W;t Comparative Studies | HSC English

W;t Comparative Studies

  • Margaret Edson

    Edson’s first play Wit is about a John Donne scholar who is hospitalised for and dying of ovarian cancer. On the cover of the published book of the play, the use of a semicolon in place of the letter i gives W;t as one representation of the play’s title. In the context of the play, the semicolon refers to the recurring theme of the use of a semicolon versus a comma in one of John Donne’s Holy Sonnets. Edson used her work experience in a hospital as part of the background in writing Wit. She won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Wit. 

    Edson has written a second play, Satisfied, whose subject is “country-gospel radio in Kentucky”. This second play has not yet received a production. She currently teaches kindergarten in Atlanta.

  • Values of the Time - 1990s

    • A distaste for the exclusive and competitive world of academia is shown in W;t. Not only is Vivian’s own character seemingly without compassion for others, the cold and clinical world of the doctors and their total lack of empathy for Vivian’s plight highlights this. That is not to say the 90s is anti-academia, on the contrary, it is very pro-learning, but in an accessible format and with a guiding principle of social concern for others.
    • The value of minority perspective and diversity is shown through the contrast of the characters of the nurse and the doctor. The nurse, although often gently made fun of for her lack of education, is both African American and a woman, and the only one to appreciate Vivian for a human being and to provide her with what she really needs – a touch of humanity. The nurse is also the only one who is concerned for Vivian’s experience of pain and the concept of human dignity and respecting one’s wishes – these ideas are metaphysical ones and go beyond what the young doctor can really comprehend, even though he brags about studying the metaphysics in Donne.
    • The female characters in the play, from Vivian to her old professor, and the nurse are the only ones who come to any kind of understanding of what life really is. They are strong and deal with feminine issues like pelvic examinations and ovarian cancer which is of course limited to women. These reflect the individualist, third-wave feminist values of the 1990s.

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