Carol Ann Duffy – Medusa

Medusa is told in the first person as a dramatic monologue by a woman who is insecure and worried that her husband is cheating on her. The poem begins: ‘A suspicion, a doubt, a jealousy’ and it is this jealousy which has turned the woman into a gorgon and now everything she looks at turns to stone. Unlike our normal hate feelings towards the Medusa this poem evokes empathy for her as she is clearly distressed and suffering. Especially when she recollects, in the final stanza, the time she was young and beautiful, illustrating her complete lack of confidence.  Nevertheless, she is still presented as a foul character who threatens the reader, with the line ‘Be terrified’. The poem also ends with the line ‘Look at me now’ which has a double meaning. It could be read as a cry of distress or, as a threat as if you did look at Medusa you would die. This leaves the reader feeling conflicting emotions for the character, probably similar to how Medusa herself felt about herself throughout the poem. The poet uses a sibilance in the first two stanzas to create the sound of a hissing snake. Rhetorical questions, ‘Are you terrified?’ are used to involve but also intimidate the reader. The metaphor describing her husband’s heart for a shield suggests that he didn’t love her properly.

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