the Collection The World’s Wife Essay
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‘Anne Hathaway’ is written in a very similar style to all the other poems in The World’s Wife. “My lover’s words were shooting starts that fell to earth as kisses” is a metaphor emphasising the brilliance of his words and implying that they originated in heaven, thus making them perfect. Duffy frequently uses imagery thus. “The bed a page beneath his writer’s hands” is an example of figurative language in the semantic field of writing, which is associated with Shakespeare.
Similarly, ‘Mrs Aesop’ is filled with morals such as “the pot that called the kettle [black]”, as fables are what Aesop is remembered for, and ‘Frau Freud’ is centred around euphemisms for penis, as penis envy was Freud’s legacy. This use of subject-specific lexemes is frequently used by Duffy to invoke thoughts of the famous figures concerned. Just as “I had wept for a night and a day / over my loss” in ‘Mrs Lazarus’ contains enjambement, very few lines in ‘Anne Hathaway’ are endstopped, resulting in a flowing syntax emphasising the fluidity of their love.
Duffy does, however, use caesura on the line “… a page beneath his writer’s hands. Romance and drama… “, dividing the ensuing “romance and drama” from Anne dreaming, perhaps implying that she would still have experienced romance and drama without dreaming. “Gone home. Gutted the place” from ‘Mrs Lazarus’ is another example of caesura separating actions, this time to express a sense of finality and determination. The descriptive feel of ‘Anne Hathaway’ is enhanced by Duffy’s use of declarative sentences.
Alliteration in “living laughing love” expresses happiness, just as “feared, famous, friends of the stars” is alliterative to show how the Kray Sisters were happy because of their fame. This contented fluidity is further enhanced by assonance – “other bed, the best, our guests”; sibilance – “by scent, by taste”; and fricatives – “softer rhyme”. These makes their love seem continuous, just as the birth in ‘Pope Joan’ seems unstoppable because of the fricatives and repetition of “lifting me, flinging me down… ” All these literary features are used in every poem in The World’s Wife, making ‘Anne Hathaway’ feel a natural part of the collection.
However, The World’s Wife is all about feminism; the genitive in the title suggesting that women are possessions and that this is evident across the entire planet. The poems satirise this attitude using hyperbole, for instance making Aesop obsessed with morals, or by twisting history (making the Kray Brothers women). Every poem is a famous story told from the point of view of a woman, often turning the plot of the story around as with ‘Little Red-Cap’, or giving the pivotal point of the story to the woman, as with ‘Mrs Darwin’. ‘Anne Hathaway’ is not satirical.
Although, as most of Duffy’s poems are, it is a dramatic monologue, it is not a rant. It is a love poem. Throughout ‘Anne Hathaway’ there are two separate lexical chains: words such as “kisses”, “lips”, “hands” and “body” in the semantic field of love and nouns such as “words”, “page”, “noun” and “verb” in the semantic field of writing. Just as these two chains are clearly separated, so Shakespeare’s writing was separate from his love. This is emphasised in the title: unlike the other poems in the collection, ‘Anne Hathaway’ is not entitled ‘Mrs.
Shakespeare’. The name Shakespeare is associated with Shakespeare’s works. The different surname separates Anne Hathaway’s love from Shakespeare’s works, which were fictional: Shakespeare’s love for Anne was not fictional. The two lexical chains do touch in places, for instance “the bed a page beneath his writer’s hands”. Each time the two themes combine it is to describe more vividly a sensual action, such as the innuendo “a verb dancing in the centre of a noun”. This is to emphasise how Shakespeare put his whole being and essence into loving Anne Hathaway.
There is only one other true love poem in The World’s Wife: ‘Delilah’. The love Delilah feels for Samson is emphasised by the use of polysyndeton, sibilance and alliterative fricatives in “slip and slide and sprawl, handsome and huge”. Samson’s physical strength is represented semantically by the nouns “tiger”, “fire” and “Minotaur” which carry connotations of power and fear. The simple rhyming couplets “bear/dare”, “fear/here” bring a feeling of truth and simplicity to Samson’s claims. This strength contrasts with the emotional weakness he then demonstrates, justifying Delilah’s desire to help him.
She is portrayed as very possessive of Samson, “my warrior” and “his head on my lap” suggesting that she felt empowered and within her right to act. The simple, isolated sentence “I was there” implies that she loves the power, as do the adjectives “deliberate, passionate”. Although in this poem Duffy doesn’t represent the woman as being in the right, Duffy at least makes both characters seem more human, lowering Samson from his position of strength and raising Delilah from her baseness.