. Therefore the old chemist is a devil.

III. Write an essay of 300 words.
Discuss how Browning performs a psychological dissection of the woman’s character through his dramatic monologue “The Laboratory”

Robert Browning’s poem “The Laboratory: Ancien Regime”performs a psychological dissection of the woman’s character. The speaker of the dramatic monologue is a woman. She is a great danseuse at the king’s palace and many important princesses and kings are her admirers. But she finds pleasure in killing her rivals. She is in love with a man but unfortunately he has betrayed her and falls in love with two women Pauline and Elise. So the jilted dancer has decided to kill both of them and she has come to the old chemist’s laboratory and offers him a huge amount for making very dangerous chemical poison in order to kill her rivals. Besides she offers the old chemist all her jewels as a reward for preparing the poison.

 While great people are waiting to enjoy her dance at the King’s palace, the speaker of the poem is sitting in the laboratory enjoying the preparations of the poison. She says that she gets more pleasure in the laboratory than at the king’s palace. Performing dance is a great gift of God. All good people enjoy seeing dance. But she gets more pleasure in killing her rivals! She says “Had I but all of them, thee and thy treasures/ What a wild crowd of invisible pleasures!” She advises the skilful chemist that he should prepare the poison in such a way that it should give great pain to the victim at the time of the rival’s death and it must be reflected on her face so that the man who betrayed her also suffer pain and sorrow. He can never forget the horrible face of the dying woman. It is a lesson for him because he has jilted the speaker and gone with other two women Pauline and Elise.

 The speaker of the poem is very angry with her rivals and also the lover who jilted her. Passions of hatred and jealousy so blinded the speaker that she has ignored her noble profession of palace dancer and the great personalities who are waiting at the King’s palace to enjoy her dance! Instead she is sitting at the ‘devil’s smithy’ watching the preparations of the poison by the old chemist. But the woman is very careful to take the necessary steps not to show any evidence of her crime. She wants the chemist to remove all the dust from her so that no one can prove that she has gone to the old chemist’s laboratory for the preparation of the poisons. The woman is very happy that the chemist has made all the poisons – a poisoned sweet, pastille and other poisonous eatings. They are bright blue, delicious and attractive. She has given the chemist all her jewels and asks him to brush the dust off her dress and finally she says that she is going to the king’s palace to perform her dance! 




BOSOM FRIEND                                                                                                 Hira Bansode

Hira Bansode is a well-known Marathi Dalit poet. The speaker of the poem “Bosom Friend” is a Dalit girl who speaks about her sufferings and insults at the hands of her bosom friend who is a rich upper caste girl. The Dalit girl invites her bosom friend to dinner. Although she came to the dinner, she found fault with everything in the dinner. Finally the Dalit girl tells her friend that people of high caste cannot forget the tradition of inequality for it is deep-rooted in their minds.

Answer the following questions in two or three sentences.
1.”But you came with a mind as large as the sky” – What makes the poet think like this? What is the irony?        The speaker of the poem is a poor Dalit girl who invites her high caste, rich friend for dinner. The girl accepts the offer and has come to dinner. It gives a pleasant surprise to the speaker and this is why she says that her friend is broad minded and full of love for her. But the irony is that the rich girl friend finds fault with every bit of the dinner. She blames her friend for not serving buttermilk or yoghurt for the last course of rice. She also blamed the Dalit community and said that they would never improve.

2. Did the visit of the ‘bosom friend” really bridge the chasm that had divided them? If not, what was the effect of the visit?    -           The visit of the bosom friend did not really bridge the chasm that had divided them. On the other hand, it further widened the chasm because the upper caste rich girl simply found fault with every silly things in the arrangement of the dinner. She further blamed the Dalit community and said that they would never improve. In truth it is the upper caste that never changed their outlook and tradition. So the speaker of the poem who is the Dalit girl burst out her anger and pain at the bosom friend for her humiliation and contemptuous outlook of the Dalit community.

3. How differently did the “naïve devotion” work in the lives of Shabari and the poet?
In the Ramayana, Shabari is a sincere devotee of Lord Rama and she is doing her best to please Rama. She has collected the best fruits available in Nature and tasted them to find out which are the sweetest fruits. She does not know that it is forbidden to taste them before they are offered to God. Yet Lord Rama is pleased with her innocent devotion, accepted her offerings and blessed her. Similarly the Dalit girl has arranged a party to her upper caste rich friend with great love and devotion. She has spent a lot of money, time and energy for making such a sumptuous dinner with yoghurt, buttermilk and other dishes. Yet the upper caste rich friend blames her and even humiliates her community saying that they will never improve.
4. “I was ashamed, really ashamed”.  What made the poet feel really ashamed?    -  The poet felt ashamed because she had arranged a dinner for her upper caste rich friend with great devotion and love and she spent a lot of money, energy and time for it. But the friend found fault with everything in the arrangement of the dinner. She blamed her and her community because they did not know how to serve food in the proper manner.

5. When did the last bit of courage fall away like a falling star from the poet?   -  The last bit of courage fell away like a falling star from the poet when the upper caste rich friend accused her that she does not know how to serve food and asked her whether she did not serve buttermilk or yoghurt with the last course of rice. The upper caste girl has a preconceived notion that the Dalit community people don’t know anything about the table manners and etiquette. This accusation of the rich friend drained away all the energy, enthusiasm and friendliness of the Dalit girl. It is disappeared like a ‘falling star’.

6. What was the food that the poet did not have in her childhood?    - The poet lived in utter poverty that she never had even milk in her childhood days.
7.  Why did the poet not know the proper arrangement of food on plates?   - The poet did not know the proper arrangement of food on plates, because she was a Dalit girl and born and brought up in utter poverty. She could not enjoy nourished food including milk in her childhood days.

II. Answer in a paragraph of not more than 100 words.
1.Describe the contrasting emotions of elation, frustration and shock as portrayed by Hira Bansode at the start of the poem “Bosom Friend”
The poem “Bosom Friend” is written by Hira Bansode, a well-known Marathi Dalit poet. The poem is a vehement critique of the hypocritical caste-ridden society. It speaks about the untold sufferings and insults of the Dalit at the hands of the upper castes for centuries. The narrator is a Dalit girl who has invited her upper caste rich friend to dinner. The speaker is so excited with joy unlimited because her bosom friend has come forgetting the age old untouchability and tradition of inequality. So the rich girl’s mind is as large as the sky because she is coming to the pocket size house of the narrator. The narrator is so elated with great expectation that her friend’s visit will certainly bridge the chasm of the caste system that divided them. So she has arranged the food with the great devotion of Shabari, the elderly woman ascetic in the Ramayana. The narrator thought that as the Lord Rama accepted the fruits of Shabari and blessed her, her upper caste friend would appreciate her devotion and love in arranging the food for her. But alas, the moment the friend looked at the plate, her face changed and began to blame the narrator. She accuses that the narrator does not know table manners and the proper arrangement of food on the plates. The friend blamed even her Dalit community and said that they would never improve. Rama was pleased although Shabari tasted every fruit before it was offered to Lord Rama because Rama was wise and full of love and mercy for Shabari. On the other hand the upper caste girl is foolish, arrogant and wicked. So the dinner party became an utter failure. The upper caste girl is so foolish that she judges human being by their artificial table manners and money power. She is also ruled by her preconceived ideas about the caste system. So the poor Dalit girl is frustrated at the behaviour of her friend.

2. How did the poet justify her ignorance of elite table etiquette? Who was responsible for that? Do you think the situation can be changed? How?                  - Hira Bansode’s poem “Bosom Friend” is a sad story of a Dalit woman’s sense of shame because poverty has never allowed her to know the variety of food such as buttermilk, yoghurt, halva, basundi etc., This sad situation arose out of age old poverty, lack of education and exploitation at the hands of the upper caste people who are rich and politically powerful. They always suppressed the lower caste people and enslaved them and made them work from dawn to dusk and the wages were not enough even for two decent meals a day. As a result the Dalit girl never enjoyed healthy, nourished food in her childhood days. The situation can be changed by giving free education for Dalit and financially backward classes and also make effective social awareness about equality and human dignity and brotherhood.

3. Write an appreciation of Hira Bansode’s poem “Bosom Friend” bringing out its poetic qualities
Hira Bansode’s poem “Bosom Friend” is remarkable for its poetic qualities. The title of the poem “Bosom Friend” itself is ironical because the upper caste rich girl is not at all bosom or intimate to the Dalit girl. She cruelly criticised her and her community for their ignorance of table manners or etiquette. In the first stanza of the poem we can see the effective use of irony. With the innocent devotion of Shabari, the Dalit girl carefully arranged the food on the plate for her friend. The whole poem is a vehement critique of the caste-ridden society. The mind of the upper caste girl is compared to the sky. The figure of speech is simile. There is also irony in it because her mind is actually narrow-minded and selfish. There is simile in the use of the phrase “pocket size house”. “The last bit of my courage fell away like a falling star” the figure of speech is metaphor.

Essay: 1, 2nd and 3rd paragraphs can be used for essay.                                          Kjt/21-02-2013



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