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The poem "Backstage" by Carol Ann Duffy is free verse in the sense that it has no regular rhythmic pattern. Its stanzaic form does not follow a traditional rhyme scheme, but it does exhibit an interesting feature with respect to stanza length, in a way enacting a countdown to the actor's stage entrance:
- Stanza 1: 7 lines long
- Stanza 2: 6 lines long
- Stanza 3: 5 lines long
- Stanza 4: 4 lines long
- Stanza 5: 3 lines long
- Stanza 6: 2 lines long
Although there is no regular rhyme scheme, there is extensive use of patterned repetition, such as the use of "I am" in the first stanza, "I will" in the second stanza, and "I have" the third stanza.
Thematically, the poem describes an actor's thoughts as she is waiting in the wings for her entrance. She describes having memorized her part, consisting of words written by a dead man and stage "business", a theatrical term for interactions with props such as picking up or putting down objects. She thinks about the identities she will assume as an actor. By the end of the poem, she is ready to become the Queen of Egypt, the role she will assume on stage.
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