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Donne and W; T

In: English and Literature

Submitted By lallysnaps
Words 787
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Through the comparative study of John Donne's poetry and Margaret Edson's play W;t we are shown the individual context of both writers and their perspectives on relationships and death. Donne represents his assurance of life after death in his Holy Sonnets. Additional to this in his earlier poetry, his valuing of deep relationship being critical to the human experience is reflected by his renaissance belief. Edson's individual post-modern context is apparent in the appropriation and rewriting of Donne's ideas to reflect her own perspective. This is further emphasized in the choices made by each composer to represent their ideas in different textual forms.
Before Donne changed to his Protestant Christian faith in 1601 he believed that the meaning of life was through love. Donne ignores the reality of love and instead writes about what is outside reality, the metaphysical. In 1601 Donne secretly married a young seventeen-year-old girl by the name of Anne More. Donne wrote about how the love between him and his wife would go past this life and travel with them to the afterlife. After her death, Donne wrote “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” which describes his undying love for her. Donne made sure that his audience understood the significance of relationships, through the self-importance of "twin compasses"," thy soul, the fix'd foot", "making my circle perfect". The 17th century context is reflected in the representation of circular perfection which lifts the status of relationships. The purity of this love is also emphasised by the use of theological reference within “The Relique” with the mention of “the last busy day” and “Mary Magdelen”. As a result it is through Donne’s contextual connections within “The Relique” and “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” that one’s understanding of his poems can be developed along with the recurring theme of love.
Donne's values according to life's meaning and relationships are reworked by Margaret Edson within W;t. Vivian Bearing is constructed to reflect her view point. The motif Edson creates in Bearing as she disregards the point that Donne makes about relationships, and focuses on the "significant contribution to knowledge." When Vivian Bearing is first diagnosed she does not mind the lack of relationship she has, telling Susie that she has "none, to be precise," juxtaposing Donne's views on relationships and their importance. However Bearing reflects on how that after many years of being uncomfortable with kindness she wishes her doctor "would take more interest in personal contact." Edison portrays hidden connections between "an orange two stick Popsicle" that is shared between Bearing and Susie. Bearing then realises the importance that relationships should play in life. Edison shows through her textual production of dialogue and motifs to question the significance of which relationships play in order for a meaningful life to be achieved.
The theoretical question of what lies after death is one a common idea in academia. Donne explicitly demonstrates his encounter with this concept and his beliefs about death and the afterlife. Death was not easy to ignore within the Elizabethan time period and Donne’s life as executions and the deaths of loved ones often occurred. However, Donne uses the representation of death to portray that it is only “sleep” and “rest”, and how it is a “slave to fate and desperate men”. The moment that Donne got passed his original fear of death he revealed that the once “Mighty and dreadful” death “art not so”.
Donne's values according to the importance of life and relationships are reworked by Edson within W;t in order to explore religion and death through a post-modern context. Edson, through her protagonist, Vivian Bearing, references the poem Death Be Not Proud in the early stages of the play, as a self-confidence boost and reassurance that she can overcome her cancer. However, she relies on science and knowledge, "preferring research to humanity", which is emphasised characteristically as she is always attached and “gripping” to her IV pole and is completely ready to “take the full dosage” and the pain of her chemotherapy as she faces death. This highlights the wit of the situation. Donne’s Death Be Not Proud defeats the sadness and pain of death, however, dramatic irony occurs when Vivian Bearing, a ‘John Donne expert’ undergoes suffering in the face of it. This change in culture from religion towards science and knowledge is made clear in the juxtaposition of both texts.
The significance we develop from W;t is established by the connection with Donne's poetry. In particular, a study of the way Edison has rewritten the central values in Donne's work allows for a deeper understanding of his context and a more thoughtful reflection of the multiple values which exist in our perspective.…...

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