Writing the Exam Essay

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In ‘Anne Hathaway’, the poet, Carol Ann Duffy, shows a relationship between a man and a woman.  Compare the way that she has done this with three other poems, each one showing a relationship between a man and a woman – one by Simon Armitage and two from the pre-1914 Poetry Bank. Use the following poems: ‘Mother, any distance’ by Simon Armitage    ‘Sonnet 130’ by William Shakespeare    ‘The Laboratory’ by Robert Browning

Some useful words and phrases for comparing:

another similarity        also        like        on the other hand        unlike         is similar to
while       however       although        by contrast     whereas        differs from        though
both        similarly        3/4 poems: use superlatives        have in common        share      but

2 poems: use comparatives

1.      Both Armitage’s and Duffy’s poems are modified sonnets, using different aspects of the form.  (Go on with evidence e.g. Number of lines; Rhyme )

2.      Like ‘Anne Hathaway’, ‘Sonnet 130’ concerns a romantic coupling, Shakespeare being the man in both these liaisons.

3.      Browning’s poem has the unhappiest mood of the four, ideas of jealousy and murderous intentions featuring here.

4.      Armitage’s poem also intimates some strain or disruption in the relationship although there is none of the violence of ‘The Laboratory.’

5.      Armitage addresses his mother throughout, using the second person pronoun ‘you’ as in ‘You come to help me’ whereas Duffy speaks to the reader, referring to Shakespeare in the third person such as ‘he held me.’

6.      On the other hand, when Browning uses ‘you’, it is an imaginary listener, the apothecary, to whom the lady is speaking in this dramatic monologue.

7.      All four poets use the first person but this does not make them autobiographical.

8.      The poems share the suggestion of isolation, Anne’s clearly caused by her husband’s death and Armitage’s by the changing nature of the relationship.

9.      The rhythm in ‘The Laboratory’ is less rigorous than in Shakespeare’s poem, the range of beats in a line varying in order to reflect the erratic and unstable character of the speaker.

10.    Unlike the other three, Browning creates the effect of spontaneity and immediacy in the poem’s language by use of ellipsis and self-interruptions.

11.    ‘The Laboratory’ is similar to ‘Anne Hathaway’ because it is from a woman’s perspective.

12.    Browning’s poem is rare, a male writer exploring a woman’s feelings while Duffy’s poem is unusual because she has assumed the persona of a real woman.

13.    Duffy creates many metaphors but, by contrast, Shakespeare mocks exaggerated or hyperbolic imagery.

14.    Armitage, however, focuses on one recurring image, that of the tape measure, though it takes different forms in his poem.

15.    ‘Sonnet 130’ is also a poem that focuses on a loving and romantic relationship.

16.    Shakespeare uses rhyming couplets throughout.  Similarly, Duffy chooses to end with a rhyming couplet, emulating Shakespeare for just two lines.

17.    Shakespeare’s sonnet differs from the other three in that it is the only one with touches of humour.

18.    ‘Mother, any distance’ and ‘The Laboratory’ have in common unresolved endings, the reader being unsure of what will happen next because of how the poets have chosen to finish their poems.

19.    The present tense used at the end conveys a sort of certainty that she will always ‘hold him’ in her head though the present tense of Armitage’s poem ‘a hatch opens … to fall or fly’ has the opposite effect of uncertainty.

20.    Another difference is that the important woman is not his wife: she is his mother.