Donne and W;t

Essay by dreamtea08High School, 12th gradeB+, July 2014

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Society's enduring rumination upon concerns relating to mortality and death, direct and preserve abiding notions determined by contextual values influencing human epistemologies and religion. John Donne's 'Holy Sonnets' and Margaret Edson's play 'W;t' illustrate the perennial concerns of death and self-actualisation through establishing these values in the Elizabethan society and re-orientating them within post-modernist ideals. While these texts are socially and historically separated by centuries, these human issues remain at a parallel through asserting the fundamental concerns of life and death in history, and illuminating the new interpretations of the understanding of life in our present.

Progressions of social philosophies concerning humanity's perception of death are underpinned by the fluctuating nature of the text's cultural and historical contexts. Reflected in Donne's poetry, the Elizabeth era heralded an age of Protestant Christianity, scientific and artistic advancements inherent in individuals such as Copernicus and Shakespeare.

This humanist movement is reflected in his sonnets, where he challenges the Petrarchan convention of poetry and embodies the confidence of society by facing death in an arrogant manner in 'Death be not proud'. Donne employs second person: 'thy', 'thee' and 'thou' when addressing death. No longer considered as an abstract force, but faced on a personal level, Donne diminishes its power through this personification: "Thou some have called thee Mighty..thou art not soe.". This effectively rejects the pre-conceived notion that death is fearful and incriminating and represents society's optimistic attitude and the Protestant ideal of salvation.

The value is reshaped by Edson in 'W;t', in a post-modern secular context, where Vivian Bearing faces death as a parallel to the ovarian cancer she is suffering from. While she is made a victim to the severity of her illness, she is ironically made...