“Anne Hathaway” is a love poem written by Carol Ann Duffy using the voice of Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway. The poem explores the loving relationship between Shakespeare and his wife on a physical as well as an emotional level. The poem uses the imagination to celebrate the power of Shakespeare’s work and creativity which lasts even after his death. Shakespeare’s sonnet 130 could arguably present the opposite. One of Shakespeare’s many love sonnets was written to his lover expressing his feelings to her. He mocks the way other poets compare women unrealistically to clichéd, beautiful things but though this might appear outrageous, his intention is to express a deep love. His approach is to use humour to make a serious point about love. Both poets use first person to bring a very personal, direct character to the poems.
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Duffy’s choice of the Shakespearean sonnet structure seems appropriate for the topic of love between Anne Hathaway and Shakespeare himself. Shakespeare, however, chooses the conventional sonnet form to make an attack on conventional expressions of love. Shakespeare also chooses the conventional sonnet form as it makes his point stronger about conventional love poetry. Shakespeare uses the first twelve lines of the sonnet form to describe how unappealing he finds his lover but his tone shifts in the final two lines as he reveals his true affection and that even with her flaws, he still appreciates his lover. This is different from Duffy because she reflects a romantic approach from the start of the sonnet and her characters passion for her husband is clear from the start. This is a contrast to Shakespeare’s apparent negative approach to love at the beginning of his poem.
Duffy’s language choice is imperative in order to explore the topic of love. Duffy uses Iambic pentameter throughout the poem creating a regular rhythm and heavy stresses on important words. This, together with long sentences reflects the joyful and spontaneous process that Anne Hathaway feels during love making and it is as if she is letting all her emotions pour out in a smooth and uninterrupted manner. One example of the effects achieved by iambic pentameter is when heavy emphasis is placed on the word ‘dive’ in line three. This is because dive could be seen as quite an erotic word and the image of someone diving is a smooth and beautiful and perhaps graceful one. This is used in a metaphorical way to emphasize going deeper into the fantasy of Anne Hathaway’s and Shakespeare’s love. Sentences in Shakespeare’s poem run over two or four lines and some contain contrasts such as ‘black’ and ‘white’. Each statement supports the previous one and this makes a clear message about Shakespeare’s woman being incomparable to such beauties like the ‘sun’ and ‘roses’. Shakespeare uses alternative line rhyming in his poem, unlike Duffy, and creates a contrast between positive and negative images by his choice of rhyming words. ‘Sun’ and ‘dun’ are two words with opposite meanings which suggest different things and this highlights the contrast between false imagery which conventional love poets compare women to. Shakespeare’s sonnet also employs iambic pentameter like Duffy, to put heavy emphasis on words such as ‘nothing’ in the phrase ‘nothing like the sun’, which is a negative and definite word which isn’t usually associated with love. Shakespeare does this to strengthen his argument against these love poets who write sonnets containing this commonly used simile in an insincere way.
Both poems create a striking opening creating different impressions about love. Duffy chooses to start the poem with ‘The bed we loved in’ which places the poem straight away in the bedroom and reflects that the lovemaking was a mutual and shared experience. The first line of Duffy’s poem contains the metaphor ‘spinning world’ which creates a remarkable opening just as Shakespeare does when he draws attention to his idea by comparing his lovers eyes as ‘nothing like the sun’. This is a shocking surprise of negativity in a love poem and is the opposite to how Duffy chooses to start her poem as she creates an optimistic impression. Duffy refers to Shakespeare as ‘My lover’ which emphasises the importance of their physical relationship and how Anne feels towards her husband. Similarly Shakespeare refers to his lover as ‘My mistress’ which creates an emphatic, definite start and tells us that he sees the lady as his.
Both Duffy and Shakespeare use a variety of different metaphors throughout their poems but each achieve a different effect on the subject of love. Most of the metaphors Duffy uses are compared to images from a fantasy land such as ‘spinning world’ and ‘shooting stars’, both of which describe that Shakespeare’s lovemaking takes them to a place of fantasy as they fall uncontrollably in love with each other through this process. The idea of a shooting star is something which is unique, beautiful and rare and when Duffy compares this to their lovemaking, it reflects the appreciation of it from Anne Hathaway’s point of view as their love-making takes her to the heavens. Shakespeare, on the other hand, uses metaphors which are not usually associated with love and are arguably the opposite of Duffy’s and could be seen as making a mockery out of conventional poets.’ Coral is far more red than her lips’ red’ reflects that the idea of coral lips as being unnatural and Shakespeare is not going to lie like other poets do and compare his lover’s features to such unlikely things. ‘Black wires grow on her head’ is another metaphor used by Shakespeare which creates ugly impressions of the woman. Shakespeare uses metaphors to make his ideas sound more negative in order to express his love in a suspicious way whereas Duffy uses metaphors to create romantic images such as, ‘echo’ is when something responds to its original sound and in this case, Anne is responding to Shakespeare. This creates the idea that both of them have connected as one and they are now close. It is also a linguistic metaphor and creates a strong link of their love.
Duffy compares Shakespeare’s writing of poetry to their physical love-making to emphasise their love. Apart from the use of linguistic terms such as ‘assonance’ and ‘rhyme’, Shakespeare’s occupation is present within the poem when Anne says she ‘dreamed he’d written me, the bed a page beneath his writer’s hands’. This line suggests that Anne is being transported to another world, almost as if it was a dream and Shakespeare’s love-making is as creative as his writing. ‘ Romance and drama’ also link back to Shakespeare’s plays and suggests how he entices her with excitement, just how Shakespeare’s plays excited various audiences to carry on watching. However, the language in Sonnet 130 could be seen as unusual for someone like Shakespeare to use. The language is very conversational whereas Duffy’s language is more descriptive about direct love. ‘I love to hear her speak’ is Shakespeare’s definite, final opinion of his lover. Shakespeare makes it clear that he adores his lovers’ voice and what she has to say but he gets his message across in a relaxed, informal way as opposed to Duffy’s language which is more descriptive about direct love. Shakespeare’s different approach to writing about love could be seen as more personal and focuses on his lover being a real woman.
Duffy also appeals to our senses throughout her poem to enhance the reader’s imagination about their love. She lists ‘by touch, by scent, by taste’ to reflect how powerful their love making. The list of three also makes it seem perfect and completed almost like beginning, middle, and end. The literal English meaning of the word ‘assonance’ is when vowel sounds are repeated and Duffy uses it as a metaphor to create a harmonic sound. Where Duffy uses the senses to describe how passionate her love is, Shakespeare uses the senses to exaggerate the flaws in his lover. ‘Reeks’ is the verb Shakespeare chose to describe his lover’s breath. The term means ‘breathed out’ but also has a connotation of something which is foul smelling and this appeals to our senses in the wrong way. Shakespeare chooses this adjective as it is amusing for people to use an outrageous word to gain a reaction. The poet then goes on to say how ‘music hath a far more pleasing sound’ and at first glance, we could misinterpret this as another insult to his lover but he implies that he enjoys listening to what she has to say.
Duffy puts emphasis on her ideas about love through her use of alliteration and repetition. ‘My’ is repeated several times throughout the poem to certify that Anne Hathaway thinks Shakespeare is hers regardless of his affairs. However in Shakespeare’s sonnet ‘my’ is only said once in regard to his possession over his woman but it is said right at the start of the poem to make a definite statement about his love. This again shows how love seems to involve a sense of ownership. The phrase ‘Living laughing love’ is used to describe Anne Hathaway’s view of Shakespeare and draws attention to the fact that Shakespeare is very much alive in her memories. The alliteration creates echoes of joyful sounds and keeps Shakespeare prominent in our imagination. It also reflects joyful experiences when Shakespeare was alive. The phrase ‘Goddess go’ is an example of alliteration used in Shakespeare’s sonnet. This creates a comic contrast as the word ‘go’ seems much more ordinary than ‘goddess’ which is usually associated with women by love poets. Here, Shakespeare mocks this unrealistic link by using a humorous tone and finds it astonishing how poets try to turn women into celestial beings such as the goddess.
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The choice of verbs which Duffy and Shakespeare choose, reflect something meaningful about the love they share. In Duffy’s poem, the ‘the other bed, the best’ makes the bed left in Shakespeare’s will to hi wife Anne Hathaway seem superior to the best bed. The verb used to describe the events going on in the best bed is ‘dribbling’ which creates a completely different impression to ‘Shooting’ which is the verb used to describe the image in the second best bed. ‘Shooting’ is an energetic action and is a beautiful movement whereas the image of dribbling is something which leaks out slowly and doesn’t create excitement. This comparison suggests that Anne Hathaway and Shakespeare’s love making is what makes their bed more exhilarating than the other bed. In Shakespeare’s sonnet, he uses exaggerated words such as ‘reeks’, ‘nothing’ and in contrast uses ordinary verbs such as ‘go’ to explore the subject of love. ‘Treads’ is the word Shakespeare chooses to describe the way in which his lover walks on the ground. This suggests that his lover is ordinary as she ‘treads’ on the ground like everyone does, compared to the word ‘glides’ which love poets would probably use to compare the way their lover walks in an attempt to suggest they are angelic. Shakespeare focuses on using colours to explore his love for his mistress whereas Duffy tends to concentrate more on using romantic concepts which confirm Anne Hathaway’s love for her lover. Colours are significant as they are used in conventional love poems as they reflect emotion. Beauty is expressed through colour but Shakespeare seems to make a mockery of such an idea. The hypothetical statement ‘If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun’ suggests that she is not pure as other poets would claim, as she is sexually experienced. The word ‘dun’ in itself is very unromantic and common.
The way in which both poets choose to conclude their poem reveals their final opinion about their lover. ‘I hold him in the casket of my widow’s head’ is how Duffy ends her poem and it suggests that they are and always will be two lovers even after Shakespeare’s death. The term ‘casket’ suggests something which holds precious memories and that is how Anne keeps her memory of her husband alive in her head. The rhyming words of ‘bed’ and ‘head’ round the poem off and gives a sense of completion. The strong sense of romance created in the last two lines of Duffy’s poem is expected as Anne has been praising her lover throughout the previous twelve lines. In Shakespeare’s poem, however, the sudden statement at the end and his dramatic declaration of love is surprising. ‘And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare’ is completely unexpected as the irony and mockery from the previous lines has been cancelled by this one strong statement. The expression ‘by heaven’ suggests a outburst of love and feeling which seems spontaneous and genuine. The rhyming words ‘rare’ and ‘compare’ gives a feeling that the poet has reached his conclusion about how he feels. Duffy’s poem ends with ‘ that next best bed’ which almost makes a mockery of the thought that their bed isn’t the best and Anne makes it clear that it really isn’t the second best and that in fact what went on sexually and romantically between husband and wife makes it the best bed. Shakespeare uses the word ‘belied’ in his sonnet to describe how conventional love poets compare their women falsely. ‘False compare’ suggests that others praise women’s beauty in fake terms but the declaration of Shakespeare’s love is sincere.
Duffy and Shakespeare both explore the subject of love but in different ways. Duffy’s poem reflects that although time brings things to an end, it’s the memories and love between people which keep things alive and Anne’s love towards her husband is kept prominent throughout the poem by the romantic terms used. Shakespeare’s poem focuses more on his woman’s real attributes rather than falsely comparing her to impossible qualities and therefore he makes a mockery of poets who do. Shakespeare’s love proves to be more real and personal as he loves his woman despite all of her flaws, Duffy presents a love which is, perhaps, more rare and magical as Shakespeare’s talents are highly praised. .Both poems come to the definite conclusion that a special love is possible although they choose a very difficult approach to explore this subject.
Karishma Kapoor 10H
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