Eurydice

Stanza 1

The poem starts colloquially, the narrator implying she is female, addressing ‘girls'. It establishes from the start that this is a feminist poem.

She was dead and literally down in the earth, as well as sad.

A shade is a ghost or spirit, but could also be a reference to the fact that Eurydice was overshadowed by Orpheus; she spent her life dominated by him

This demonstrates Eurydice’s preference for the Underworld, an expression of satisfaction. She is pleased ‘from head to toe’ — like a body in a coffin — that she is dead. This use of language challenges the reader to think more critically about what was originally depicted as a heroic and tragic love story. Duffy uses this word play to point out to the audience that there is no real evidence to suggest Eurydice wanted to be saved.

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Stanza 2

This too has a double meaning. ‘Out of this world’ can used figuratively to denote something wonderful or special, but here it is also used literally to indicate that she is no longer on this earth.

Eurydice is aware that the man to whom she is married is a ‘type’; one who is possessive and demanding — and exhausting.

Eurydice describes her increasing irritation. ‘Follows her round’ and ‘hovers’ imply annoyance and contempt. She is oppressed by his constant attention

‘His Muse’ is capitalised. She is not a real person, a woman with her own needs, as far as Orpheus is concerned. She is an idea and fulfils a role

Duffy juxtaposes ‘knock-knock’—like a children’s game—with the serious ‘Death’s door’. Eurydice is content where she is and doesn’t want him disturbing her

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Stanza 3

This is contemptuous. She can’t even bear to name him. He has become simply a pronoun in her mind.

This is Eurydice’s mocking nick-name for her husband. It suggests that he has an inflated ego, — and maybe also is deluded about his penis size! It has been suggested that it is a reference to ******.

A ‘pitch’ is associated with sales and marketing; the blurb which sells a product. Eurydice feels she is just part of his public image, not a woman with her own value

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Stanza 4

‘For the men’ indicates that Orpheus belonged to a man’s world where he was lauded for his verses and was the centre of attention, and Eurydice was a female object, the subject of his poems but nothing more.

Eurydice’s tone is sarcastic and contemptuous, using exaggeration and the bizarre examples from the myth, indicating that she was not impressed with the inflated praise he received. The ‘sullen’ stones weeping ‘wee silver tears’ are personified, to convey the idea that his creative power may bring inanimate objects to life, but she is clearly unaffected by his talent.

The word ‘wee’ suggests triviality and contempt.

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Stanza 5

‘********’ is an emphatic swear word; clearly Eurydice thinks Orpheus is a fool. She is also a different person from the one that this lyrical poet, capable of charming wild animals, believes her to be. Her ‘big O’ has no concept of what she thinks.The fact that Eurydice did the typing implies that she was enlisted into his celebrity world as an unwilling assistant and resented it.

A crucial point in the poem. She felt as if she had no voice and no identity of her own.

A list of loving expressions, but none crediting her with characteristics of a flesh-and-blood woman. The ‘etc’s at the end imply her contempt for these empty compliments.

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Stanza 6

The reference to ‘girls’ throughout the poem is like a refrain, to keep the reader aware that this is a feminist poet addressing other women. Duffy is writing about a mythological woman who represents weary, exasperated women the world over. Eurydice could be regarded as an allegory for all unhappily married females.

This short emphatic statement, a one-line stanza, is the dramatic climax. Its abrupt ending forms a caesura. The reader pauses to think of the significance.

This is a complex idea because it reflects on the historical fact that men have been acclaimed writers and poets, with almost no known documentation by women. It may also reflect Duffy’s personal experience.

This line illustrates how little control Eurydice had over her situation. Eurydice, of course, represents all women whose voices have been silenced by history; the essence of Duffy’s message.

‘Strutted his stuff’ is a colloquial expression to describe a man who is self-satisfied, egotistical and pleased with his achievements. It indicates Eurydice’s scorn

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Stanza 7

This stanza communicates Eurydice’s frustration at Orpheus and the Gods for removing her from a place she liked. By referencing other Greek myths such as Sisyphus and Tantalus, both men punished by the gods, Duffy evokes Eurydice’s plight at having no control of her fate, her perception of being treated less favourably than the man, punished for no reason.

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Stanza 8

An interesting comment is that this is a reflection of modern wedding vows, and the pledge ‘till death do us part’. Eurydice has died and they have parted. She is robbed of her escape; Orpheus has brought her back and she finds herself in her old trap.

The pause between “Eurydice” and “Orpheus’ wife” is a deliberate break in the message Duffy is trying to communicate. Eurydice is distancing herself from Orpheus and her title because that is all she is to the outside world – his trophy wife, a title known throughout history. She is best known by her role rather than as a person

Duffy lists these literary devices rhythmically, grouping them so that they rhyme. The effect is sneering and scornful. They are to Eurydice no more than techniques, the tools of Orpheus’s trade. What he produces has nothing to do with true love.

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Stanza 9

Eurydice tells the story with a faster pace, building up phrase after phrase. After the complaints and unhappiness, we have a sense that things might be happening to her advantage.

Use of repetition and rhyme builds up the tension. It is as concise as possible; no words wasted.

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Stanza 10

The language is colloquial, descriptive, what is needed only to tell the story and reinforce the tension.

We are again reminded that this is an intimate conversation amongst women. Duffy is keen to point out that the women’s version of the events usually described by men is very different.

Duffy lists as many ways as possible to describe being dead; particularly funny is ‘past my sell-by date’. She may have been deliberately echoing the famous ‘dead parrot’ Monty Python comedy sketch. The humour is biting, however, and beneath the flippancy is a deep sense of grief, an unspoken howl of pain at the treatment of women in situations like Eurydice’s.

This hints at the ******; Eurydice is prepared to try anything she can, including sexually stimulating him.

The mood changes to lyrical and serious. ‘Please let me stay’ is achingly pleading, expressing a yearning for freedom. The ‘light had saddened from purple to grey’ evokes through colour a mood of grief and mournfulness.

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Stanza 11

The word ‘filching’ has mischievous connotations; it is more sly and cheeky than ‘stealing’. Eurydice is clearly trying out in her mind ruses to persuade Orpheus to turn round. A few lines later we can see she was successful; clearly she has a sharper mind that him.

Naturally it would; she is a woman, more intelligent than he

Duffy builds up the suspense. Eurydice is terrified her scheme will fail.

Eurydice uses false flattery to achieve her ends. Duffy is highlighting the strategies that powerless women are obliged to use in order to achieve what they want.

In the next line he is ‘smiling modestly’ – an ironic juxtaposition, as she has used flattery and her knowledge of his conceited and self-centred nature persuade him to turn round.

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Stanza 12

In the myth Orpheus is unable to resist the temptation to turn to check that Eurydice is following. One assumes that this was because he loved her so passionately he wasn’t strong enough to resist glancing at her. In Duffy’s version he turns because his conceited soul is flattered by her compliment about his poetic ‘masterpiece’.

There is an interesting parallel in Genesis when Lot’s wife turns to look back at the city of Sodom and is turned into a pillar of salt. In the latter several interpretations are proposed by Jewish scholars as to why she is punished, but one is that she is reluctant to leave the sinful city. However, in both stories—Orpheus and the biblical tale—human weakness is highlighted, though for different reasons

Duffy repeats ‘when he turned’ to give emphasis to what is the poem’s dramatic climax. Eurydice has achieved what she wants and, through her scheming, can go back to the Underworld. At this stage she is emotional; a few lines before her ‘voice shook’. Remember that many of the poems in the collection work well read aloud to an audience, and an appropriate tone of voice in the performance will reinforce the drama

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