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Carol-Ann Duffy - Mrs Sisyphus

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Gavin Perry

on 25 September 2018

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Transcript of Carol-Ann Duffy - Mrs Sisyphus

Carol-Ann Duffy - Mrs Sisyphus
Compile notes on the background of the Sisyphus myth

Analyse the biographical details of the poem and make connections with themes in the poem

Analyse the literary devices used and the form, structure, setting, language and narrative within the poem

Compile a detailed response to at least three varied questions

Explore a range of alternative interpretations of the poem

Spend 10 minutes researching the myth of Sisyphus.

Make detailed notes about the myth before we start reading the poem.
Carol-Ann Duffy
The Myth of Sisyphus
Sisyphus is a tale from Greek Myth

He was a King who was known for his craftiness

He upset the Gods by challenging their authority and trying to outsmart them

As a punishment, he was made to roll a boulder up a hill each day

Just as the boulder reached the top, it automatically rolled back down to the bottom

Born 1955

Scottish poet

Made a Dame

Holds title of Poet Laureate

First openly LGBT woman to hold the title

She is a playwright also

Professor of contemporary poetry at Manchester University

Themes in work around gender and relationships

Read the poem through to yourself

In pairs, summarise what it is about and write down what you think Duffy is trying to say about society in it

What themes do you notice and give evidence.

Literary Devices
Read the text and find examples of literary devices being used.
It is written from the view of his wife- again challenging the view of the dominant male in society

It is first person narrative so more realistic as a personal account

From an anthology of poems that focuses on female led dramatic monologues

Poem consists of rhymes and half rhymes

There is a repetitive end rhyme which replicates the monotony of the task for her husband

It can take the form of a ballad

There is no sense of pity, just hostility and mockery (comedy)

Examples to look for:
Colloquial language

Stanza One
Tone of the persona is angry and hostile towards her husband- which creates a sense of comedy through the situation

It is one person talking to another

There is a change in attitude in the first stanza as she tells us that what was once a novelty has now become serious

Threat of violence, ‘with a dirk’ is blunt and shocking
Short end stop lines produce a staccato type rhythm, reflecting her anger at her husband

The use of masculine end rhymes adds to the sense of comedy which is a juxtaposition to the sense of anger expressed in the poem

Stanza Two
The tone is now mocking as she repeats what he says to her

This stanza introduces the theme of the poem which is the futility of a life committed to work when you let it take over your life without being able to ‘pop open a cork’

The persona also looks at how society can view actions as a ‘bit of a lark’ when they are not
Use of colloquial language to shock also adds to the sense of comedy

Interesting that the husband does not seem to notice the views of his wife here

Animal imagery in the form of similes –perhaps animals notes for their speed so selected by him as opposed to her

Repetitive rhyme mirrors the sense of tedium she feels about her life

Stanza 3
Sad and reflective tone-to ‘lie alone in the dark’ she is isolated by her fate

She realises that her relationship with her husband is failing but can do nothing to stop is as her opinions are a ‘squawk’ unnoticed by him

She compares herself to other women who have been neglected by ambitious men who priorities their occupations

The ‘deepening murk’ is a metaphor for their relationship as it is hard to see it changing for the better

It is depressing because she does not like her situation but is not doing anything about it- this prevents the poem becoming a rant against men, making her a misandrist, which the persona in the poem is not

1. Who was Mrs Sisyphus?

2. What is she objecting to and what type of comedy is this?

3. What is the crisis within the poem?

4. How is the conflict resolved in the poem?

5. What is the purpose of the bawdy language within the poem?

6. What is the impact of the rhyming couplets within the poem?

7. Why is time mentioned in the first stanza of the poem?

8. What is the tone of the first stanza?

9. Why does the persona discuss the words of the absent person in the poem?

10. Why do the sentences reduce in length as the second stanza continues?

11. What is the stereotype that Duffy is writing against here?

12. What is the impact of the rhetorical questions used by the persona in the poem?

13. How is a sense of pathos introduced into the poem in the last stanza?

14. How does the tone of the last stanza change?

15. What does the poem show us about the folly of modern society?

16. Who is the comedic villain in the poem?

17.Is it the work or the husband that she thinks is pointless?

18. What is the impact of it being written in the first person?

19. The language is ceaseless, as is her husband’s task- do you agree?

20. Where is the element of an unhappy physical marriage in this poem and how is it reflected in language?

21. Why does the persona use the imagery of the two animals in the poem?

22. The poet generates a familiar tone with the listener in the poem – how do they achieve this?
Make some detailed notes on each of the following:

Genre features
Narrative voices

To what extent do you agree that Duffy presents a view of the world that is more depressing than comedic?
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