Mrs Aesop

Mrs Aesop

By Carol Ann Duffy

By Christ, he could bore me for Purgatory. He was small
didn’t prepossess. So he tried to impress. Dead men,
Mrs Aesop, he’d say, tell no tales.
 Well, let me tell you now
that the bird in his hand shat on his sleeve,
never mind the two worth less in the bush. Tedious.

Going out was worst. He’d stand at our gate, look, then leap;
scour the hedgerows for a shy mouse, the fields
for a sly fox, the sky for one particular swallow
that couldn’t make a summer. The Jackdaw according to
him, envied the eagle Donkeys, would, on the whole, prefer to be lions.
On one appalling evening stroll, we passed an old hare
snoozing in a ditch – he stopped and made a note –
and then, about a mile further on, a tortoise, somebody’s pet,
creeping, slow as a marriage, up the road. Slow
but certain, Mrs Aesop, wins the race.
 Asshole.
What race? What sour grapes? What silk purse,
sow’s ear, dog in a manger, what big fish? Some days
I could barely keep awake as the story droned on
towards the moral of itself. Action, Mrs A., speaks louder
than words.
 And that’s another thing, the sex
was diabolical. I gave him a fable one night
about a little cock that wouldn’t crow, a razor-sharp axe
with a heart blacker than the pot that called the kettle.
I’ll cut off your tail, all right, I said, to save my face.
That shut him up. I laughed last, longest.

Summary of Mrs Aesop

  • Popularity of “Mrs Aesop”: “Mrs Aesop” by Carol Ann Duffy, a British poet, writer, academic, and playwright, is an interesting piece about femininity wrapped in the character of Mrs Aesop. It first appeared in the collection, The World’s Wife, in 1999 in the United Kingdom and a year later in the United States. The unique feature of the poem rests on its truth about femininity and harsh tone.
  • Mrs Aesop” As a Representative of Conjugal Dissatisfaction: Carol Ann Duffy presents a beautiful character of Mrs Aesop to spell out her dissatisfaction about the suppressive patriarchy. Presenting this character, she puts the words of dissatisfaction in her mouth when she says, “By Christ, he could bore me for Purgatory” and states how Mr. Aesop used to hook her with his unusual speaking style and narration of tales. She, then, uses the same moral lessons that Mr. Aesop has drawn from his stories as she refers to the bird-in-hand-quotation. She goes on to say that he used to stand on their gate and used several other quotes but then they used to stroll in the evening and meet the hare engaged in his race. After this, she shows her dissatisfaction with the marriage, comparing it to a creeping pet saying that she has won this race but unsure if it is race, or sour grapes, or something else. She has been fed up with Mr. Aesop who speaks louder and does sex that seems diabolical. Finally, she tells her husband to shut up and laughs saying, “I laughed last, longest.”
  • Major Themes in “Mrs Aesop”: Boredom of conjugal life, gender suppression, and empowerment of femininity are three major themes of this poem. The entire poem demonstrates that Mrs Aesop not only berates her husband but also feels dissatisfied with her married life as she compares her marriage to a creeping pet and calls sex, a natural act, a diabolical one. She also takes her marriage as a competition or a race that she must win. That is why she feels suppressed and the poem shows this with the finality of the empowerment of femininity as she states that she laughs last to show her victory.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used In “Mrs Aesop”

literary devices bring beauty and attraction into simple poetic pieces. Their appropriate use helps the writers to convey their thoughts impressively. Carol Ann Duffy has also used some literary devices in this poem whose analysis is as follows.

  1. Allusion: It is a reference to a belief, idea, person, or event such as Christ and Purgatory are biblical allusions in this poem, while Mr. Aesop and Mrs. Aesop are classical allusions.
  2. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /i/ and /a/ in “By Christ, he could bore me for Purgatory. He was small / didn’t prepossess. So he tried to impress. Dead men” the sound of /o/ and /a/ in “Going out was worst. He’d stand at our gate, look, then leap” and the sound of /e/ in “and then, about a mile further on, a tortoise, somebody’s pet.”
  3. Alliteration: The poem shows the use of alliteration in the shape of initial consonant sounds of the neighboring words such as the sound of /w/ in “was worst.”
  4. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /r/ and /t/ in “Going out was worst. He’d stand at our gate, look, then leap,” and the sound of /l/ and /s/ in “On one appalling evening stroll, we passed an old hare.”
  5. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it rolls over to the next line. For example;

What race? What sour grapes? What silk purse,
sow’s ear, dog in a manger, what big fish? Some days
I could barely keep awake as the story droned on
towards the moral of itself. Action, Mrs A., speaks louder.

  1. Intertextuality: The poem shows the use of intertextuality as the biblical references of Christ and Purgatory and classical references of Mrs. Aesop and moral lessons.
  2. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Carol Ann Duffy has used imagery in this poem such as “On one appalling evening stroll, we passed an old hare”, “Wat race? What sour grapes? What silk purse” and “I could barely keep awake as the story droned on.”
  3. Metaphor: The poem has presented the extended and implicit metaphor of conjugal life.
  4. Rhetorical Question: It is a type of question asked to make people think rather than giving its answer such as “What race? What sour grapes? And What silk purse?”
  5. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from literal meanings. The poem shows the use of different modern symbols such as race, rate, fish, dog, sow, and cock to show the dissatisfaction of the lady with her conjugal life.
  6. Simile: The poem shows the use of similes such as “slow as marriage” or blacker than the pot.”

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “Mrs Aesop”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Diction and Tone: The poem shows the use of simple diction with classical references. The tone is interesting, funny, and satiric.
  2. Free Verse: The poem is a free verse poem as it does not follow any rhyming pattern.
  3. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. The poem has five stanzas with each having five verses.

Quotes to be Used

These lines from “Mrs Aesop” are appropriate to quote about the significance of victory in one’s life.

I gave him a fable one night
about a little cock that wouldn’t crow, a razor-sharp axe
with a heart blacker than the pot that called the kettle.
I’ll cut off your tail, all right, I said, to save my face.
That shut him up. I laughed last, longest.