Comparative Study of Texts

2 February 2017

Despite the differences in context, a comparative study of the poetry of John Donne and Margaret Edson’s play, ‘W;t’, is essential for a more complete understanding of the values and ideas presented in ‘W;t’. Discuss this with close reference to both texts. When deconstructing the text ‘W;t’, by Margaret Edson, a comparative study of the poetry of John Donne is necessary for a better conceptual understanding of the values and ideas presented in Edson’s ‘W;t’.

Through this comparative study, the audience is able to develop an extended understanding of the ideas surrounding death. This is achieved through the use of the semi-colon in the dramas title, ‘W;t’. Edson also uses juxtapositions and the literary device, wit, to shape and reshape the meaning of the drama when studied in alliance to the poetry of John Donne. This alliance has been strengthened by the parallel of Vivian Bearing’s and Donne’s interpretation of life, death and eternal life.This enables the responder to recognise the higher concepts of death and its meaning. Both the play and the poems explore the higher aspects of the human condition: life, death and god; however from vastly different perspectives due to the authors differing contexts. Donne, a 17th century poet, was placed in a society where religious beliefs were dominant and most individuals were confident in their belief of life after death.

Comparative Study of Texts Essay Example

In contrast, ‘W;t’ is set it modern times where science asserts more dominance over religion.The differences in context is symbolised by Vivian’s attachment to the IV pole shown on page 19 “She lies slumped on the bed, fastened to the IV” [stage directions]. This symbolism shows the audience how, although Vivian and Donne are parallels, the extremities of the problems faced by Vivian are different to Donne’s and how in Donne’s context, people relied on the belief of life after death which contrasts how Vivian has no religious beliefs and therefore places dependence on medicinal procedures.This directly contrasts with Donne as religious beliefs were a major part of his 17th century society. Donne conveys how religion is a central idea through the use of many religious references throughout the holy sonnets. In ‘Death Be Not Proud’, Donne makes a religious reference to Jesus, ‘Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill mee’, expressing how religion was an underlying theme when handling many issues. When the two texts are studied in alliance, it allows the responder to draw a better understanding of the themes presented in ‘W;t’.

This theme, science VS religion, has been emphasised due to the contrasts between Vivian and Donne and their context. Vivian’s condescending nature is a characteristic that becomes amplified in her own flashbacks. This is shown through the quote, “So far so good, but they can only think for themselves only so long before the being to self-destruct… Lost it” this shows how Vivian hides behind her wit which is a parallel drawn from herself and Donne. It shows the audience how they both try to hide from death by using wit.At the start of the drama, Edson alienates the main character through the use of a double meaning; “I’ve got less than two hours. Then: curtain”. ‘Curtain’ is symbolic of death and the use of this double meaning engages the audience, not through emotions, but objectives.

The main theme explored in ‘W;t’ is life and death, and the connection between them. Vivian has dedicated her life to being a scholar of Donne’s holy sonnets and is therefore an expert on human morality, however whilst in hospital, her view on life changes. On pages seven and eight, Vivian’s professor, Professor E.M. Ashford is explaining to Vivian how a semi-colon in place of a comma can alter the true meaning of the holy sonnet, ‘Death Be Not Proud’. Ashford shows Vivian how “Nothing but a breath – a comma – separates life from life everlasting”. This is symbolic of how Vivian misinterprets death, reflected back in the title where there is a semi-colon in place of the letter ‘I’.

Later on in the drama, Vivian’s view on life changes through Susie’s kindness. Throughout her whole life, Vivian has been in total control and is now placed in a situation where she has no control.Throughout the whole time Vivian is in hospital, Vivian is learning about herself and accepting the emptiness of human contact within her life, which is highlighted through Vivian’s realisation, “now is a time for… kindness. ” The lack of control is a new experience for Vivian thus making Vivian retreat into simplicity.

Through the use of the symbolism of the Popsicle as simplicity and Susie’s kindness paired with the quote, “Now is a time for simplicity. Now is a time for, dare I say it, kindness”; shows the audience how Vivian’s pproach to life has changed and how she has started to break down barriers between herself and Susie on a personal level. The quote “Now is not the time for verbal swordplay, for unlikely flights of imagination and wildly shifting perspectives, for metaphysical conceit, for wit” further emphasises how Vivian has deconstructed her life to become simpler. However, when conducting a comparative study of Edson’s drama and Donne’s poetry, the responder will become aware that this is not Vivian forcing herself into simplicity, but her rejecting Donne and longing for human comfort which Donne could not provide.This is highlighted through asking Susie, ‘You’re still going to take care of me, aren’t you? ’. Vivian’s reference to metaphysical conceit also refers to Donne’s overall conceit, which suggests that humanity complicates and dramatises issues, when life, in fact, is simple and should not be over-complicated. Donne’s overall conceit is reinforced through Vivian’s wishes for simplicity, suggesting both an acceptance of the circumstances and rejection of the complexity of Donne.

Vivian Bearing is a scholar of the 17th century’s poet’s work.Vivian critically analyses Donne’s work to bring out the higher and truer meaning of the texts. This is done through Vivian deconstructing Donne’s work. In the same way, Vivian ‘breaks down’ her life and is always reading between the lines. This is shown through the quote “I read between the lines”. This draws out the parallel between Vivian and Donne and a comparative study would show how Donne hides behind wit. Through the realisation and acceptance of death through “reading between the lines”, Vivian is no longer hiding behind wit and is accepting of what lies ahead.

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