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Published: 11-10-2019

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Violence and Gender in Duffy’s “Queen Herod”

Queen Herod is taken from Duffy’s The World’s Wife, a collection which inverts gender roles to celebrate female characters and show the injustice of men’s generalizations. This poem inverts the gender roles in the biblical story of the arrival of the Magi for Jesus’s birth and the Massacre of the Innocents ordered by King Herod. By way of this transposition, Duffy presents the men’s atrocities originally, but then indicates that girls can also act forcefully and compellingly to fight for strong beliefs.

Duffy displays girls as cunning and deceptive as they hold a quiet agenda against males, and makes use of the generalization against men to demonstrate the injustice of the original stories. In the poem, the “Three Queens” arrive to see Queen Herod’s daughter and give her qualities rather than material gifts—“Grace…Strength…Happiness.” These capitalized abstract nouns are juxtaposed with the seemingly useless and disregarded material (“Silver and gold, the loose change”) offered to Jesus, referring to the gold, frankincense, and myrrh offered in the Bible story. Duffy therefore suggests that whilst males only want limited material gifts, girls desire helpful, perennial qualities. Additionally, in Queen Herod the asyndeton of “with gifts…in exchange for sunken baths, curtained beds, fruit, the best of meat and wine, dancers, music, speak,” leaving “till bitter dawn” mimetically at the finish, connotes the extent of pleasure just for the Queen as the guys were “fast asleep” and the excellent length of time she enjoyed her activities with no being disturbed by the men. Whilst “bitter dawn” could recommend how early into the morning she stays awake, it far more probably suggests that she enjoys the time spent with out men when Herod and his men wake up, all of a sudden the day becomes “bitter” and the Queen should turn into violent and terse to deal with them. This alter additional emphasized by the arching of the stanza, mimetic of the evening, as the night peaks with the longer “in exchange for sunken baths, curtained beds,” without Herod, and returns to the tiresome day with the far more blunt “those vivid 3 -/til bitter dawn” when Herod awakens.

The cunning evil of girls is contrasted with the senseless brutality of males to highlight an image of fa?ades. The italicized list of antithetical nouns as direct speech from the 3 Queens —“The Husband. Hero. Hunk. The Boy Next Door. The Paramour”— suggests that Queen Herod does not know the baby’s future and accepts that he could be advantageous even so, to be completely sure her daughter will not be harmed, she orders the death of “each mother’s son.” This command denotes the barbarism girls can inflict for protection to reinforce that violence is not owned by guys. Furthermore, the juxtaposition of the harsh diction and sibilance of the men’s actions in “hawked, spat, snatched the smoky jug” with the majesty of the females in “I watched each…Queen rise like a god,” emphasizes the contrast of the disgusting guys, compared to divinity by means of the simile, as the women turn out to be the dominant force more than the pathetic actions of the guys. This theme is reinforced in Medusa by the repetition of very first individual pronouns —“my…I”— with the recurrent use of synonymous verbs such as “hissed and spat” to imply that the females can be possessive and commanding.

Additionally, Duffy guarantees that the female characters are more intelligent than the guys. The tautology of “They knew what they knew” emphasizes instinctual understanding, as if this repetition is particular to the Queens, and hence implies that they hold a far more trustworthy, absolutist intelligence. Also, the strong diction of “A peacock screamed,” in which a symbol of majesty is in pain, followed by the metaphor “The chattering stars shivered in a nervous sky,” suggests that the 3 Queens can read the indicators of nature, as omens for the massacre to come. This interpretation is supported by the simile “a new star pierced via the evening like a nail,” referring to the prophecy of Jesus’ death by getting nailed to a cross. These components of the text reinforce the celebration of the female characters as possessing a expertise beyond that of the male characters, as Queen Herod then uses her details to commit widespread terror by infanticide.

Duffy also presents the females in the poem as celebrating a strong female neighborhood, one particular posed against subservient males. The repetition of the imperatives “Do it. Spare not one” emphasizes the terse and total power of the Queen as she commands the completely obedient males. This contrasts with the situation in Salome, nonetheless: whilst in the latter poem it is made clear that the woman actively killed the man —“I’d accomplished it before”— to challenge the notion that such physical and violent actions are ‘masculine,’ in Queen Herod, Duffy highlights her feminist agenda by making the female character stand above the misogynist stereotypes and just order the males to do what she demands. This supremacy is additional illustrated in the repetition of very first individual pronouns —“my little child…my baby”— as it could suggest Queen Herod seems to own the youngster herself and doesn’t worth the connection with Herod and the daughter. Alternatively, it could imply that Herod actively does not care about his daughter and therefore facilitates emotional disgust with the male character. This female-oriented theme is equally implied when it is the lady who orders the death of the sons. It seems that Queen Herod actively cares for the future of her daughter as “Herod’s fusty bulk” exists in passive contrast, emphasized by the horrific diction of “We wade by way of blood for our sleeping girls,” reinforcing the extent of what they are willing to go by way of to shield their family members the anaphora in “we Queens, we mothers” emphasizes a community of women in which guys do not govern happiness.

However, Duffy does present Queen Herod as feeling guilty for her violent orders. The poem is a dramatic monologue written in free of charge verse, which could imply that it is a flurry of the Queen’s conscience as she realizes that she had no purpose for the infanticide and begins to confess. Right here, “the chattering stars/shivered in a nervous sky” could be a metaphor to highlight the guilt and timidity of the Queen as she now cowers in the evening. The pinched, staccato lines “Ice in the trees,” “my tiny child” and “The black Queen” nonetheless highlight a dark identity for the Queen as she commits these atrocious acts, and 1 feels pathos for the patriarch Herod as he seems to be able to do nothing to quit her. Duffy could recommend that in fact violence shouldn’t be owned by any person, and the stereotype that females are gentle is not unfavorable at all.

Duffy challenges the misogynist stereotypes taught in children’s stories and, by inverting the gender roles, suggests that when we reevaluate the events, we understand that we have to nevertheless strive for an equal society. This inversion allows not just for females to acknowledge that adjust should happen. When males who turn into defensive at the men’s subservience question Duffy’s poetry, they recognize that the original texts unjustly make females subservient. As innocent and accepted the stories are on the surface, “beyond our lullabies, the hooves of terrible horses thunder and drum.”
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