- Who was Xantippe and what is recorded of her character?
- Levy wrote this poem before attending Newnham College, where she studied philosophy. Why might a prospective student of philosophy have chosen to write a poem expressing Xantippe's point of view?
- What are features of the poem's form and language? What mood do these create?
- What is Xantippe's situation as the poem begins? What is symbolic about the fact that she wakes at dawn for what she knows will be her final day?
- Who are her immediate auditors? Is it poignant that servants are the only ones who share her final hours? Have these been attentive?
- What do we learn about her character in the opening passages? Has she always behaved well? What kind of employer has she been?
- What metaphors does she use to describe her youthful emotions, and what do these represent? How does she describe her adolesence? What has happened since? What life was prescribed for an Athenian woman?
- Why did she marry Socrates? What were her initial and later reactions to him, and what do these reveal about her character?
- What had Xantippe hoped would be the result of her marriage? What had been her highest aspirations?
- In the poem's central scene, what is significant about the grouping of Plato, Alkibiades, and Socrates, and their praise of Aspasia? How would the Victorian reader have regarded these? (as central, revered figures of Symposium)
- What would have seemed unusual about the portrayal of Plato? What point is Levy making by presenting Socrates and his friends thus? Where might the poet believe that similar attitudes would be found in Victorian England?
- Is the setting of Xantippe's protest symbolic?
- Of what does she try to convince her husband and his friends?
- How does each man respond to her outburst? Whose words cut her most? How is his mockery framed?
- What specific statements evoke her anger and protest?
- How does Xantippe rebel against the condescension of her husband and his friends? What is symbolized by the spilled wine? What does she gain from her outburst, if anything?
- How do her attitudes change in later life? What happens to her character? Does she ever accept her limited lot?
- What does she regret about her husband's death? How does this affect the reader's attitude towards her?
- Why does she reprove her maids for weeping? What may this attitude reveal about her character?
- What is the significance of her last words? Is it appropriate that the words "more light" ("mehr Licht") are attributed to Goethe?
- Does she attain her desire?
- What did you find most interesting about this poem? How would you compare it to dramatic monologues by Robert Browning, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Rossetti or Webster? Do you think it conveys its themes persuasively?
- How is the poem altered by the fact that it is a deathbed monologue? (cmp. "The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point")
- Are any aspects of its critique of learning and the exclusiveness of educational establishments relevant today?
Amy Levy, “The Old House”
What central metaphor is conveyed by the poem’s title?
How do the poem’s rhythms, stanza patterns and parallelisms reinforce its meaning?
What is the speaker’s attitude toward her past? What does this reveal about her present?
What is added to the poem by the fact that we know so few details of the speaker’s life?
Are there common themes in this poem and “Xantippe”?
“To Vernon Lee”
What is the poem’s form? How is the contrast between octave and sestet used to reinforce the poem’s meaning?
What are some elements of imagery in the symbolic landscape? What seems to be the symbolism of the broken blackthorn bough?
What is added to the poem by the fact that its title refers to her fellow writer, Vernon Lee? (penname for Violet Paget)
“A Ballad of Religion and Marriage”
Is the poem intended to be humorous or ironic? How can you tell?
What is the speaker’s point of view toward religion? To which religions does she allude?
What is her attitude toward marriage? Why and how are religion and marriage associated in the poem?
What are some Victorian social and political contexts for this poem? (modern divorce law a twentieth century phenomenon, 1923, 1973)
What patterns of life does the speaker associate with notions of an end to enforced marriage?
Will these changes occur in the Victorian era?
Does she find these changes desirable? Undesirable? Both? Can we tell? (seems to find contemporary institutions outdated, but seems also a bit ambivalent in describing the assumed hedonism of the future)
What does it mean to say, “Folk shall be neither pairs nor odd”? Does the final stanza evoke hope, regret, or neutrality?
As a Jewish woman who has been sometimes considered lesbian, how may Amy Levy have reacted toward some of the issues raised in this poem?