MARBL’s Duffy: Pygmalion’s Bride

“Pygmalion’s Bride” didn’t appear to have as many rewrites and revisions as some of the other poems. For the most part, it seemed that Duffy knew what she wanted to say, so unlike “The Biographer,” the core of the poem existed from an early point. Some edits I noticed, however, included the addition of the line “He talked white black” and the deletion of “This woman-hater.” Perhaps this was an edit to make the poem show, not tell; rather than outright telling the reader of Duffy’s new view on Pygmalion’s personality, she describes his actions to convey his character to the reader.

The most interesting manuscript related to “Pygmalion’s Bride” that I found was a sheet of notepad with information on Pygmalion himself. For whatever reason, it was in a separate folder from any other files I found related to the poem, but as far as I could do a quick search on, the information is accurate, not artistically skewed. Likely this was the basis that Duffy worked off of when writing the poem. The information is fairly objective about Pygmalion, which reflects the research; for the most part, the mythology says nothing about Pygmalion’s personality. If anything, the blame can be placed on the women of Cyprus, who turned Pygmalion away from females because he was disgusted with their immoral behavior. “Pygmalion’s Bride,” like the other poems of The World’s Wife, turns that on its head. The way the bride describes Pygmalion’s actions and mannerisms are unpleasant, such as saying “His words were terrible” and “His voice was gravel, hoarse.” However, Duffy also incorporates Pygmalion’s distaste for what he considers depraved behavior: by acting like the women that had driven Pygmalion to denounce females (“was soft, was pliable, began to moan…”), the bride effectively drives him away. Duffy both kept to the original myth and added in her own perspective, which is how she deals with most of the mythology-related poems in The World’s Wife.

One Comment on “MARBL’s Duffy: Pygmalion’s Bride”

  1. Brian Croxall says:

    This is a really interesting detail, Lisa, and it shows that our poet friend Duffy has had to do her research just as we are. I really appreciate the added perspective on Pygmalion’s distaste for the women of Cyprus, as that was a part of the myth that I didn’t remember.