Lines 1-5, along with the title, establish the poem's main characters and dramatic situation. "Mrs Faust," the poem's speaker, is a character the poet has invented and written into the classic Faust legend. She is married to Faust, normally the protagonist of the tale, a scholar who sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for limitless wealth, power, knowledge, and pleasure. Dating to 16th-century Germany (where it was adapted from older tales), the Faust legend has become one of the world's best-known stories and the inspiration for several famous literary works. (For a more detailed summary of this legend, see the Literary Context section of this guide.)
In Carol Ann Duffy's poem, Mrs. Faust, not her husband, is the protagonist. She's the speaker of this dramatic monologue, and she's telling her side of the story.
From the start, her voice is brisk and no-nonsense, compressing a great deal of narrative information into the poem's short free verse lines. This style suits her confident, cavalier tone and the fast-paced life she describes.
After a straight-down-to-business introduction ("First things first"), she provides a capsule history of her relationship with Faust, using rapid-fire parallel clauses and epistrophe:
[...] I married Faust.
We met as students,
shacked up, split up,
made up, hitched up,
First, they dated as young scholars (an allusion to the traditional legend, in which Faust is a scholar and magician). Then, in quick succession, they moved in together, broke up, made amends, and got married.
The terse phrases and repetitions evoke a relationship that moved fast, generating a lot of conflict and drama in a short time. (The couple's early "split" foreshadows tensions to come.) They also suggest that Mrs. Faust, whose marriage soon became effectively loveless, has no sentimental feelings toward her how-we-met story and prefers not to dwell on it.
Likewise, her irreverent idioms ("shacked up" for living together, "hitched up" for getting married) convey a crisply realistic, even mocking attitude toward her past with Faust. Some previous versions of the Faust legend combined tragedy and comedy, but Duffy's version is a full-on satire.