Carol Ann Duffy - Medusa - Teacher-Written Annotated Poem Summary
September 14, 2017
Medusa Poem Analysis – A Poem by Carol Ann Duffy Part II
Following on from our text version and outline of the poem, here is our expert analysis.
Medusa See (a monster, one of the Gorgon sisters and daughter of Phorkys and Keto, the children of Gaea (Earth) and Oceanus (Ocean), Medusa had the face of an ugly woman with snakes instead of hair; anyone who looked into her eyes was immediately turned to stone. Her sisters were Sthenno and Euryale, but Medusa was the only mortal of the three.)
She was originally a golden-haired, fair maiden, who, as a priestess of Athena, was devoted to a life of celibacy; however, after being wooed by Poseidon and falling for him, she forgot her vows and married him. For this offence, she was punished by the goddess in a most terrible manner. Each wavy lock of the beautiful hair that had charmed her husband was changed into a venomous snake; her once gentle, love-inspiring eyes turned into blood-shot, furious orbs, which excited fear and disgust in the mind of the onlooker; whilst her former roseate hue and milk-white skin assumed a loathsome greenish tinge.)
A suspicion, a doubt, a jealousy
grew in my mind,
which turned the hairs on my head to filthy snakes
as though my thoughts
hissed and spat on my scalp. (supports the theory that ugliness within a person will make its way outside them)
My bride’s breath soured, stank (as soon as she married, her deterioration began)
in the grey bags of my lungs.
I’m foul mouthed now, foul tongued,
There are bullet tears in my eyes. (as if her tears could kill those around her)
Are you terrified?
It’s you I love,
perfect man, Greek God, my own; (in these lines we learn that Medusa’s intended listener is in fact her husband)
but I know you’ll go, betray me, stray
from home. (she is sure he will leave her now that her beauty is gone)
So better be for me if you were stone. (dead or a statue; something unable to leave her side; this, it seems, would cause her less pain than losing him to life)
I glanced at a buzzing bee,
a dull grey pebble fell
to the ground.
I glanced at a singing bird,
a handful of dusty gravel
I looked at a ginger cat,
shattered a bowl of milk.
I looked at a snuffling pig, (everything she looks at, she realises, cannot survive)
a boulder rolled
in a heap of shit. (here the poet’s voice breaks through; this is, after all, Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Medusa’ speaking!)
I stared in the mirror.
Love gone bad
showed me a Gorgon. (perhaps the poem’s most interesting idea: when Medusa looks at others it destroys them; these lines read as if she believes herself to retain her original form, beyond the mirror at least)
I stared at a dragon.
from the mouth of a mountain.
And here you come
with a shield for a heart
and a sword for a tongue
and your girls, your girls. (all of these protect him; wound her)
Wasn’t I beautiful
Wasn’t I fragrant and young? (i.e. ‘once like them’?)
Look at me now. (despite her angst, Medusa retains her threat: if Poseidon looks at her directly, she will end him)