Even though ‘Anne Hathaway’ and ‘Delilah’ are both love poems, they are very different. ‘Delilah’ offers a new interpretation of famous events. ‘Anne Hathaway’ merely attempts to explain the polysemic epigraph “Item I gyve unto my wief my second best bed… “. Rather than being an insulting gesture, the poem implies that this was romantic, intending to invoke memories of the love that they shared in the second best bed, while guests “dribbled their prose” in the better bed. In ‘Mrs Lazarus’ and ‘Eurydice’, the woman rejoices at separation from her husband.
‘Anne Hathaway’ is different; Anne remembers Shakespeare passionately: “my living, laughing love” implying that he is still alive within her “widow’s head”. Her love continues after his death, demonstrated by Duffy’s use of the sonnet form. A sonnet traditionally rhapsodies about fictional love and then sums it up at the end in a rhyming couplet. In ‘Anne Hathaway’, Duffy doesn’t maintain the standard sonnet rhyme scheme, barring the rhyming couplet at the end: she only adheres to the traditional way of summing love up, not rhapsodising about it.
This implies that their relationship was physical, built upon a framework of love just as the poem is built on the framework of a sonnet. ‘Frau Freud’ is also based on a sonnet but is satirical, implying that psychologists are in love with penises. Starting with direct address – “ladies” – it initially appears to be a serious poem, accentuating the bathos when it turns into a rant full of dysphemisms and euphemisms. The idea of an “envious solitary eye” on the penis is an attack on the Freudian theory of every woman wanting a penis, suggesting in fact that every penis wants a woman, hence the lonely connotations of “envious” and “solitary”.
Unlike the other poems in this collection, ‘Frau Freud’ doesn’t feature the man himself at all, suggesting that his individuality has been absorbed by his theories. The final ellipsis suggests that the pity Frau Freud feels for penises, and by inference men, is ongoing. The reference to Bill Clinton through “Ms M. Lewinsky” equally adds a sense of timelessness to the poem, suggesting that his phallic theories are old and the ensuing female frustration everlasting. This is further enhanced by internal rhyme, for instance “winky/Lewinsky”, a feature also used in ‘Anne Hathaway’.
While ‘Anne Hathaway’ shares many of the literary techniques prevalent throughout The World’s Wife, there are some typical Duffy features missing from ‘Anne Hathaway’. Most of her poems feature bathos, particularly the euphemisms in ‘Frau Freud’ and the swearing in ‘Delilah’. ‘Anne Hathaway’ maintains a high register throughout, accentuating the continuity of their love and it’s continued existence after Shakespeare’s death. ‘Anne Hathaway’ doesn’t contain any similes either, the metaphors imbuing it with a more personal feel than any other in the collection.
On a shallow level, ‘Anne Hathaway’ is very typical of the collection The World’s Wife. It is written in the same style as the other poems and is based upon a woman describing a famous figure from history. It also adds a new dimension to a man hitherto not realised in quite such a manner. But on a deeper level it is very different. Duffy doesn’t demean Shakespeare. She doesn’t empower Anne. This isn’t a feminist poem, unlike the rest. It is a love poem, pure and simple, and in that respect it is very, very different.