Queen Herod The Great Figurative Language

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In Christian scriptures, Herod the Great (or King Herod), was fearful that the newborn Jesus Christ, destined to become the king of the Jews, would usurp his rule. He therefore tried to find Jesus and have him killed. However, the three Magi had been warned by an angel not to pass Herod when returning from Bethlehem. Joseph had also received a similar message through a dream, warning him to stay away. In order to ensure that the powerful leader would never grow up, Herod ordered the execution of every boy in Bethlehem and its vicinity under the age of two.


In a winter, three queens come to visit Queen Herod and her newborn daughter. After they warn Queen Herod of the danger and pain a male is likely to impose on her daughter, Queen Herod
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The chilly atmosphere is contrasted with the ‘sweating, panting beasts’, which help the reader to picture animals clearly and realistically, rather than from a setting in a Christmas card. This is yet another example of the technique Duffy uses to bring reality to an old, fantastical story, and emphasise its relevance in the modern world.
- ‘Three Queens’
Duffy invites the reader to consider the biblical story, in which the powerful, ‘good’ people are all males, such as Jesus, and his disciples, God, and John the Baptist, to name but a few. Here, Duffy alters the original story by creating three Queens, rather than the three wise men, going to visit her daughter, not a son. This is an example of Duffy’s frequent use of dark humour.
- ‘…the soft bowl of her
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He is quickly ushered out of the poem, in order to draw concentration to the females. The gentleness of Queen Herod’s daughter, and the tenderness with which Queen Herod regards her daughter, is a direct contrast to Queen Herod’s violent command. The gifts which the Queens provide, ‘Grace’, ‘Strength’ and ‘Happiness’, which, in contrast to the gifts of the three Magi (myrrh, frankincense and gold), can be considered much more valuable and substantial as a part of life. Duffy may be suggesting that men desire materialistic values and riches, whereas women believe emotion and personality are more

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