The World's Wife

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The World's Wife is a collection of poems by Carol Ann Duffy published in 1999.

The World's Wife is Carol Ann Duffy's first themed collection of poems (published in 1999). The collection takes characters, stories, histories and myths which focus on men, and, in Duffy's renowned feminist way, presents them anew for the public to look at the women that were previously obscured behind the men. It is a set text on some A2 and AS Syllabuses of English Literature in England and Wales, as well as on that of National 5 and Higher in Scotland.


The World's Wife is a collection of poems that discuss themes such as sexism, equality, bereavement and birth. The World's Wife looks at important events in history from a female perspective and in a controversial way.

The anthology[edit]

  • "Mrs Beast"
  • "Demeter"

Some poems look at the story of the man from the woman's perspective, such as in "Mrs Aesop", whilst others change the story into one about women such as "The Kray Sisters".She aims to give a voice to women whose story has been told from the outside.

Many of the poems are taken from the historical setting which they come from and brought into a modern day light, such as "Mrs. Faust", based on the Christopher Marlowe play, The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, which was written in the 16th century. In "Mrs Faust", Duffy includes modern day fads such as face-lifts and credit cards.

A staged production of The World's Wife, performed by Linda Marlowe and directed by Di Sherlock, was acclaimed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2009, and transferred to the Trafalgar Studios in London in 2010.

A chamber opera adapted from the collection by composer Tom Green will premiere at Welsh National Opera in October 2017, ahead of a Welsh tour. Scored for solo soprano, string quartet and loop pedals, the work will feature vocalist Amanda Forbes alongside The Mavron Quartet, and be directed by Ed Madden.

Duffy's life[edit]

Many of the poems reflect Duffy's life. The poem Little Red Cap (Poem) is seen to be reflective of her relationship with the poet adrian Henri.[citation needed] Also, there are many references to childbirth, children and feelings towards men, which could have been influenced by her own experiences. The collection can be seen as a step to adulthood as in the poem "Little Red Cap" the character is portrayed as learning from her mistakes and makes amends.

It can be argued that Duffy exemplifies the different roles of women from different perspectives. "The Devil's Wife" is a prime example of a poem in which the notion of female evil is identified.

Carol Ann Duffy’s poems often focus on the female perspective. In ‘The World’s Wife’ Duffy has achieved this by letting females speak out against men, it also portrays a different side of the story compared to the traditional version which is focused on the male character.


  • Duffy, Carol-Ann (1999). The World's Wife. London: Picador. ISBN 0-330-37222-X.