Wit and Donne
Connections enrich understanding in pairs of texts set for study. To what extent is this made evident in the texts you have studied? Connections between John Donne’s Selective Poems and Margaret Edson’s play Wit to a great extent enrich the audiences understanding of each text and the themes of death and love. When these texts are studied together it is evident through continual intertextual reference that Donne has heavily influenced the play Wit. Although the texts differ contextually, with Donne’s 17th Century poetry and Edson’s 20th Century script writing, their contextual connections allow an enriched understanding of both the texts.
Death is conveyed to a large extent within Donne’s poems of Holy Sonnets. As with many poets in the Renaissance area Donne was obsessed death. He was intrigued by the mystery of death and, due to his Catholic upbringing and his own Christian values, was convinced of the existence of an afterlife. What Donne struggles with within these Holy Sonnets is how he can settle on a particular view on the subject. One of the Holy Sonnets, “Death Be Not Proud”, presents Donne’s inner conflict.
Wit and Donne Essay Example
In this particular poem John Donne states that death is something that should not be feared but conquered, due to the faith he has in the presence of an afterlife. Through the personification of death in the first two lines, “Death be not proud, though some have called thee/Mighty and dreadful”, death is given a personality, an identity. It is due to this literary technique that Donne can put an emphasis on the idea that Christians have victory over death, and the promise of eternal life. That it is in this afterlife that death, no matter how “Mighty” or “dreadful” will have no hold over them.
Donne is able to directly address death, and speak his mind in a way in which is normally restricted to person-to-person communication. During the 17th Century mortality was a big issue in society with the average woman giving birth to between 8-10 children. There was a high infant and child mortality rate with one in every three infants dying before the age of one. John Donne experienced much death due to the death of his father, his youngest brother and three of his children at this point in time. It is due to this experience that Donne wished to remove any power death had over himself and his family.
As one reads furthermore into this poem Donne elaborates on the concept of victory over death. This is portrayed in the lines, “And dost with poison, warre, and sicknesse dwell/And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well”. Donne is saying within these lines that you dwell within sleep and sickness but we can make ourselves sleep as well therefore you are not as amazing as you think you are. Donne uses a ridiculing tone in order to belittle death, to remove any power in which death holds over himself and the reader.
Therefore making himself, and his faith in the afterlife, better than death. Death remains something that simply has to be conquered. Donne’s contextual connections, evident through his Holy Sonnets, in particular “Death Be Not Proud”, can be seen to enrich the responder’s understanding of the text and the theme of death. Death is conveyed to a large extent in the play Wit written by Margaret Edson. The theme of death in this play was greatly influenced by Edson’s work as a clerk in an oncology unit at a research hospital in Washington.
In this unit there was a trial occurring for new drugs in the treatment of ovarian cancer. Edson was able to observe how patients coped with their illnesses and often the dehumanising of the busy hospital environment. In Wit death is seen as the enemy, something the doctors fight against and losing is seen as a failure, death is a lingering fear within the hospital environment. The main character, Vivian, has spent her whole life hiding behind Donne’s words, it is only when Vivian faces death herself that she is forced to discover her own views on death and the afterlife.
Through Edson’s use of flashbacks the audience is able to view the way in which Vivian connects and identifies with John Donne’s poems and the fear in which she has for death. This is portrayed in the scene in which Vivian goes back to her old college Professor, E. M. Ashford. Vivian’s fear is shown through the use of ellipsis’ as Vivian feels uncomfortable due to the fact that she can no longer hide behind words. Furthermore Vivian’s view on death is also conveyed in this scene as Vivian believes there is far more separating life and death than that of a comma, a breath, as said by E.
M Ashford. Death, towards the end of the play, becomes an acceptance for Vivian as she finally embraces the true faith in which Donne had towards an afterlife and overcomes her salvation anxiety. Vivian begins to crave kindness and comfort when she never has before, this conveys Vivian’s change of heart. Through the quote ““It”: such a small word. In this case I think “it” signifies being alive” one can see that Vivian no longer feels the pull towards life as she did in the beginning of the play.
The audience knows when Vivian is truly ready to die upon Vivian’s stage direction as she “attempts a grand summation” as if trying to conjure up her own ending. She then recites her original interpretation of John Donne’s “Death Be Not Proud” where only a breath separates life from death. Thus one can observe that through contextual connections that a greater understanding can be obtained in relation to the play Wit by Margaret Edson and the theme of death. Furthermore it is through these connections that an improved insight into the Holy Sonnets of the poet John Donne can be achieved.
Love is conveyed to a large extent within John Donne’s as a blinding force, one in which completes the lover’s life. Donne ignores the reality of love and instead writes about what is beyond reality, the metaphysical. In 1601 Donne secretly married a young seventeen-year-old girl by the name of Anne More. It is of the love he felt for his wife that is mentioned within many of Donne’s poetry. “The Relique” describes a love that can conquer death, a love that is so pure and unconditional that nothing else is of importance to them.
The use of exclusive pronouns such as “he” and “us” describes the way in which it was the lover’s against the world. “Then he, that digs us up”. It is through these exclusive pronouns that the audience is separated from the lovers, the viewer cannot possibly understand what the lovers have as it is only between them. Donne wrote about how the love of his wife and himself would go beyond this life and travel with them into the afterlife. It was upon her death that Donne wrote “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” which describes his everlasting love for her.
The purity of this love is furthermore emphasised by the use of biblical allusion within “The Relique” with the mention of “the last busy day” and “Mary Magdelen”. Through this technique the reader is able to further understand the divine nature of the lover’s relationship. A relationship that transcends the physical body and in doing so enters a metaphysical state. Therefore it is through Donne’s contextual connections within “The Relique” and “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” that ones understanding of his poems can be enriched along with the recurring theme of love.
The theme of love is conveyed within the play Wit by Margaret Edson as that of kindness. The protagonist, Vivian, begins to crave love from those around her and becomes frustrated by the doctor’s clinical attitude towards her situation. When Edson worked as a clerk within a research hospital she was able to view the clinical nature of the busy staff, with doctors occasionally forgetting the patients emotional needs, only focusing on their physical needs.
This is seen through the use of a flashback as Vivian is taken back to a class in which she showed no compassion towards a student who did not understand a question she was asking, then again when she refuses to give an extension. Given her newfound desire for affection Vivian is now able to reflect on her behaviour and even regret it. Through the use of asides the audience is able to gain further insight into the internal struggle of Vivian as she battles with her exploration of love. This is seen when Susie calls Vivian “Sweet heart” and Vivian allows it saying, “I can’t believe my life has become so… corny”.
It is here that the audience can convey that there truly has been a shift in Vivian’s view on love and how she now needs it as she approaches death, becoming more and more dependent on other people. Thus through contextual connections a greater understanding can be obtained about the text Wit and furthermore about the theme of love. In conclusion the contextual connections between the 17th Century poems of John Donne and the 20th Century play Wit by Margaret Edson allow an enriched understanding of each text and therefore a greater appreciation for the themes of death and love within these two texts.