The poem The Clown's Wife, by John Agard, shows the personal life of a clown at home is far cry from his professional life on stage as "a crowd entertainer"

Seeing his off stage miserable outlook, his wife does the role of clown to make him happy at home in vain. The poem starts off with the rhetorical question "About my husband, the clown, / What could I say?" and ends with similar question:

"O life Ah life
What would I do without this clown of a wife?"

With the exclamatory marks, it is plain that the clown is dissatisfied with his life. But, what does the phrase without this clown of a wife" mean?

Does he mean the character clown took up by her wife to cajole him at home, or does he refer to himself? or is it some sort of grammatical mistake, suggestive of uneducated background of his wife who narrates this line?

1 Answer 1


Although the wife's attempts to cheer up her husband don't appear to be successful, his comment shows that he values her. The rhetorical question "What would I do without [her]?" suggests that he would be even more unhappy if she wasn't there. "This clown of a wife" means that it is she who is the clown at home (as described earlier in the poem).

  • This is a naive conclusion from the poem... It should've been " the wife of a clown.... Commented Jun 8 at 9:10
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    Thanks (!) Your last paragraph suggested that you didn't understand the grammar of the last two lines ("is it some sort of grammatical mistake?"), so I was attempting to clarify it for you. This clown of a wife means 'this wife of mine who is like a clown'. Commented Jun 8 at 9:14
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    She is quoting what he says about her. I don't understand what you find puzzling about it. Commented Jun 8 at 10:48
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    @Selfie-grofie "I do me latest card trick" isn't a grammatical mistake, but a dialectal variation. It's the same as "I do me best."
    – cmw
    Commented Jun 8 at 16:53
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    The author of the poem uses a non standard grammar, but uses it correctly. It's recognizable and helps the reader to know a lot about the character right away. "have a borrow of" something to mean borrow it, and "me" for "my" are common in many English dialects. In contrast "this clown of a wife" would be more at home in a slightly different register. None of them are grammatical mistakes. @Selfie-grofie for you to call other people's interpretations naive would be rude even if you knew more than them, but your characterization of things as mistakes that aren't suggests you don't. Be nice. Commented Jun 8 at 17:22

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