Mrs Midas

Stanza 1

This traditionally marks the start/middle of Autumn, when leaves are appropriately turning gold. Autumn is, significantly, sometimes a time of melancholia; here it is when the relationship falls apart

Opening the window foreshadows the future. She is letting into her life the disaster to come. The simile, ‘like a brow’ suggests the motion of cleaning the glass to achieve greater clarity of vision. It is also a gesture of distress or exhaustion when a person wipes their brow

A pear tree also symbolises long life, birth and growth. That he was ‘snapping a twig’ could suggest that he was breaking into this, interrupting what would otherwise have been a settled future

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Stanza 2

At first she attributes what she sees to poor visibility through the steamy windows.Again Duffy moves from matter-of-fact description of visibility to lyrical, notably the ground ‘seems to drink the light of the sky’. The mood is supernatural, in contrast to the prosaic reference in the previous stanza to Mrs Midas drinking a glass of wine. Duffy introduces two metaphors. The darkness of the garden symbolises their damaged future. The gold in Mr Midas’s hands and all future references to gold represent the cause of that damage – greed, madness, selfishnessThe pear is often suggestive of sensuality, especially that of a woman. The turning of this fruit to gold (cold hard and inanimate) foreshadows the lack of sexual activity later on (“seperate beds”). The impactful one-word sentence of “On.” contrasts the previous 2 long stanzas intended to depict a boring domestic housewife life. It contrasts the syntax (previously very structured pattern of sentence length) and the very prominent and unexpected period represents the shock and disbelief by Mrs Midas.

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Stanza 3

This is a reference to the character in “The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe” who was vain, selfish and rich. She was a projection of Mr Midas. Mrs. Midas’s mind seems to be a little unhinged, as if in shock, as her thoughts fly to history and literature. As she says, ‘you know the mind’, and here the shock of what has happened causes her mind to dart around and think of anything but the disaster to come; a typical and natural reaction

It is interesting to note that Antony and Cleopatra destroy themselves by committing suicide. Although Mr and Mrs Midas don’t die, (or at least Mrs Midas doesn’t, though it’s not clear what happens to her husband), they are effectively destroyed. Antony and Cleopatra share some destructive characteristics with Midas — vanity, love of opulence, carelessness.

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Stanza 4

Mrs Midas tries to do normal everyday things, to cling on to sanity. He does not understand the significance of his affliction and therefore he is playing with his powers. The meaning of ‘toyed’ is to handle absent-mindedly, to move something nervously or hesitantly. It is as if Midas is experimenting, testing his new-found ability.Is it also possible that he is playing with her emotions as he handles the cutlery Dry white wine is often a beautiful pale gold colour— appropriately. It suggests a middle-class marriage, an enjoyment of fine expensive things, perhaps the root of Mr Midas’s greed. It is notable that Mrs. Midas herself hasn’t broken the habit of describing her life in terms of prestigious food and wine and possessions. She is still party to the lifestyle that led to the disaster.

However, the white wine is the opposite of rich, full-blooded red, and could suggest that their marital passion will be destroyed. It is the last time they will drink together; a metaphor for the ending of the fine, subtle things they enjoyed in their marriage.

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Stanza 5

Power and greed has distanced their relationship

Thinks he can have an affair because he has the most power and can control what he does. 

She feels very isolated from him

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Stanza 6

Mrs Midas seems to be talking to herself, trying to rationalise something that she herself doesn’t want to believe in. The imperative “Look” seems to imply that she is trying to make sense of it.

There is a clever pun, a play on words; ‘granted’ is an expression that means that a point is acknowledged. It is also a word to described a wish that comes true.

There is a suddenness about the one-word sentence “Him.”. This suggests a dismissive tone; contempt – even anger — that her fool of a husband should be the one to have his wish granted.

This is correct. The word ‘feeds’ applies not only to food and drink, but also to the need for love and emotional hunger. Gold is of course worthless.

One view is that Midas will die through thirst and starvation. It is not explained clearly how he manages to eat or drink, but he survives in the caravan, and Mrs Midas says she visits him from time to time. The later reference to the god Pan suggests he has succumbed to insanity. But the point is that in gaining a gift of gold he has lost all emotional sustenance.

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Stanza 7

Their relationship has been doomed by his power

He is also doomed as he realises the situation he has put himself in

She is scared of his power

Killed his relationship with her

She can't get rid of him and she is scared he will not leave her

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Stanza 8

Feels betrayed and has a lack of responsibility

Feels as though she would let him down and doesn't want to be seen as the weaker one in the relationship

Sense of danger

Kind and caring - 'heart of gold' 

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Stanza 9

This indicates that they were affluent. The location ‘in the wilds’ is a metaphor for where their marriage has ended up.

She is ashamed of him, so drives him at night. He is so separated from her that he sits in the back. His isolation is complete.

She detaches herself from him, refers to herself in the third person, a technique that Duffy also uses in the poem Mrs Icarus. In both cases the women have utter contempt for their husbands, who have made fools of themselves.

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Stanza 10

The description of the hare as a ‘beautiful lemon mistake’ is another inventive Duffy description; a mistake one assumes because it is valueless as a metal animal. The poem contains a vivid lexical fieldof gold or near-gold colours — Fondante d'Automne pear, honeyed embrace, amber-eyed baby, lemon hare, burnished throne, luteous cigarette etc.

The ‘lemon’ also hints at her bitterness towards her husband and his ‘gift’. The taste of lemon can liven food or drink, or the sourness can spoil it. It is virtually inedible taken raw.

This is ironic. The description ‘glistening’ suggests something beautiful and valuable. Yet, Midas by now is in a bad way.

Mr Midas is unable to cope with what has happened, and seems to be approaching insanity. It is ironic that someone with Midas’s ‘gift’, who should be rich, lives a life of emotional poverty

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Stanza 11

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