The World's Wife

These are flashcards/revision cards surrounding Carol Ann Duffy's The World's Wife.

  • Created by: Jack
  • Created on: 13-12-12 20:57

Little Red-Cap


About: Reached adolescence; meets a wolf in the woods. The poem explores her life with him and subsequent rejection of him.


Liberation: 'I took an axe to a willow to see how it wept.'

Gender reversal/poetic voice: 'And went in search of a living bird - white dove.'

Independence/vulnerability: 'Dark tangled thorny place.' 'Out of the forest I come...'

Male dominance: 'I slid between his heavy matted paws.'


Queen Herod, Mrs Quasimodo, Mrs Beast, Mrs Sisyphus, Delilah and Anne Hathaway.

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Little Red-Cap: Form & Structure


First-person narrative: 'I clung til dawn to his thrashing fur.'

  This personalises Duffy's view; empowers the subject. This suggests women's sexuality. Use of the word 'dawn' emphasises the length of time and perhaps reinforces LRC's vulnerability. 'Thrashing' denotes violent diction; suggests the uncomfortable aspect of the relationship.

Autobiographical: Gives connotations of Duffy's own view; reinforced by first-person narrative.


Pace: The pace of poem and sestets reflects the stages of development LRC undergoes. First stanza is slow; last is fast; complementing act of liberation which it describes. In the last stanza, Duffy says that LRC is "singing, all alone." This emphasises how she's liberated and free.

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Little Red-Cap: Language

Animal imagery: 'I slid from between his heavy matted paws.'

 Duffy's use of cliches; rules of three; illustrates the male domineering, possessive and use of 'heavy' illustrates his love of authority over women. Use of first-person narrative accentuates sympathy from reader as she's stuck beneath him. This links to 'Queen Herod' as she's splayed between Herod indicating that women get no sex or pleasure.

Mystique and power: 'Dark tangled thorny place'

 Duffy's use of diction denotes contradicting impulses and uncertainty. 'Tangled' appears to suggest the vulnerability of LRC as she's confused with her surroundings. 'Dark' and 'thorny' add to the mystery and danger; potentially Duffy is emphasising the hazard that the wolf possesses. This links to her 'stockings ripped to shreds.'

Women's liberation: 'I took an axe.' 'Went in search of a living bird - white dove.'

 LRC is engulfed with fury. She feels the only way to be liberated is to kill the wolf. The idea of the 'white dove' emphasises how the speaker is searching for her own poetic voice. Alternatively, suggests the innocence that LRC possesses; vulnerability to the wolf.

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About: Thetis is a sea nymph who escapes from her suitor by continually changing shape. Eventually, she marries him resulting in the birth of a child.


Change: 'Then I did this: shouldered the cross of an albatross.'

Failed love: 'I changed my tune to racoon, skunk, stoat.'

Powerless: "But I felt my wings clipped"

Links: Pope Joan, Queen Herod, Demeter.

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Thetis: Form & Structure


First-person narrative: This is used to empower the struggle faced by the woman. 'I shrank myself.' Duffy adopts a fairly tradition view of women in this poem; women are seen to be simply nature, and part of the natural cycle, with an innate desire to continue life through giving birth whilst the male is concerned with his own destructive forces. 'So I shopped for a suitable snake.' 'Size 8 snake.' Duffy again makes reference to women's pre-occupations with appearance. She accentuates that women alter for men, and the references to 'snake' could suggest it's sinister, and thus, promotes evil rather than something that's necessary.


Eight sestets, free verse, enjambment: This is used to reflect the constant change of Thetis. Moreover, it reflects how the woman gets stronger with each stanza that passes. She 'shrank herself' at the start, but reveals how her 'tongue was flame' by the end, denoting how she's finally consumed by passion. She's able to change at the end of the poem after being 'turned inside out'. She reflects how she's able to overpower the man by the change in creature which ultimately allows her to domineer as a woman.

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Thetis: Language

Imagery (creatures)/women's liberation: 'Wind, I was gas, / I was all hot air'. This denotes how in the penultimate stanza Thetis has become intagiable; etherea: she cannot be grasped or held. She has the power of her suitor. With each animal, Thetis becomes more powerful than the last. And finally, animals which are known for their cunning ability to survive despite being hunted. This could reflect the speaker's ideas on women; as they progress, they too get more powerful, and are able to overcome the power of men. We see Thetis's aims: "up the hill of the sky, Why? To follow a ship. But I felt my wings." But they are then shot down by the "crossbow's eye." Thetis appears here to make reference to the fact that because she's a woman, men will always try and counteract her goals. She feels powerless and senseless.

Rhyme: 'Next I was roar, claw, 50ib paw." The speaker adopts fun, playful rhyme here in an attempt to overcome the 'grasp of the stranger's clasp' in the previous stanza. Duffy averts from the violent diction to add humour to the situation.

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Queen Herod

Context: The poem examines the idea of protecting your child from harm. The speaker is Queen Herod, who swears to protect her child from male exploitation.

Themes: Love, relationships, children, religion, royalty, and dissatisfaction with men.

Love (maternal, marital and lesbian): Unlike many poems, Duffy portrays the villain in Queen Herod as a woman. This is unusual as the woman is a Queen who is influential, in many people's views, than a woman who isn't elevated or royal in any such way. Herod is described as 'drunken' and 'fusty bulk'. Queen Herod's own marriage description: she is 'splayed' beneath Herod - it doesn't sound like she's enjoying sex or even has a choice in it and the possible marriage of her daughter: 'some wincing Prince to take her name away / and give a ring, anothing, nowt in gold.' It may seem the Queen's who arrive hint at lesbian love. The voice in the poem tell us she looks at 'Queen to Queen, with insolent lust'. Perhaps it's a female friendship, which can be close after women have had kids. However, the fact Queen Herod may have lesbian feelings is perfectly equitable considering she is dissatisfied with her husband and perhaps men in general.

Links: Little Red-Cap, Thetis, Demeter, The Devil's Wife

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Queen Herod: Form & Structure


Third-person omniscient/first-person narration: The poem isn't, at first, a first-person narrative account. Instead, the speaker adopts a third-person form, as a detached persona, suggesting omniscience. The speaker does this to dwell on the setting and the striking appearance of the three Queens, helping to empower the overriding subject of protecting her child from male harm. The poem then moves into a first-person account, making it more direct and personal, referring to Herod's love for her child and her ultimate desire to protect it.


Tercets, free verse, enjambment: The free verse in the poem could emphasise the speaker's ongoing desire to protect her child. 'We wade through blood for our sleeping girls.' 'We have daggers for eyes.' This suggests that Queen Herod will do anything for her child, and the use of the word 'daggers' suggests that she's prepared to kill. The violent diction also marks a change in tone to menacing, dark and threatening. Moreover, the use of 'we' suggests it's a collective, and asks the reader what they would do in Herod's position.

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Queen Herod: Language

Hatred of masculinity: 'Below Herod's fusty bulk.'

Herod seems to suggest here that her previous experiences have fuelled her hatred of masculinity. She has unpleasant sexual experiences; however, Herod has no dignity, of which she alludes towards having here. 'No man, I swore, will make her shed one tear.' This powerful use of diction evoked by the speaker shows her upmost disdain and contempt for the male gender. The use of italics suggests it's central to her and her identity, and that's why she'll protect her child from it.

Strong, powerful and fierce women: 'I sent for Chief of Staff, a mountain man'

This line directly shows Herod's power. She fears the loss of female power so she spares 'not one'. Again, reinforcing her disdain for the male gender. She uses the word 'we' to show women as a collective; highlighting the power, strength and vigour they hold.

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Mrs Midas

Context: Mrs Midas finds that everything her husband touches turns to gold. As a result, the marriage ends.

Themes: Failed love; how selfishness destroys love.

Women/marriage neglected by men: 'I miss most / even now, his hands, his warm hands on my skin, its touch.'

Marriage deterioration: 'Now the garden was long and the visibility poor,' 'Separate beds.'

Greed and foolishness: ''He sat in that chair like a king on a burnished throne... He started to laugh'.

Links: Mrs Aesop, Mrs Icarus, Mrs Darwin, Mrs Faust, Mrs Sisyphus.

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Mrs Midas: Form & Structure


First-person narrative: This provides the reader with the speaker's train of thought. Furthermore, it reiterates empowers Midas's struggle for love and care, and how selfish her husband has been by pursuing a life dedicated to gold rather than her.


Eleven sestets, enjambment, caesura: The use of enjambment and caesura represents how his desire for gold has destroyed their marriage. 'Even now, his hands, his warm hands on my skin, his touch.' This tone is reflective and encapsulates regret and loss. His hands appear to be both loving and destructive. On the other hand, it reflects the power of Mrs Midas, and how despite missing his hands, she'll still carry on without him.

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Mrs Midas: Language

Male selfishness: 'He asked where was the wine. I poured with a shaking hand.' 

 This reflects when Mrs Midas first realises the problem. She pours with a 'shaking hand' to reflect the dismay in her character and perhaps to reflect how she envisages what's to come. There is a sense of anxiety about a 'shaking', suggesting worry and discontent. This is reinforced when she says: 'it was then that I started to scream'. This explosion of horror and alarm acts as the catalyst for the breakdown in relationship as Mrs Midas begins to question the validity of her love with her husband. 'That night, I dreamt I bore his child.' This reflects her anguish: she understands she'll never have his child. This leads to the fact she has 'to move out'. She can no longer take it anymore; she feels lonely and deprived; her husbands desire for gold has taken charge over his love for her.

Humourous tone: 'We all have wishes; granted.' 'At least, I said, you'll be able to give up smoking for good.' This reflects an affectionate tone, but more importantly it's humourous. Midas is attempting to use humour and witt in an attempt to overcome the inevitable breakdown in the relationship, and her husband's selfishness.

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Mrs Tiresias

Context: The poem explores the idea of a typical middle-aged bloke coming back as a woman, and the notion of a man having to deal with period pains.

Themes: Humour, dissatisfaction of women, prejudice, relationships, love (homosexual and heterosexual), change, rejection, abandonment.

Humour: 'Demanding full-paid menstrual leave twelve weeks per year.' Duffy adopts humour to accentuate how men would cope with menstruation. Tiresias's inability to deal with period pains leads to a split.

Gender: 'I don't want folk getting the wrong idea' Tiresias fears being labelled a woman. He uses the word 'folk' to suggest a wider society, showing how he would not be accepted.

Links: Thetis, Little Red-Cap, Mrs Midas, Queen Herod.

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Mrs Tiresias: Form & Structure


First-person narrative: The use of first-person narrative helps to personalise the view of Tiresias. We see him as a helpless man, who cannot sleep with men because of his prejudice towards gay relationships. 'There'd be nothing of that.' He can only deal with a conventional man and wife relationship, and ultimately, it is this which leads his wife to leave him because she feels rejected, even though she accepts his change.


Single-line isolation, free verse: These structural techniques depict the stoical nature of the relationship. 'Life has to go on.' Perhaps here the speaker uses 'life' instead of 'love' to show how he does not want to be seen as a lesbian. He's stuck in his own ways. The free verse helps to emphasise Tiresias's train of thought and her dissatisfaction of her husband's rejection.

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Mrs Tiresias: Language

Acceptance: 'Holding his soft new shape in my arms all night.'

 This is affectionate diction deployed by the speaker here. It is used because she still loves him and is willing to accept a new lesbian relationship, but he's not. He does not want to be seen as a lesbian because he's trapped in his own conventions and set in his own ways. It contrasts with the final stanza, where Tiresias practically forgets her husband and we see her acceptance of his views as he she notices the way he 'watched the way he stared.'

Celebration of lesbian love: 'And this is my lover, I said.' 'Her bite at the fruit of my lips.'

 The final stanza emphasises a change in focus. It changes from conversational to lyrical and almost melancholic. It places emphasis on the new lover and the celebration of lesbian love. The first line is ironic because it's something he feared. The second line is metaphorical and represents female genitals and mouth. It is used to reinforce the celebration and Tiresias's rejection her husband after he rejected her.

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Pilate's Wife

Context: Pontius Pilate's Wife witnesses the entry of Jesus of Nazareth into Jerusalem before his trial. Jesus appears to be in the dream and she pleads for his release.

Themes: Insulting men, religion, animal imagery, love, protection.

Insulting men: Duffy uses the long vowel sounds in the description of Pilate's hands to emphasise his languid and lethargic nature. 'Pearly nails','shells from Galilee','Indolent','Camp','clapped','pale mouthy touch.' The reference to the moth reflects Pilate's indecision: moths hover and flit about but they never actually land on the object of their attention. 'Pilate'. This emphasises the speaker's disdain for her husband. It is short after long vowels and can be misinterpreted as 'ponce.'

Links: Queen Herod, Salome, Mrs Lazarus, Delilah, Little Red-Cap, Queen Herod.

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Pilate's Wife: Form & Structure


First-person narrative: The use of first-person personalises the plight of Pilate's Wife. She views her husband as effeminate, but she's also affectionate and confused. 'Leave him alone.' This shows her love for him, and her desire to see him free.


Enjambment, caesura: The use of enjambment and caesura reflects the speakers feelings of passion and confusion. 'looked up / there he was.' The enjambment also adds to the action in the story, adding to its pace and emphasising moments of epiphany and crisis.

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Pilate's Wife: Language

Sexual attraction: 'I woke up, sweating, sexual, terrified' contrasts with 'washes his useless, perfurmed hands.'

  Once again the extended metaphor of 'washing your hands' of the problem is deployed here. She uses it to contrast with the affectionate sexual connotations she feels for her husband. She uses diction in disgust to describe his 'useless' hands, suggesting there is nothing even worth considering, and his effeminacy is too much for her to handle.

Irony: 'His eyes were to die for.'

 Again, this contrasts with Pilate. On the one hand she seems to suggest complete affection for her describing, describing a physical feature he possesses as exemplary. However, she also suggests irony in the fact she hates his eyes, and this merely adds to the contempt.

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Mrs Aesop

About: Mrs Aesop is tired of hearing her husband's fables so she takes revenge by creating her own at his expense.

Themes: Neglection, unsatisfaction, marriage breakdown, lack of love, anger and frustration.

Satirical voice/lack of love: '*******' 'the sex/was diabolical'; This is very satirical and accentuates the lack of love between the couple. Duffy appears to suggest that Mrs Aesop wants the sex to be good and loving. However, it is interesting because despite the lack of love from Mr Aesop, Mrs Aesop remains in the marriage, and Duffy could be using that to emphasise the contemporary society of today whereby people stay together in a marriage for other reasons than just love. She's still married to him, and still able to love him, but she's disappointed at the fact that he can't make it now.

The fables are cliches, emphasises simplistic truths, and that's what Mrs Aesop is resisting. She makes an assault on the man through his stories, and the limitations of the stories are the limitations of the man.

Links with: Mrs Sisyphus, Mrs Icarus, Mrs Midas.

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Mrs Aesop: Form & Structure


First-person narrative: The use of first-person narrative form in this poem by Duffy helps to accentuate the exasperation and annoyance of Mrs Aesop. We can connect with her, and understand her plight as she emphasises that she would like to concentrate less on the stories and more on their relationship. 'Dead men.' 'Mrs Aesop, he'd say, tell no tales.'


Free verse and quatrains: This again reiterates Mrs Aesop's exasperation and annoyance but the caesura helps to emphasise the emotional aspect of the failing relationship and the sympathy for Mrs Aesop. 'The sex.'

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Mrs Aesop: Language

Metaphorical: 'About a little **** that wouldn't crow.' This emphasises her cruel fable for Aesop and her own impotency. It links to the preceding imagery: 'I'll cut off your tail, all right, I said, to save my face.' This shows how she emasculates him and has the final word. Furthermore, this could emphasise that this poem is simply an attack on masculinity; the persona's way to emphasise her utter disdain and contempt for males. However, it could be a fresh way of looking at the fables. Interestingly, the use of the word 'tail' denotes several interpretations: on the one hand, it identifies with the synonym of fable and simply suggests that she'll rid his fable creations, however; more significantly, it could be symbolic of male genitals, suggesting that by cutting of his fables, she's also cutting off his ability to be able to produce something that she deems useless.

Lack of passion/unsatisfied: 'Slow as marriage.' 'Action, Mrs A, speaks louder than words.' This emphasises the lack of passion that is involved within the relationship and what she's complaining about, however; it also accentuates her desire what she used to experience.

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Mrs Sisyphus

About: Mrs Sisyphus is observing her husband pushing a stone up a hill for eternity, which he does with commitment. He ignores his wife's protests and she contemplates her future.

Themes: Female neglection, male dominance, mocking men, work obsession.

Female neglection: 'That's him pushing the stone up the hill, the jerk.' Comical rhyme, colloqualisms and conversational tone emphasises the speaker's frustration, anger and discontent. The use of the word 'jerk', emphasises the speaker's disdain for the fact that her husband has neglected the relationship and their marriage, perhaps identifying how in a contemporary society, most people's lives are now based around a work ethic.

Mocking men: 'Think of the perks, he says.' 'What use is a perk, I shriek.' This statement reflects the idea of working hard and not being able to enjoy the fruits of your labour. The poem appears to be a satire of modern life, reflecting the endless, repetitive nature of work.

Links with: Mrs Aesop, Mrs Midas, Mrs Icarus, Mrs Darwin.

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Mrs Sisyphus: Form & Structure


First-person narrative: The use of first-person again is used to emphasise the contempt Mrs Sisyphus has for her husband's work-obsessed lifestyle. This poem is an Ovid-based poem. It adds to the sympathy that we feel for Sisyphus, and allows us to directly engage with her story. Mrs Sisyphus is referring to herself and delivering her own accounts of the story with a comical nature, adding to the reliance and believability of the story.


Free verse and jagged: Again this reflects her frustration, anger and discontent, it reinforces the comical and conversational nature of the poem, and helps to reflect how Mrs Sisyphus feels her husband has neglected her for work.

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Mrs Sisyphus: Language

Celebrity: 'Folk flock from miles around just to gawk.' This represents the celebrity status of the man, further emphasising the exasperation of Mrs Aesop.

Sad: 'But I like alone in the dark.' This represents the change in tone, and how insignificant she feels she's become towards her husband: 'my voice reduced to a squawk'. This is more sombre, and she compares herself to other wives who have had to cope with their workaholic husbands.

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Mrs Faust

About: Faust sold his soul to the Devil for twenty-eight years of power, wealth and story.

Themes: Critical of women; lack of sympathy towards men; greed; status; individuality.

Consumerism/materialism: 'We worked, we saved. We moved again. Fast cars. A boat with sails.' This emphasises the materialistic nature of the poem. The speaker expresses that her husband's desire to be powerful and wealthy, has undermined their love, making it almost shallow-like to the point where she questions whether or not it even exists.

Lack of sympathy towards men: 'He grew to love the kudos, not the wife.' Here, the speaker emphasises how her husband is in love with the glory, powerful lifestyle he lives, rather than her. This seems to suggest that as a society today, love is more superficial because of people's desires and preoccupations with status, power and wealth.

Critical of women: 'I was as bad.' In this poem, the human character Duffy emphasises is Mrs Faust and she remains critical of her.

Links with: Mrs Midas, Mrs Icarus, Mrs Sisyphus, Mrs Aesop.

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Mrs Faust: Form & Structure


Duffy's adoption of first-person narrative form helps to accentuate the conversational nature of the poem. 'First things first -'. It's as if the speaker is directly appealing to the reader; trying to make them empathise with her situation and see if it reflects what they are going through. The poem remains very much a satire of twenty-first century life, revolving around the ideas of greed, selfishness and being unloving, not only to others but other countries too.


Freeverse: The free verse deployed in the poem emphasises the fast-living of the couple.

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Mrs Faust: Language

Corrupt: 'Then backed a hunch - invested in smart bombs, in harms.' Here, Duffy emphasises how the speaker is morally corrupt and is prepared to do whatever it takes to reach the top. 'As for me, I went my own sweet way.' This emphasises how selfish the speaker is; she only goes to these other countries to get what she can and goes through 'fads.' The use of the word 'sweet' suggests her frivolous and care-free attitude to what's going, adding to the idea that she's the one who's in control in this relationship.

Change: 'Teetotal, vegan, Buddhist, 41.' Her attempts at transformation are futile, and eventually she comes back full-circle and returns home. 'Oh well'; emphasises the lack of emotion for her husband being drawn 'straight down to Hell.' She accentuates how she 'bought a kidney with my credit card', adding to her lack of morals and idea that everything has a price. She seems to suggest the idea that life can be bought. Perhaps Duffy is accentuating how the rich are secure, purely because they have access to money.

Alliteration: 'Clever, cunning callous *******.' This emphasises sneaking admiration, and adds to the idea that Mrs Faust is benefiting from her husband's misfortune. She adds to be as soulless as her husband, further emphasising how perhaps she was in control the entire time.

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About: Delilah tells about her warrior lover who wants to become loving and tender. When he falls asleep, she cuts off his hair, emphasising the strength of his power.

Themes: Relationships, love, regret, sympathy, female dominance and female strength.

Love: 'Deliberate, passionate, hands.' This emphasises a loving act of how she's trying to arouse gentler, softer, qualities. The rather sexist view of Delilah in the bible is countered by Duffy's portrayal of her as sensitive and saddened, traits that help to capture the reader's sympathy.

Female dominance: Samson asks Delilah 'how to care'. Being caring is typically seen as a feminist trait, so thus by teaching Samson how to care, it is ensuing his weakness. Duffy bitterly, but perhaps somewhat cleverly and sarcastically, insinuates that women, by caring is weak, and by man, by being strong, doesn't care.

Links with: Mrs Faust, Eurydice, Mrs Aesop.

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Delilah: Form & Structure


First-person narrative: Adds to Delilah's loving and seemingly innocent nature.


The use of caesura and free verse adds to the love and regret that Delilah feels for Samson.

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Delilah: Language

Half-rhymes: The ideas of half-rhymes always relate back to Samson's 'hair' and the idea that his hair is the central idea of the poem: 'care, roar, bear, scar' etc. In cutting his hair, she will lose him, making him more effeminate. In this poem, instead of Samson growing his hair again to bring down the temple, Duffy has it so instead of him becoming powerless he becomes gentle. She brings out the feminine side of him, she wants to bring the female side of him out, and in a sense he wants her to, he wants to become more feminine. 'I cannot be gentle.' This represents the idea that she's a scheming woman; but she's sure he wants to change so she feels she's doing something he wants. She does it because he wants to change, and she loves him.

Predatory: The words nibbled and pursue suggests that she's interested in him for predatory reasons. The first word gives us a hint of her eating diversion rather than hunger, whilst the word 'purse' suggests that she's interested merely in Samson's financial rewards that the relationship brings with it. Alternatively, the use of 'purse' references the earlobe which shows Delilah as a listening persona, thus being kind-hearted but also being misguided by other avenues.

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Anne Hathaway

About: Anne Hathaway recalls the bed she shared with her husband Shakespeare. Shakespeare becomes part of her thoughts and lives on with her.

Themes: Love, appreciation of women, appreciation of men.

Unlike other poems in the collection, she is not given her husban'ds name, which empowers her and suggests that this is an equal relationship.

This is the only poem which truly celebrates heterosexual love and serves as a tribute to Shakespeare's genius. This poem is dinctingly different to all the others in the collection.

Links: Mrs Midas

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Anne Hathaway: Form & Structure

Form & Structure:

Sonnet: This poem is in the form of a sonnet, and it's one of the type of poems that Shakespeare what most famous for. It's also known as a 'relaxed sonnet' and that's echoed in a 'softer rhyme/to his'. The poem challenges the interpretation of his will being an insult to her. The poem does appear to come out of the conventional form at certain times. 'Dribbling their prose. My living laughing love' This, perhaps, reflects Duffy's intention to deconstruct the patriarchal structures of language, particularly as Shakespeare wrote particularly in this form. However, it may just reflect the persona's grief.

First-person narrative: The first-person narrative form in this poem accentuates the speaker's empowerment. She does not give her husband's name, merely refers to him as 'my', as if he was a possession of the her's. The form also exemplifies the memories, celebrating the hetereosexual love between the couple.

Long-lines: The long lines emphasises the long, loving relationship that Hathaway and Shakespeare endured. Last word of each line is both romantic and passionate, suggesting that the last thing Hathaway took from Shakespeare was his undying love for her.

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Anne Hathaway: Language

Metaphorical: 'My lover's words were shooting stars.' The use of the word 'shooting stars' suggests their love was one of the magic, beauty and heavenly feelings that would continue to blossom even after the inevitably of death has separated their physical beings.

Sexual language: 'The bed we loved in was a spinning world.' This emphasises the sexual nature of the relationship and the sheer passion they felt for one another. The use of 'spinning world' conveys that they felt dizzy and confused in other's company, suggesting that their love overwhelmed their entire being and stimulated their out of this world feelings.

Alternatively, the romantic diction at the end of the last two lines emphasises that Shakespeare's memory will live on after his death.

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Queen Kong

About: Queen Kong, a giant gorilla, falls in love with a man who comes to her island. She decides to follow him to New York when he leaves and they live together for many years. When he dies, Queen Kong preserves him and hangs him around her neck so he will always be with her.

Themes: Love, relationships, female objectification, obsessive love, mocking men, women's activities.

Objectified: 'All right, he was small, but perfectly formed and gorgeous.' This emphasises role reversal, and emphasises how the male is the sexual object and the one being pursued. There's a sense of male entrapment in this poem, 'but I let him go, my man.' This could be assumed that the all the assumptions the male has about the female are being subverted, or even inverted, so that the ideas of being treated as a sexual object are transferred and reversed. 'My man' further reinforces this, as the word 'my' is used to exemplify possession by the woman, as if the man belongs to her. Duffy appears to challenge the way women are treated here, in regards to a patriarchal society viewed by men to dominated by them.

Links: Mrs Quasimodo.

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Queen Kong: Form & Structure


First-person narrative: The first-person narrative form adds to the objectification of the man. She likes him, so she appropriates him, regardless of his wishes.


Caesura/enjambment: This emphasises the rather random sequencing of her recollections. The enjambment also adds urgency to the gorilla's expression of feeling and for emphasis.

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Queen Kong: Language

Metaphorical: 'All right, he was small, but perfectly formed - and gorgeous.' This metaphorical use emphasises how much love she has to give. The effect is comic and touching, whilst the conversational tone reinforces how she's happy to be in the relationship despite his perceived negative traits.

Role reversal: 'I picked him, like a chocolate from the top layer.' This 'sweet' metaphor involves role reversal as usually the male does the picking, but she appears to be the dominant player. This adds to the reader's view that Queen Kong is manipulative and controlling, and the fact she likes to 'wear him about my neck' exemplifies her power and status in the relationship. We can concur that Queen Kong appears obsessive in this poem, particularly in regards to love as the New York City backdrop provides the scenery for this to materalise.

Juxtaposition: 'Sweet, finesse.' Here, this emphasises his ecstasy and delicacy with her, and how he's won her over. She appears constantly to disregard his negative and perhaps unattracting side for the fact that she remains in control, and stays dominant.

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Mrs Quasimodo

About: This poem draws upon the Hunchback of Notre Dame, exploring the double stanzas of men, their hypocrisy and shallowness. The poem draws upon a mate of Quasimodo who is as ugly and an outcast as he is; she then imagines the effect on Mrs Quasimodo with the gipsy, Esmeralda.

Themes: Women feeling undesirable to men, dicontent, invading men's sexuality, failed love and betrayal.

Women being undesirable to men: 'The village runt, name-called, stunted, lame, hare-lipped.' This shows how she feels despised because of her deformity. Despite being sweet-tempered and good at needlework, she remains: 'An ugly cliche in a field.' Her nature is in a sharp contrast to her physical appearance. Her love of the bells demonstrates her sensitive, intelligent nature, but she feels beset by how she's viewed physically. 'I've loved them feverently since childhood.' 'And did I kiss each part of him' 'or not?' This emphasises the physical closeness, but not emotional as she feels she has not touched his heart.

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Mrs Quasimodo: Form & Structure

Form: First-person narrative: The first-person narrative form helps to exemplify Quasimodo's reflection on the marriage. It also reinforces the change, and her uncertainty about whether or not he has ever loved her.


Single lines: These help to emphasise how Mrs Quasimodo is reflecting on the marriage.

Language - Betrayal: She doesn't feel jealousy towards Esmerelda; she feels inadequate and she feels self-loathing and she feels fury at him for being unfaithful to her. In fact that's the primary feeling she has: her terrible rage and grief is because he has betrayed her their love, so she refuses to discuss Esmerelda, but acknowledges her beauty: 'tumbling auburn hair/those devastating eyes'; there she says it's better to be like that because you get all the attention and love. 'Murdered music of the bells'; perhaps this is the saddest poem in the collection, describing what happens to people in that situation, bringing together the passion and beauty for love and the horror and brutality of its betrayal. She destroys the bells because she sees that as a way of destroying him where it hurts the most: the music of the bells. Her love for Quasimodo has been her 'sanctuary', but that's been given to someone else.

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Mrs Quasimodo: Language

Change: 'He started to find fault.' Quasimodo begins to treat her horribly. She notices his love and affection for Esmeralda and she watches 'the pin-up gypsy.' She begins to encompass self-loathing and moves towards her destruction of the bells once she's discovered 'it's better, isn't it, to be well formed.' She does to the bells what she believes he has done to her heart: destroyed it.

Rejection: 'Abortion. Cripple. *******. Mongol. Ape.' She's rejected and cannot help but compare herself to the beauty of Esmeralda, and her fragile self-esteem is crushed. She develops a self-destructive mentality.

Destruction of bells: 'He had pet names for them. Marie.' The bells are no longer a comfort. They've become personified into lovely women, who are Quasimodo's mistresses, and they are symbols of everything Mrs Quasimodo is not and measured against. In her grief, she thus, destroys the bells. On the one hand, by destroying the bells, she destroys her heart because she believes that's what he has done to her, but alternatively, by destroying the bells, she has destroyed herself as the bells meant everything to her daily life. She ends up '******' becoming the monstrous outsider and the very thing she sought to avoid the most. Think about the judgment of women, and whether the bells represent her self-esteem.

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About: The poem recounts the story of Medusa, a jealous wife, who doubts her husband's fidelity. As her doubts grow, she becomes transformed into a monster.

Themes: Anger, desperation, criticism of men, jealousy, betrayed love.

Jealous love: The love is apparent in the poem, but it is twisted, and emphasises that their partners do them wrong. The hairs on her head turn into 'filthy snakes', with the snakes being symbolic of the jealousy and paranoia. In the poem, her lover's shield is his heart and his sword is his tongue. He kills her by betraying her and not loving her. She invokes pity by suggesting 'look at me now'. The 'look at me' says she wants to end it because she's not satisfied with the way her husband has been treating her. 'Wasn't I beautiful?' She knows her husband prefers the company of younger females, leading her to look back on what was her beauty.

Links: Mrs Quasimodo, Mrs Beast, Queen Kong, Mrs Midas, Delilah.

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Medusa: Form & Structure


First-person narrative: The first-person narrative adds to the twisted nature of the love. The love does appear to be there, but it's presented as betrayed. 'It's you I love, perfect man, Greek God, my own.' She appears trapped by the love for her husband and rather fear he carries out an indecent act of betrayal on her, she would rather he was dead, perhaps because then he wouldn't be able to hurt her.


Caesura, enjambment, free verse: Her jealousy has caused the transformation. The caesura and enjambment emphasises how Medusa fears being betrayed, and it reinforces how the love becomes decayed.

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Medusa: Language

Hate, betrayal and desperation: It could be argued that the lines are full of tension, hate and desperation, particularly self-hate. 'So better by far for me if you were stone.' She feels that in order for her happiness to be restored, her husband must pay his betrayal, and that means he must be turned to stone. The 'love gone bad' appears to have changed Medusa; she doesn't hate him, she rather loves him. But the love ends up twisting her just as it has Mrs Quasimodo and ends up in a loss of self-esteem.

Self destruction: References to her power to destroy are emphasised in the fourth stanza. 'I glanced at a buzzing bee'. Animals are referenced in this poem, and are particularly starking, perhaps used to emphasise Medusa's desperation and her consequent self-hate, but also the diversity of betrayal that she feels her husband has committed on her.

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The Devil's Wife

About: Myra Hindley narrates her involvement in the Moors Murders, and her subsequent breakdown in prison. Duffy provides Hindley with a voice.

Themes: Aggressive men, gender reversal, mental detioriation, identity taken by men.

Aggressive men: 'He bit my breast. His language was foul.' These physical actions assert his power, male dominance and influence. 'Thumped wound of a mouth.' This is harsh, she's brutalised by Brady and is now lost of all feeling and silenced. She then attempts to shift all the blame on to Brady by expressing: 'He held my heart in his fist and he squeezed it dry.' This shows the viewing of the sadistic crimes towards children; those commited by women are viewed as being more horrific and unnatural.

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The Devil's Wife: Form & Structure


Different forms: The poems are all written in a different form, with the Bible section taking on a sonnet form. This is used to restrain her emotions, with it being orderly and controlled in the context to reinforce this.

Narrative voice: The poem remains first-person narrative form despite the overall change from sonnet to non-sonnet. Night is a short prayer.


Enjambment: The last part of the poem, Appeal, is completely written with enjambment until the second short stanza. This reflects her attempts to be free and the contrasts with life imprisonment expressed in the first line.

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The Devil's Wife: Language

Bible: There is an element of religious awakening in this section. Perhaps this is so she can be released, but in this section she attempts to shift all of the blame to Brady. She's in denial of her crimes, but tries to manipulate people to gain freedom. She appears disturbed. 'Send me a TV crew, send me a journalist.' She repeats 'send me' in desperation to express her innocence, and ultimately to accentuate her denial; she wants to be free. Repetition of 'maybe' adds to further her denial of the crimes.

Night: In this section, Hindley will emerge from the darkness of night and into the light of the morning. It's a short prayer, conjuring religious conversion and confessions. 'These are the words...' Words she uses to describe herself and words the public imitates. 'I will finnaly tell.' She will confess to further crimes and admit her guilt.

Appeal: The appeal section remains reflective. The repetition of the word if is reflective and suggests anaphora. She visits what could 'have been'. The couplet at the end of the section is reflective, not only of herself but also the country. She wonders what happened to her when she was with Brady. Dirt and Medusa adopts personae (different voices) to show Hindley's love for Brady and her account of the murders.

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About: Circe addresses the reader, describing the range of pigs and their features. It's about a woman who can turn men into animals.

Themes: Violence, men compared to animals, rejection.

Violence: 'Bulging, vulnerable bags of the balls.' The harsh 'b' sound and soft 'I' sound emphasises the threatening diction, and thus how she wants to damage men's sensitive areas. She refers to them as 'pigs', which is an abusive term and is reflective of the speaker's thoughts and feelings. The clever juxtaposition of elements of recipe with references to men keeps us uneasy, and ultimately Duffy works, using a metaphor, to keep us thinking of pigs as men.

Rejection: The 'three black ships' emphasises the regret and lost love. Circe was rejected by Ulysses, so the ships represent all of the lost hopes and desires. She also helps Odysseus, but he did not stay. She hopes the ships are full of love and hope, and men, but the fact the ships are 'black' represents them as ominous. She might have hoped they were carrying a cargo she was hoping for, but instead they carry a cargo of rejecting love.

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Circe: Form & Structure


First-person narrative: Again, Duffy adopts a first-person narrative form. It is used to coincide with the speaker's views of men, and to empower the overriding subject of the poem. This is addressed with her use of dramatic monologue.


Caesura: The caesura works with the juxaposition of the elements of recipe to male behaviour to keep us uneasy. The satire is that the food here is seen in a sexual sense rather than one that's for eating.

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Circe: Language

Reflective tone: 'I was younger then. And hoping for men. This emphasises a reflective tone, with the rhyme suggesting it's sad and melancholic. Duffy perhaps is trying to suggest women are naive, and care about being in love too much.

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Mrs Lazarus

About: Tells the story of Mrs Lazarus and her grievance for her husband. Time passes and he becomes a memory, but she becomes a schoolteacher and begins her life again before news arises that he has arisen from the dead.

Themes: Death, love, marriage discontent, women's limitations in society, violence.

Marriage discontent/bereavement: 'Gone home.' 'Gutted the place.' 'Slept in a single cot.' This melancholic diction describing 'gone' and 'gutted' describes the sad theme in this poem. The use of the word 'single' shows how she's alone and upset; she doesn't feel life is the same with her husband now not in existance; furthermore, the use of short lines emphasises this.

Death/dark: 'Stuffed dark suits into black bags.' Adds to the dark nature of the poem.

Links: Mrs Midas, Mrs Sisyphus, Circe, Frau Freud.

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Mrs Lazarus: Form & Structure


Elegy and first-person narrative: The poem is written as a dramatic monologue but resembles an elegy. The first-person narrative form reinforces the sad and melancholic atmosphere that the speaker evokes. Before she moves on, she misses her husband's presence.


Short lines: Some lines are short, and this is reflective of the speaker's sadness. She reflects on the fact her husband has passed away.

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Mrs Lazarus: Language

Violence: 'Ripped the cloth I was married in from my breasts.' 'Anguish, howled, clawed.' Harsh 'k' and 'I' sounds evoke pity from the reader. Mrs Lazarus uses violent diction to accentuate her pain and discomfort over her husband's death. She feels her life has been beset by his tragic loss.

Back to life: 'And I knew.' She understands he has arisen from the dead. 'He lived. I saw the horro on his face.' The source of his horror remains partly at her having a new man, partly at the trauma of being back from the dead, but also the fact that now he is back, nothing is the same. It's a nightmare for him. This poem is mournful in tone.

The gothic imagery evoked in this poem help to accentuate the man's life once he has returned from the dead.

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Pygmalion's Bride

About: Pygmalion has created a statue of a woman who is the speaker of the poem. She describes how Pygmalion brings her to life, but she can't and doesn't want to respond to his touch. In order to rid herself of him, she changes her behaviour which makes him lose interest.

Themes: Rejection, power of women, men's desires.

Rejection: 'He will not touch me.' She does not like him, and she does not want him, however, he does end up touching her as she describes 'but he did.' This causes him to like her even more. 'His words were horrible.' Further exemplification of her detest, dislike and disdain for him.

Power of women: 'He ran his clammy hands along my limbs.' This emphasises something which is unpleasant and distasteful. While she remains unobtainable, she remains desirable, and she exploits this to her advantage.

Links: Mrs Aesop, Mrs Sisyphus, Mrs Midas, Mrs Faust.

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Pygmalion's Bride: Form & Structure


First-person narrative: Used to make the account seem believable and realistic. On the one hand, it could help to make us sympathise with the lover because he's being led on by the speaker who shows no sense of remorse or disdain, but, we may sympathise with the speaker as she detests his presence despite him trying to come on to her.


Free verse and caesura: This is used is second-to-last stanza to reinforce the fact she fakes an ******. She does this because she knows it will put him off and it does.

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Pygmalion's Bride: Language

Alliteration and objectification: 'He propped me up on the pillows.' This reflects the speaker's agitation and frustration; she feels objectified.

Powerful women: While he appears to her 'like snow, like ivory' like an ice goddess, he can deal with her, but as soon as she throws off her inhibitions he cannot deal with her. She describes throwing off all her inhibitions as 'all an act,' but points to deception and a rather curt finish. 'And we haven't seen him since.' She perhaps, could be putting on a tough girl act, suggesting that perhaps she did love him, but then he leaves her and she's saying she didn't mean it anyway.

Duffy seems to suggest here that some men cannot deal with real women, with all the passion and complexities that are involved. She reworks the original tale so that when the statue does come to life, it puts Pygmalion off and frees her in the process.

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Mrs Rip Van Winkle

About: Mrs Rip Van Winkle leads a new life while her husband is asleep. He's made sexual demands that she doesn't enjoy, and when she returns home one day, he has woken up and wants to resume sexual activities.

Themes: Failed love, freedom, relationships.

Freedom: 'Seeing the sights I'd always dreamed about.' This emphasises how she's become active and that she's finally able to broaden her horizons that her relationship restrained. She likes to travel, she likes to be free, and she likes to be on her own, for Mrs Rip Van Winkle she doesn't feel the need to do anything other than to be by herself. So she's appalled to be called back to the marital bed on another level.

Failed love: The rhyming couplet 'Niagra and viagra' emphasises how to her utmost horror and dismay, Rip Van Winkle has got his mojo back.

Links: Thetis, Little Red-Cap, Mrs Midas, Mrs Sisyphus, Pygmalion's Bride.

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Mrs Rip Van Winkle: Form & Structure


First-person narrative: Helps the reader to sympathise with Mrs RVW's situation and helps us to understand her struggle to be free and to be an individual. She feels disdain for a relationship she doesn't want, and the comic style emphasises the nature that she enjoys travelling and being herself rather than in a relationship with RVW.


Short sentences: These comprise powerful and majestic landmarks, emphasising how grand the experiences are that she embarks on.

Neat structure: This emphasises that Mrs RVW is taking control of her life for once and also her methodical approach to travelling.

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Mrs Rip Van Winkle: Language

Freedom: 'And while he slept I found some hobbies for myself.' His sleep provides her with freedom, and she's able to develop her interests and broaden her horizons.

Metaphorical: She compares the middle age with drowning 'in still, deep water' in which she may feel the relationship has stagnated. The 'still' creates a calm atmosphere amongst the madness of drowning.

Women as weak/simile: 'I sank like a stone.' This emphasises a sad, melancholic and depressing image of her failure. The fact she is sinking creates a sense of discomfort, but also a claustrophic image comprising of futility and a lack of control.

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Frau Freud

About: Frau Freud is presented as a public speaker, speaking to a female audience. She describes her husband's penis in an unflattering way, undermining his manhood and theories.

Themes: Relationships, love, aggression, mockery, comedy, powerful women.

Powerful women/mockery: 'Ladies, for argument's sake.' This reflects a formal opening; it addresses the audience in a manner which reflects her knowledge and status. It makes the poem very funny because she's very formal but then reels of a list of crude descriptions, that refer to the penis, using colloquial language and slang.

Mockery: 'Don't get me wrong, I've no axe to grind.' This is unemotional, logical and intelligent. Frau Freud uses a cliche 'axe to grind' to suggest that she's not disdained with her husband, rather with her husband's penis.

Links: Mrs Sisyphus, Circe, Pygmalion's Bride, Mrs Rip Van Winkle, Mrs Faust.

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Frau Freud: Form & Structure


First-person narrative: Again, this is used to evoke sympathy from the reader but a rather unconventional way; perhaps, the reader feels sympathy for Frau Freud as she despises her husband's manhood, or for her husband, who has to put up with her intimidation and negative descriptions.

Sonnet: This poem uses the sonnet form, but it is not a love poem. She vetoes the traditional use of the convention to accentuate the mockery and satire. She feels that men are obsessed with something that she isn't satisfied with.


Ellipsis: This pace slows down due to ellipsis and the ladies are addressed personally and that this male attribute is 'not pretty.' It emphasises pity for its one-eyed appearance.

Caesura: This is used to convey a one-sided discussion as the woman evaluates what she says before coming into the main point.

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Frau Freud: Language

Duffy, through the use of  humour, makes another important point. She asserts that Freud has misinterpreted female sexuality. Once again, she presents the female point-of-view regarding a particular subject.

Lack of love/mockery: 'The average penis - not pretty.' This completely subverts the theory; it is the penis that feels envy. She's glad that she does not have one, and is completely unsatisfied with one.

Various uses of slang for the penis emphasise it in a very unflattering way, using slang.

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About: Salome wakes to again find a strange man next to her in bed. It ends with her revealing the stranger's head on a platter.

Themes: Love, adolescence, aggression, disdain for males, strength of women.

Aggression: 'I'd done it before (and doubtless I'll do it again, sooner or later). This reflects her status as a serial killer, it's unusual that it's a female being presented in this way. Also reflects the fact that she's without emotion and remorse for what she's done, she's pretty much accepting that it's part of her life, and to an extent, she takes pride in her killings.

Disdain for males: 'Hungover and wrecked as I was from a night on the batter.' This reflects a modern, contemporary context. The word 'batter' is starking, and it suggests that she went out and committed an act of killing, but also, it alludes towards being intoxicated, which could suggest that Salome finds her intoxication just as appealing as her killings.

Links: Queen Herod, Pygmalion's Bride, Mrs Rip Van Winkle.

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Salome: Form & Structure


First-person narrative: This adds to the believability of the story as it recounts her events as they occurred. We can believe that she felt the killings were part of her day-to-day life and she doesn't show any remorse until later on for them.


Free verse: This may reflect the fact the speaker is rebelling against social constraints placed on women. Duffy adopts a parallel to accentuate between her freedom in her choice of form and the speaker's freedom in her choice to be free of a patriarchal conformity.

Caesura: This helps to add the stream of consciousness.

Stanzas: The final stanza helps to create a heartless and disinterested character.

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Salome: Language

Signs of remorse: 'I needed to clean up my act.' This could reflect Salome's first signs of remorse, but, it could also refer to the fact she needs to feel better for the sake it. Perhaps the patriarchal society she's fought to avoid, catches up with her, and it's something she realises she must be apart of.

Strength of women: 'Ain't life a *****.' This demonstrates her power over males. In contrast with The Devil's Wife, the tone here is lighter, and almost comical at times. Salome takes pleasure from her act of sexual violence.

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About: Eurydice has died and found herself in the underworld. She has no desire to return to life. She becomes aggrieved when her husband follows her, and she tries to evade returning to the real world with him but she manages to escape the journey using flattery to outwit him.

Themes: Rejection, failed love, female voice, hatred of males,

Rejection: The speaker refers to her husband as 'him' emphasising the detachment between the two personas. 'It suited me down to the ground.' She surprises the reader, and exemplifies how she likes it away from her egotistical poetic husband.

Hatred of males/female voice: 'I'd rather speak for myself/than be dearest...' She's resisting being his muse. She's quite hostile and resentful of the claim that the male poet is speaking to her, with Duffy jibing at the publishers: 'the Gods are like publishers/usually male.' Which suggests that the story takes into account the emergence of women and how the situation for women writers has evolved and changed.

Links: Mrs Lazarus (Eurydice able to overcome grief unlike Mrs Lazarus), Pygmalion's Bride, Mrs Aesop, Frau Freud, Salome, Little Red-Cap.

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Eurydice: Form & Structure


First-person narrative: Evokes sympathy, accentuates the hostility of the speaker.


Varying line-lengths: Helps to emphasise the thoughts and reflections of the persona, and it's reflective of the stream of consciousness writing.

Free verse: This is used to emphasises how she's gained her freedom, and got what she wanted, and how she's dealing with departure.

Ellipsis: This is used to reflect the change of tack as she now resorts to both touching Orpheus and pleading with him for release. 'Please' is used to accentuate her vulnerability and depression. She's aware of his status and power.

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Eurydice: Language

Weak women: 'I'd rather speak for myself.' Like Little Red-Cap, she'd rather speak for herself and find her own poetic voice; feels her lover is restraining her from being able to do so.

Irony: 'I'd rather be dead.' She feels smothered by him because ironically she's already dead.

Freedom: 'Orpheus, your poem's a masterpiece. I'd love to hear it again.' She knows that he has a massive ego, and that is what ensures her freedom.

Metaphorical: The poet is struggling with language during the last tercet and this metaphorically described with 'the dead are so talented' emphasises that the dead are silent and dispensing, suggesting words are never sufficient. The dead appear to be wiser than the living. Moreover, it adds to the apparent dark nature of the poem, and the mysterious dominance surrounding the couple's relationship.

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The Kray Sisters

About: The Kray twins are depicted as sisters who are supporters of the female movement. They are fighting for the cause of feminism, not wealth or material gains, despite the fact that they are still portrayed as violent and menacing just like the Kray brothers.

Themes: Feminism, betrayal, violence, gangsters.

Feminism: 'a tough suffragette' 'Emmeline's Army.' 'Diamond ladies'. They are immersed into the history of the women's rights movement. This inspires and motivates their actions. Emmeline Pankhurt was a leading suffragette between 1858 and 1928.

Gangsters/violence: 'We wanted respect for the way, we entered a bar.' They want respect for women, but the way they achieve this is couched in typical cliched gangster lingo..

Betrayal: 'A boyfriend's for Christmas.' Men are not to be trusted and should only be used as sexual objects because men are the enemy.

Links: Queen Herod, Frau Freud, Salome, Eurydice, Mrs Faust.

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The Kray Sisters: Form & Structure


First-person narrative: It evokes pity and sadness, and allows the sisters to empower the feministic subject and cause.


Caesura and enjambment - This is used to reflect the sentimental tone of the speaker.

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The Kray Sisters: Language

Disdain for men: 'Protection'. This would usually mean protection in the form of payments, but here, it could accentuate the view that women are predicted from the violence of men.

Feminism: 'We admit, bang to rights, that the fruits of feminism.' This echoes the life of the real Krays, but for completely different reasons as here they are motivated by women's rights. The Krays are often romanticised, and their violence is often glossed over. A similar sentiment is expresses whereby 'there was none of this mugging old ladies or touching young girls.' Their actions liberated women, but this period may not reflect the high point of the women's rights movement.

Violence: 'One day these boots are gonna walk all over you.' These boots will be used to trample over any male that get in the way of women. This is a poignant note to end on and emphasises the triumphant drive for the feministic cause.

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Elvis's Twin Sister

About: Elvis Presley's twin sister describes her life as a nun. She describes how her adoption of a simple life has led to happiness. She's fictional, but unlike her brother, she's achieved a state of grace and contentment.

Themes: Religion, feminism, unhappiness, satire.

Dual meaning: 'Pray for the immortal soul of rock 'n' roll.' This refers to the condemnation by the religious establishment and also the speaker's desire to see the art form remain true.

Sacrifice/religion: 'Pascha...' This refers to Christ as the sacrifical lamb, but Elvis was sacrified for a different reason, money.

Third stanza: The attire that she wears is also in stark contrast with the ostentatious and flamboyant outfits that Elvis used to wear. This reflects her simplistic and contended outlook on life.

Links: Anne Hathaway, Pope Joan, Queen Herod, The Kray Sisters.

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Elvis's Twin Sister: Form & Structure


First-person narrative: Same as usual; evokes sympathy, pity, and helps us to connect with the speaker's thoughts, feelings and struggles.

Regular form: This helps to emphasise a ritual of daily life in the convent.


Lyrical, short line lengths: This provides authenticity though is quite lightly done. Also provides the impression of a song.

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Elvis's Twin Sister: Language

Religion: The word 'Graceland' allows us to identify the convent as being Elvis's home - the wordplay isn't Duffy's invention as Elvis chose the name Graceland because of his Christian beliefs. However, the peace and contentment contrasts with the life of Elvis, which was full of pain and turmoil.

Humour: 'Digs the way I move my hips.' This helps play a humourous contrast between life, manners and dress of the nun and flamboyance of rock 'n' roll.

Contrast: 'Long time since I walked down Lonely Street.' This contrasts with Elvis yet again, who was very much alone in his last days.

Elvis was a womaniser, so it's highly unusual to depict his alter ego as a nun living in a community of women. A strong feministic influence is present.

The poem could also be seen as a wider comment on the price of fame; for all his wealth and glory, Elvis lived a largely unhappy and unfulfilling life, so does Duffy suggest here that another part may have led to greater contentment. This poem is also satirical suggesting the playful, light-hearted nature of the subject matter.

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Pope Joan

About: Pope Joan has become the head of the Catholic Church describing the religious rituals that confirm her position. She believes that the only miracle was the birth of her child.

Themes: Religion, birth, children.

Religion: 'Transubstantiate.' This reflects the Catholic Church. The transformation of bread and wine, during mass, into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. 'Lifting me, flinging me down.' Like God casting out Lucifer, the fallen angel, from heaven - also a metaphor for Joan being cast out of the church. 'Where I lay in the road in my miracle.' This is a spiritual experience.

Links: Thetis, Little Red-Cap, Penelope, Elvis's Twin Sister.

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Pope Joan: Form & Structure


Autobiographical: Duffy felt that being a poet paled into insignificance compared with the experience of motherhood. In this poem, everything Pope Joan achieves is meaningless in comparison with the miracle of giving birth.

First-person narrative: This allows us to reflect on Pope Joan's life.


Three line stanzas: These act like little responses or prayers.

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Pope Joan: Language

Mocking: 'That I did not believe a word.' This reflects satire.

Memories: 'Blue-green snakes.' This evokes memories of the Garden of Eden.

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About: Penelope is the supreme example of marital faithfulness, who waits for Odysseus. Even though, she has plenty of suitors, she instead decides to indulge in embroidery. She loses herself in her work and finds herself in her work. When other men come to try and win her affections, she's not interested because she's an artist now. Penelope remains faithful, but this poem is more about Penelope being faithful and true to herself rather than towards Odysseus.

Themes: Female independence, female power.

Link to Mrs Lazarous: 'Then I noticed that whole days had passed without my noticing.' The poem is a bit like Mrs Lazarus; at first she is waiting for him, but then after a few months she realises that she's stopped missing him.

Loses the man: 'Lost myself completely in a wild embroidery of love, lust, loss and lessons learnt.' This shows that she is completely absorbed in her craft. The alliteration is used to emphasise her lost love and wisdom she has acquired. She finds her vocation in embroidery, all of what she fails to find in romantic love.

Links: Mrs Lazarous, Mrs Rip Van Winkle, Pope Joan, The Kray Sisters.

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Penelope: Form & Structure


First-person narrative: Helps to show her loss of romantic love; she finds another vocation, embroidery, which delights her more.


Regular stanzas: It helps to create a narrative effect similar to Mrs Midas, but also suggests the regularity of Penelope's life, with its calm daily stitching and unpicking, like the embroidery.

Enjambment: This suggests movement across the stanzas, echoing the leaping of the fish that she's stitching.

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Penelope: Language

Lack of romantic love: 'Disturb my peace, I played for time.' She found contentment and is not interested in any new men.

Metaphor: 'To form a river that would never reach the sea.' This is poignant: she'll never have a fulfilling relationship with Odysseus. 'Self-contained, absorbed, content.' That's describing herself.

Lost love/changing love: 'When I heard a far-too-late familiar read outside the door.' Too late and she's changed. She's moved on, so this is another poem about lost love or changing love.

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Mrs Beast

About: Someone says that a woman would be better off with a beast as her lover. The beast does as she says. She recalls women who have suffered and admits that she's the less committed individual in the relationship.

Themes: Independence, violence, female power, female dominance, rarity, beauty.

Beauty: The women in the first stanza are renowned for their beauty. 'I'll put them straight.' Duffy wants to rework what women's aspirations should be. These women are objects of male desire: patriarchal constructs. This goes against all the traditions that are found in literature.

Independence: 'My own gold stashed at the bank, my own black horse at the gates.' This reflects an independent woman; she doesn't need or depend on a man.

Female power: 'The lady says do that. Faster. The lady says that's not where I meant.' Here, the language is assertive, masculine, dominating and controlling. The imperitive verbs and reversing gender roles emphasises the breaking rhythm that occurs when the male fails to please the woman.

Links: Mrs Lazarus, Queen Herod, Mrs Quasimodo, Little Red-Cap, The Devil's Wife.

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Mrs Beast: Form & Structure


First-person narrative: Accentuates the assertive, controlling and domineering aspect of Mrs Beast.


Free verse, caesura and other punctuation: This reflects the speaker's thoughts. It's also narrative in nature.

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Mrs Beast: Language

Female dominance/female power: 'Let the less loving one be me.' The alliteration of the soft 'L' sound shows she wishes she could be like men and less feminine as much as she tried she's the fool in love. 'Twice'. This emphasises who wears the trousers in this relationship. He's subservient, playing the female domestic role. 'But behind each player stood a line of ghosts unable to win.' The long suffering wives and women in The World's Wife, the reader presumes.

Male exploitation: 'Those less fortunate than we.' This reflects women who've suffered at the hands of men. 'Let the less-loving one be me.' This reflects role-reversal; usually, it's the male that's seen as being the one acting without emotion, but in this instance, it's the female.

Mrs Beast suggests that women would be better of with a beast for a lover. The reason for this thinking is because ultimately, men let women down. The poem reflects upon the suffering and distress of women caused by men and it's this which causes Mrs Beast to think and behave in the way that she does.

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About: Demeter was the giver of seasons. Her daughter was abducted by Hades and forced to spend four months of the year with him. These four months become winter, the other months are summer, spring and autumn. In this poem, Demeter awaits the arrival of her daughter during winter. As she returns, she brings the spring and with it - hope.

Themes: Mother, children, celebration, sorrow.

Sorrow: 'Choosing tough words, granite, flint.' This depair and sorrow is lifeless. The harsh 'k' sounds of 'to break the ice. my broken heart' reflects the pain she feels. The 'frozen lake' reflects how her attempts to overcome these feelings are futile.

Children: 'Bare feet, bringing all spring's flowers.' The alliteration is used to emphasise her softness.

Links: Little Red-Cap, Queen Herod, The Devil's Wife.

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Demeter: Form & Structure


First-person narrative: This reflects the pain her mother feels before her daughter returns.

Sonnet: This reflects the love shared between the mother and daughter. Demeter's sorrow is presented in the first two stanzas; the arrival of her daughter in the final parts of the poem reflects the joy she feels. Also encapsulates the element of love, closest to worship, and is best at characterising the beloved and what is special in the relationship. This reflects Demeter's overflowing love for her daughter.


Four stanzas and rhyming couplet: 'Soon and moon'. This reinforces the personification that is used to emphasise the joy she feels over the 'blue sky smiling.'

Division into short stanzas: This helps reflect the swiftness of Demeter's realisation that her daughter is returning and perhaps her desire to meet her. The rhyming couplet at the end exemplifies her cautionary certainty.

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Demeter: Language

Transformational: 'But I saw.. My daughter..' Represents the change from her feelings of sorrow to joy and celebration when her daughter arrives.

Metaphorical: 'Ice' and 'frozen.' This helps to characterise the cold environment and Demeter's feelings.

Extended imagery: 'My broken heart...' This emphasises that Demeter's heart is so battered that it is useless to combat her circumstances, with the word 'flat' suggesting complete depression.

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Mrs Darwin & Mrs Icarus

Mrs Darwin: Mrs Darwin on a visit to the zoo with her husband makes an important point about the fact that not all great thoughts come from men.

Key points and themes: Laid out in the form of a diary. It mimics Charles Darwin's notes, and it's a joke. In the poem, it's Mrs Darwin who comes up with the natural selection theory.

Mrs Icarus: Mrs Icarus recounts Icarus's attempt at flight. She is the speaker.

Key points and themes: The poem reflects the ordeal of long suffering wives and girlfriends who have to put up with their men's hobbies such as football and fishing. It also refers to man's early attempts to fly. It suggests that men do not listen to their women who are the 'voices of reason'. The poem is a joke but with a reasonably serious point behind it.

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