A text is essentially a product of its context, as its prevailing values are inherently derived by the author from society. However, the emergence of post-modern theories allows for audience interpretation, thus it must be recognised that meaning in texts can be shaped and reshaped. Significantly, this may occur as connections between texts are explored. These notions are reflected in the compostion of Edson’s W;t and Donne’s poetry as their relationship is established through intertextual references, corresponding values and ideas and the use of language features.
Edson particularly portrays key values surrounding the notions of the importance of loved based relationships, and death and resurrection: central themes of Donne’s Holy Sonnets and Divine Poems. The purpose of these authors distinctly correlate as each has attempted to provide fresh insight into the human condition by challenging prevalent ideals. Thus, Edson incorporates Donne’s work to illuminate both explicit and implicit themes, creating an undeniable condition.
Prior to John Donne’s Judeo Christian conversion he believed that life was only fulfilling if shared with another individual. He conveyed in his pre-conversion poems and stressed the power and importance of love to a person’s well being and existence. Donne contrives the idea that love must not be a “Dull Sublunary lover’s love”, rather a relationship where “two souls… are one,” a love, he explores his conceit, so strong it can stretch “like gold to aery thinness”.
His geometrical conceit explains that relationships “Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere; This bed thy centre is, these walls, thy sphere. ” During the 17th century everything revolved around the sun, saying that lovers went against it was seen as going against the, thus showing how vital relationships are to human existence. The medium of a play allows us to a different view on how important love is one life’s, and what is to be lost with its absence Donne’s values according to life’s meaning and relationships are reworked by Margaret Edson within W;t.
Vivian Bearing is constructed to reflect the secular view point, “preferring research to humanity”, the motif Edson creates in Bearing as she misses the point Donne makes about relationships, seeking instead to be making a “significant contribution to… knowledge. ” Bearing does not mind the lack of relationship she has, correcting Susie she has “none, to be precise,” distinctively juxtaposing Donne’s views on relationships and their importance. Bearing reflect the individualism of the estern culture when she is “distinguishing the [herself] in illness facing the world alone. However Bearing reflects how after many years with being uncomfortable with kindness she wishes her doctor “would take more interest in personal contact. ” The implicit connections Edison portrays between “an orange two stick Popsicle” shared between Bearing and Susie, and Donne’s twin compass displays Bearings recognition of the importance relationships should play in life.
Edison challenges secular humanists through her textual construction of dialogue and motifs to question the importance relationships play in order for a meaningful life to be attained. The existential question of what lies after death is one that writes have pondered for years. Donne explicitly demonstrates his battle with this concept and his beliefs about theology, death and afterlife after he is converted to his Judeo Christian faith. Death was not easy to ignore in the 17th century as executions and daily mortuary carts attributed to the fear and awareness of death.
His compliant tone throughout his poetry clearly indicates that he feels that he feels some degree of confidence that God will accept his soul into heaven, evident when he apostrophises death to “be not proud, though some have called thee mighty and dreadful”, that death should not be feared as it is a “rest and sleep” till the forgiven “wake eternally”. A possible passage through the American continent to the indies was earnestly being explored just as the poet’s body was probably being probed and prodded to seek enlightenment or a successful path.
This analogy is made clear by the clever extended pun on ‘straits’ as both a trade route and a personal dilemma. They are itemised so that the link is not missed for the Western Sea, to which all the straits led, also represents death and entry into the next life: “So death doth touch the Resurrection Likewise to John Donne, Edison engages with the concept of death and what, if anything comes after it. While Bearing does not openly ponder what comes after death in the play, she is tangibly struggling with the fear of death.
Her own feelings are mirrored by Donne’s “If poisnous minerals” is shown through her analysis. In her analysis she says, Donne “finds God’s forgiveness hard to believe, so he crawls under a rock to hide. ” Rather than trust God’s mercy “I want to hide. I just want to curl up into a little ball. ” Donne’s poem If Poisonous Minerals has a direction relationship to the The Runaway Bunny read by Bearing in her childhood. It provides for her an allegory for God’s mercy allowing her to find solace, “No matter where it hides, God will find it. Where Donne presents this same allegory in a complex manner, the book is simple. Bearing is redeemed and able to die peacefully with this understanding of compassion. It is in the final scene that Edson reshapes Donne’s ideas on eternity and resurrection of the play with bearing’s humanistic post-modern sight. Donne, in his Judeo Christian context, prepares himself for God to take his soul into heaven, whereas the humanistic post-modern understanding of the resurrection that Bearing obtains brings an end to her suffering an pain when the “lights out. “
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 3 November 2016
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