The World’s Wife


Written by: Alex Nyagah

The World’s Wife is a robust collection of empowering statement pieces containing intertextual ideas and motifs. And despite the emphasis on feminist political views, the author maintains her individuality with unique language styles and a cooperative, consolidated thread of messages to the reader. 

A great deal of the book is a rehabilitation of patriarchal myths, stories, and legends demonstrating Duffy’s utility for repackaging fairy tales and myths as modern feminism, which sheds light on many archaic perspectives descending from classical antiquity. The intertextuality of the title is the first clue that the book is a metafiction disguising its social commentary and central consciousness.


The introductory poem is a spoof of the Brothers Grimm story “Little Red Riding Hood” and showcases the misogyny prevalent in the original poem. She is a naïve young girl at the mercy of the male lumberjack who comes to the rescue and becomes her savior.

“Little Red Cap” is a woman without agency when she chooses to speak with the wolf and is eventually devoured. Duffy’s retelling of the story also depicts a dysfunctional male-female dynamic as her grandma is unable to care for herself and is completely reliant on her granddaughter for nourishment.


“It was there that I first saw the wolf…”

Quite a few elements appear contrary to the original fairy tale, and in the end, Duffy effectively returns female agency to Little Red Cap, reversing the misogynistic gender roles.

“I give unto my wife my second finest bed…”

Duffy utilizes quote and allusion in her analysis of William Shakespeare’s wife, for the poem “Anne Hathaway.” Anne married Shakespeare, who was seven years younger, at the age of 25, and the decision to leave his wife a “second finest bed” begs the question of fairness – whether he was attempting to demonstrate affection or an insult. This myth discredits Anne Hathaway and is a strong reflection of the regressive times in which she lived, when women were continually confronted with sexism and inequality. Duffy’s Anne Hathaway perspective is informed by the developments of the Renaissance period and the steps forward made by women of the time. The piece shows that if Anne had greater status, Shakespeare’s final declaration would be recognized as an act of love.


Duffy undermines the existing patriarchal culture by rewriting history, and introduces a new wave of feminism that educates males while empowering women. Her sociological satire offers a voice to the downtrodden, and by doing so, encourages boldness and strength, presenting the notion that women are strong and powerful – and that simply hearing them speak is more than enough evidence.

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