‘Dying is an art, like everything else’: ‘Lady Lazarus’, as the poem’s title implies, is a poem about resurrection – but implicit within its title, and Sylvia Plath’s reference to the man whom Jesus brought back from the dead, is the idea of annihilation or extinction, a theme that is never far away from us with a Plath poem. You can read ‘Lady Lazarus’ here before proceeding to our analysis below.
Sylvia Plath wrote ‘Lady Lazarus’ in October 1962, only a few months before her suicide, and the poem is shot through with references to her previous suicide attempts. (Plath would kill herself in February 1963, in a London apartment she had decided to rent because W. B. Yeats had once lived there. As she suggests in ‘Lady Lazarus’, she had attempted suicide previously at roughly ten-year intervals.) Sigmund Freud, in his 1920 book Beyond the Pleasure Principle, had described Thanatos or the death-drive – what Philip Larkin called ‘desire of oblivion’ – as a compulsion to repeat, and this is how ‘Lady Lazarus’ begins: Read the rest of this entry