The Forsaken Wife (by Elizabeth Thomas ‘Corinna’) In-Depth Analysis

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The Poem

https://allpoetry.com/The-Forsaken-Wife

Background of the Poet

  • British poet.
  • Her parents died when she was very young.
  • Impoverished gentle-woman, who was dependent on others for patronage.

Structure and Rhyme Scheme

  • Rhymes are arranged in couplets throughout the entire poem. This could denote the nature of lines always existing in ‘duos’, i.e. without the latter or the former line, the other cannot rhyme with itself. In order words, for there to be a rhyme, two couplets must exist. This could be related to a man and wife; the wife, alone, is left incomplete without her husband. This can also be related to the word used in the title ‘Forsaken’ (look to the ‘Title’ category for a development of this).
  • Structure: 1 quatrain and 2 octets (3 stanzas). Could symbolise the extent of her growing anger and then the emotion being sustained, through the length of the stanzas increasing from four-lines to ultimately eight-lines.

Title

  • Says ‘The’ in the title, and therefore not personalised. This could denote the wide spread infidel-like nature of males at this time. This is also supported by the poem where she says ‘Show me a man that dare be true’, therefore she leaves it impersonalised so all women going through the same/similar break-up of relations could relate and take refuge with the poem.
  • ‘Forsaken’, has an almost spiritual/religious connotation attached to it. She has been deserted. She cannot be complete without her second half (look to the ‘Structure and Rhyme Scheme’ category for a development of this point).

Themes

  • Love
  • Betrayal
  • Anger
  • Generalisation
  • Purity and impurity
  • Contrast between women and men (an inherent stereotype is explored throughout the poem that men are usually the ones who commit such actions and women stay true in the relationship. This emphasises the time in which Corinna wrote this poem, which was in the 17th-18th Century).

Language Analysis, Poetic Devices Evaluation and Critical Appreciation

  • ‘afford’ is conventionally a term used to depict transactions – he acts as if he has some financial burden as to which he cannot give her sympathy – but in reality there is no money required to be ‘kind’, instead, he just chooses not to be. She criticises him on this.
  • ‘One pitying look, one parting word.’: Asyndeton used. Equally emphasise both points; an almost list of examples of what he fails to do as he assumes his role of a husband. Caesura used to include multiple ideas on a singular line and to provide an almost catalogue of ideas. Repetition of ‘one’ and the acoustic effect of ‘p’ in order to basically emphasise both ideas and how much she regrets that he cannot ever be bothered to show her the slightest justice of kindness – the type she deserves – and is her humanely right to receive.
  • ‘What is humanity to you?’: An almost rhetoric question – with scathing sarcasm. Passively mentioned, mentioning ‘humanity’ the line before, but then develops the idea of humanity because she does not expect her husband to understand what the word even means because of the complete lack of sympathy, empathy or kindness he shows to her. Criticises him directly. Also endorses the values in society that expect you to be kind, compassionate and considerate – all of which her husband omitted in their relationship. Could further discuss the word humanity.
  • ‘Cruel man!’: At this point she is getting angry, almost infuriated. Exclamation mark and caesura. Shows her level of anger, calls him ‘cruel’ because of his lack of consideration for her. She is completely down-trodden with anger for her husband. She says that she isn’t ‘blind’, and of course she would ultimately discover his ‘infidelity’.
  • ‘My broken heart, your broken vows’: Asyndeton again. To emphasise both ideas equally. Talking in almost abstract terms, with reference to her ‘heart’, and wants to endorse how much pain and suffering she has experienced ever since she discovered her husband’s infidelity. Expressing her feelings of disillusionment and disenchantment. Extremely grieve stricken. Caesura used to include ‘my’ and ‘your’ terms and examples, an almost contrast between her and her husband. Repetition of ‘broken’, further discussion on the word ‘broken’ could be entertained. The idea of breaking something abstract and emphasising her grief and the raging pain she is feeling.
  • ‘true’: She will continue to be true despite his ‘rigid hate’. Firstly, when she says true she means that she will remain pure and therefore retain her almost superiority of being the -bigger person- where she doesn’t have to resort to illegitimate ideals to feel satisfied. Secondly, his hate is rigid, and this could be mentioned to explore his hate: if it were tangible, then it would be something very stiff and immovable. This is to emphasise how, no matter what Corinna does, she will never be able to repress his hate but only aggravate it.
  • ‘preeminence’: She will continue to be true and she will do this by being the same, forever. This is important because she is now making an almost promise that she will not resort to the same means that he has resorted to, and in that way, she considers herself superior to her husband and this gives her an almost satisfaction that even though he broke her heart, she, at the end of the day, will be superior due to her values and true ideals. This almost gives her ease as she reassures her superiority, and thus this is important in calming down the level of anger she has been feeling for her husband.
  • ‘Show me a man that dare to be true’: It’s as if being ‘true’ has become a ‘dare’ for men, and this shows her almost stereotypical way of thinking – where men are incapable of feeling the slightest bit of emotion or grief or be able to experience something she has experienced. Alternatively, this could exemplify the way of thinking in the 17th-18th Century of women about men – where men are traditionally thought of as being insensitive and women the passive and emotional character in the marriage. Alternatively, her anger extends to high that she must now draw a generalisation to all men from just one man – her husband – and thus labels the entire male specimen as being inconsiderate and insensitive.
  • ‘adieu’: She will leave him until he honours the marriage.
  • ‘I yet am superior am to you’: Again, she will retain her superiority until he decides to become sensitive and do justice to their marriage – and until that day, she no longer chooses to associate herself with him and asserts the justice she has done to herself in this way.
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3 thoughts on “The Forsaken Wife (by Elizabeth Thomas ‘Corinna’) In-Depth Analysis

    1. That is wonderful to hear! If you would like any particular poem analysed then please do communicate the name! In addition, be sure to link all your students to this analysis if you think they could benefit from reading it. All the best.

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