In order to understand poetry, the reader needs to understand the context behind the story so they can appreciate what they are reading. Carol Ann Duffy wrote ‘the world’s wife’ in order to show the public how before we were controlled by a patriarchal society and that now we are able to express our own feelings and thoughts as dominant women, not subservient. Poems like ‘Mrs Faust’; which is a reply to the play Dr Faustus by Christopher Marlowe, displays how selling your soul to the devil can give you happiness in material goods and power.
Compared to the play, the poem appears updated with the concept of corruption of men in society as all they want is power and wealth instead of love and simplicity. Duffy updates these stories to not only give us more of an understanding but also so we can relate them to what we live in today so there is more of an impact on the reader. Many poems based upon past stories and myths reflect the themes of lost love, power, deviance and relationships between men and women.
In Mrs Faust, the narrator attempts to present a timeline of events in her life through what she buys and how her relationship with her husband distances. Alike to Mrs Tiresias, Mrs Faust shows the relationships of men and women as they become increasingly detached from each other. In Mrs Tiresias, the narrative voice describes how the change in her husband becoming a women and his greater want of power creates a divide between them, urging her to demonstrate who she really is without him as a lesbian and also in a fulfilled relationship with a female lover.
Both poems illustrate the themes of power and want with the dark underlying atmosphere of jealousy and bitterness against their other halves. This is shown through the use of particular phrases like ‘he went to whores’ indicating the unhappiness that wealth and power brings for the other person in the relationship having to endure a loveless marriage. This also demonstrates the patriarchal power he has over his wife as he is able to do what he pleases.
The structure of Mrs Faust is presented as a list of fifteen stanzas, alike to a shopping list, which with its quick pace indicates a want to move on and to leave the past behind. ‘Fast cars. A boat with sails. A second home in Wales. ‘ Presents a quick, snappy tone, which reflects the narrator’s feelings towards her husband as he only, wants material things, alike in the original story of Dr Faustus. The character made a pact with the devil, solely for his own self rather than for anyone else. Compared to Thetis, there are some similarities as there is symmetry throughout each stanza.
This creates a steady flow throughout and the use of short punchy sentences in each creates more of an emphasis of how the women are feeling when they say ‘stuff that’ and ‘he wanted more. ‘ However in the first five stanzas of Thetis, the rhythm of the first two lines is similar and changes when she later metamorphoses into animals ‘Racoon, skunk, stoat’. Thetis is taken from a Greek myth, and relates to Mrs Faust due to the want for power against their partner and rejection from Zeus and Poseidon.
All three poems contain imagery relating to their original myth or story. In Mrs Faust, there are elements of imagery relating to the pact with the devil, ‘I smelled cigar smoke, hellish, oddly sexy, not allowed. ‘ This creates an impact on the idea of the Devil as immoral and against society. Compared to Thetis and Mrs Tiresias, there is also imagery to suggest links to the original story. In Mrs Tiresias, the narrator listens to the ‘sneer of thunder’ as her husband is being turned into a woman.
This refers to Hera’s contempt after he murders a female snake. This also gives the poem a sinister mood as murder and breaking the rules becomes the reason for his later power as a woman. Also in Thetis, she refers to the atmosphere by becoming the weather; ‘I was all hot air’ presents the narrator as ethereal as she cannot be held by a man, giving her power over the man. This reflects to when Zeus and Poseidon began courting her but Thetis would not resist to temptation. The language of each poem is quite similar in each.
In Mrs Faust, there is a sense of irony when he becomes ‘cardinal’ as this is a religious position of the Catholic Church and he has made a pact with the devil. It is a position of high status in the church. ‘Bo peep’ also seems innocent but displays a shift when he himself becomes dark as it relates to looking at innocent girls reflecting the Bo peep image. ‘C’est la vie’ presents the poetic voice as indifferent to his antics, as she has become divided from him due to the material goods overtaking their lives.