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Carol Ann Duffy: The World's Wife

25. The Kray Sisters

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the twenty-fifth poem in the collection, 'The Kray Sisters', focusing in particular on: (i) the figures of the Kray Twins, Ronnie and Reggie Kray, two gangsters who operated in East London in the 1950s and 60s; (ii) the concept of the poem as imagining what would have happened if two male figures had actually been female, cf. 'Queen Herod' and 'Queen Kong' earlier in the collection; (iii) the use of Cockney rhyming slang ("frog and toad", "whistle and flutes", "mince pies", etc.); (iv) the suggestive names of the nightclubs owned by the Kray Sisters ("Ballbreakers, just off / Evering Road", "the club at the heart of our legend, / Prickteasers"); and (v) the list of feminist icons near the end of the poem ("Germaine, Bardot, / Twiggy and Lulu …").


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 - The Kray Sisters [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

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