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Anne Hathaway

Anne Hathaway

by Carol Ann Duffy

The Bed

Symbol Analysis

The poem begins with an epigraph from Shakespeare's will. It says that the only item that he bequeaths (gives) to his wife, Anne, is their second best bed. While a lot of Shakespeare scholars have interpreted this to mean that Shakespeare didn't love his wife, Duffy totally turns the tables in her poem. Through the voice of Anne, she imagines that this second best bed is a sentimental reminder of the Shakespeares' passionate relationship. The bed, which many scholars interpret as a low blow, becomes a pretty moving symbol of love.

  • Epigraph: The quote from Shakespeare's will provides us with the context we need to understand the poem. For more on this, check out what we have to say in the "In a Nutshell" section.
  • Lines 1-3: Anne tells us that the bed was more than just a bed. It's a "spinning world," and it's filled with all kinds of beautiful and amazing things – forests, clifftops, and even the sea. She's speaking metaphorically; it's not like these things are actually in bed with her! Still, the bed is a place of magic for Anne.
  • Lines 8-10: Here, Anne creates another metaphor by saying that the bed is like a page upon which her husband has written her. (She is the writing and the bed is the page.) Since her husband was Shakespeare, it makes a lot of sense that she'd use a writing metaphor. What's interesting about this is that it seems like Anne is admitting that she herself is a product of Shakespeare's imagination. Strange, right?
  • Lines 11-12: These lines are the crux of the bed scenario. Anne explains that she and Shakespeare reserved the best bed for their guests, and took the second best one for themselves. So, the will is not an insult after all. It's a reminder of the good times she and her husband had in that second best bed. She puts it this way: she and Shakespeare have had poetry, romance and drama in the second best bed, while the guests are just left "dribbling their prose." (We all know that poetry, romance, and drama are a lot more fun than prose!) We having a sneaking suspicion that Anne is alluding to sex here: let's just say she has no complaints about her husband's performance in bed.
  • Lines 12-14: This is the saddest part of the poem. Anne tells us that she will hold onto the memory of her dead husband just as he once held her while lying in that second best bed. The bed becomes a symbol of her enduring love for him.

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