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Carol Ann Duffy: The World's Wife

6. Pilate’s Wife

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the fifth poem in the collection, 'Pilate's Wife', focusing in particular on: (i) the figure of Pontius Pilate in the Bible, including the famous detail in the Gospel of Mark of Pilate washing his hands; (ii) the title of the poem; (iii) the multiplicity of meanings of "My God" (line 10); (iv) the description of Christ – "ugly", "brown" but with "eyes to die for"; (v) the importance of hands, and the contrast between Christ's "tough" hands and Pilate's "indolent … camp" hands; (vi) the detail that the maid "knows the rest"; and (vii) the poem's final line ("Was he God? Of course not. Pilate believed he was").


In this course, Professor John McRae (University of Nottingham) explores Carol Ann Duffy’s 1999 collection, 'The World's Wife'. After a brief introduction to the collection as a whole, the course continue with a read-through and analysis of each of the thirty poems in the collection, one by one.


John McRae is Special Professor of Language in Literature Studies and Teaching Associate in the School of English at Nottingham University, and holds Visiting Professorships in China, Malaysia, Spain and the USA. He is co-author of The Routledge History of Literature in English with Ron Carter, and also wrote The Language of Poetry, Literature with a Small 'l' and the first critical edition of Teleny by Oscar Wilde and others.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

McRae, J. (2020, April 28). Carol Ann Duffy: The World's Wife - Pilate’s Wife [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Carol Ann Duffy: The World's Wife – Pilate’s Wife." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 28 Apr 2020,