The Xanthippe Fragments

The Xanthippe Fragments tells the story of a woman faced with her husband’s imminent execution by the State. The year is 399 BCE, the woman Xanthippe, wife of Socrates. Cast into “fragments,” the narrative spans roughly thirty days between Socrates’ trial and death. Each day Xanthippe visits the shrine of Aphrodite on the Acropolis to receive succor and to leave a token of her affection. She then repairs home to care for her house and children, often chatting with her friend and neighbor Myrto. In the evening she takes a dish of greens to Socrates in prison.

What if Xanthippe were no shrew as her detractors insist but rather a devoted spouse, robust and intelligent, herself something of a talker — a woman who speaks her mind? The Xanthippe of these pages goes about her daily routine as she must, perhaps out of duty, out of habit, out of the need to fend off despair. The Xanthippe Fragments is a love story, a quiet book in the voice of a woman who teaches herself how to survive.


“Becky Gould Gibson’s poems present rare and stunning combinations of lyric and drama. Consider the charm, grace, and force of The Xanthippe Fragments.  Xanthippe, wife of Socrates . . .  laments, laughs, rages, meditates, dances, and sings in voices tough and tender.”

—Shelby Stephenson, NC Poet Laureate, 2015-2016

“The very complexity of what Xanthippe shows of emotion—a compound of tenderness, exasperation, love, desire, dread, grief, recognition, understanding, in relation to herself and to Socrates, amounts to an extraordinary performance by Gibson, who signals Xanthippe’s intelligence and wholeness . . .”

—Tom Heffernan, author of Working Voices


First Day, Afternoon
Twelfth Day, Late Afternoon
Fifteenth Day, Moonrise


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