Examine the use of the dramatic monologue in the poetry of Carol Ann Duffy

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"Examine the use of the dramatic monologue in the poetry of Carol Ann Duffy" 


Unlike the soliloquy, the dramatic monologue speaks directly to the reader and voices a single character or persona’s thoughts, this offers a better understanding of the ideas and message the poet is trying to express.  The dramatic monologue is used to form a bond or relationship between the speaker and the reader, taking the poem to a personal level, and in turn more effective in conveying a certain message. This essay will explore the way the dramatic monologue is used in both Demeter and Mrs. Midas by Carol Ann Duffy, taken from her collection of poems The World’s Wife.    


The phrase, ‘Behind every great man there is said to be a great woman’ comes to mind when reading The World’s Wife.  The title of this collection reveals much about it’s content and Duffy’s intentions.  The World’s Wife places emphasis on the wife, giving the woman the centre stage and allowing her the chance to speak through the medium of the dramatic monologue.  From Mrs. Midas to Mrs. Beast, Duffy explores the thoughts and feelings of the women behind famous men, be it through history or through myth or fairytale, Duffy makes it very clear that every woman has a tale to tell.   


Mrs. Midas tells the untold story of the well-known Greek myth King Midas, who is miraculously, granted the wish of turning everything he touches into gold.  As with all the poems in The World’s Wife, the title is a clear giveaway of what the poem is about to entail, and this is no different.  Mrs. Midas, the wife of King Midas is the persona of this particular monologue and here she voices her thoughts on her husband’s newfound ability.   


“The kitchen filled with the smell of itself.” This personification continues through the first stanza of Mrs. Midas.  “It’s steamy breath” and “…wiped the other’s glass like a brow”, personifies the kitchen Mrs. Midas is in to help you relate to the familiar homely setting that surrounds her.  The effect of this is that you feel how she feels at that time, safe, happy and without a care in the world.  The lines “begun to unwind” and the imagery of her relaxing to a “glass of wine” enforce this feeling.  The use of dramatic monologue helps to dramatise the final line of the stanza, “He was standing under the pear tree snapping a twig”, the descriptive lines before this contrasts with the abrupt change of topic, this prepares you for the turning point in her story, where the twist to her tale begins.  

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Within the next few stanza’s Mrs. Midas’s tone dramatically changes from feeling relaxed and happy to shocked and horrified at what her husband has done.  “He came into the house.  The doorknobs gleamed.  He drew the blinds.” The short sentences evoke a feeling of everything happening too fast, supporting the shocked and horrified mood, which continues to the next stanzas.  The first point of the poem in which you hear of her husband’s reaction is where he laughs in reply to her question, “What in the name of God is going on?”  Duffy has intended his initial reaction to ...

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