A satirical tale of revenge, Carol Ann Duffy's "Circe" is a dramatic monologue told from point of view of an enchantress from Greek myth known for turning men into pigs. Duffy's Circe describes, in grisly detail, how she likes to cook these man-pigs and implies that she transformed them as payback for taking advantage of her hospitality. "Circe" was published in Duffy's 1999 collection, The World's Wife, which features poems told from the perspective of the female counterparts of famous male figures from history and myth.
I'm fond, nereids ...
... have been mine—
under my thumb, ...
... grunts, their squeals.
I've stood with ...
... of the sky.
But I want ...
... and cloves.
Remember the skills ...
... of the face—
and how each ...
... Season with mace.
Well-cleaned pig's ears ...
... singing and clear?
... Dice it small.
I, too, once ...
... the shallow waves.
Of course, I ...
... spit once again.
Select any word below to get its definition in the context of the poem. The words are listed in the order in which they appear in the poem.
A History of the Dramatic Monologue — An overview of the dramatic monologue (a form Duffy often turns to in her poetry) and how it has been used over time.
A Look at the Poet's Life — A brief biography of Duffy from the Poetry Foundation.
A Review of The World's Wife — Author Jeanette Winterson reviews The World's Wife, the collection in which "Circe" was published.
An Introduction to the Circe of Greek Myth — Check out a video explaining Circe's role in Greek mythology.
1I'm fond, nereids and nymphs, unlike some, of the pig,
2of the tusker, the snout, the boar and the swine.
3One way or another, all pigs have been mine—
4under my thumb, the bristling, salty skin of their backs,
5in my nostrils here, their yobby, porky colognes.
6I'm familiar with the hogs and runts, their percussion of oinks
7and grunts, their squeals. I've stood with a pail of swill
8at dusk, at the creaky gate of the sty,
9tasting the sweaty, spicy air, the moon
10like a lemon popped in the mouth of the sky.
11But I want to begin with a recipe from abroad
12which uses the cheek—and the tongue in cheek
13at that. Lay two pig's cheeks, with the tongue,
14in a dish, and strew it well over with salt
15and cloves. Remember the skills of the tongue—
16to lick, to lap, to loosen, lubricate, to lie
17in the soft pouch of the face—and how each pig's face
18the cowardly face, the brave, the comical, noble
19sly or wise, the cruel, the kind, but all of them,
20nymphs, with those piggy eyes. Season with mace.
21Well-cleaned pig's ears should be blanched, singed, tossed
22in a pot, boiled, kept hot, scraped, served, garnished
23with thyme. Look at that simmering lug, at that ear,
24did it listen, ever, to you, to your prayers and rhymes,
25to the chimes of your voice, singing and clear? Mash
26the potatoes, nymph, open the beer. Now to the brains,
27to the trotters, shoulders, chops, to the sweetmeats slipped
28from the slit, bulging, vulnerable bag of the balls.
29When the heart of a pig has hardened, dice it small.
30Dice it small. I, too, once knelt on this shining shore
31watching the tall ships sail from the burning sun
32like myths; slipped off my dress to wade,
33breast-deep, in the sea, waving and calling;
34then plunged, then swam on my back, looking up
35as three black ships sighed in the shallow waves.
36Of course, I was younger then. And hoping for men. Now,
37let us baste that sizzling pig on the spit once again.