Suffering and Identity in Donne and Wit

One’s identity may be questioned when suffering; ultimately suffering is what creates one’s sense of self or what destroys it. The poetry of John Donne and the play W;t, 1993, by Margaret Edson, both illustrate and explore a sense of suffering and identity. In John Donne’s poetry, suffering, both emotionally and physically allows the speaker to understand their identity in more depth, in comparison to Margaret Edson’s play, W;t, Vivian’s suffering leads her identity to be stripped away. In Donne’s sonnet, ‘If poysonous mineralls’ we are shown suffering religiously and emotionally, through one’s sin’s, questioning god’s justice, which leads to a realisation of one’s identity. In Margaret Edson’s play, W;t, Vivian’s emotional suffering leads to a loss in her identity. In Donne’s poem “Hymn to God my God, in my Sickness”, physical suffering and illness can allow one discover their true identity. W;t portrays Vivian’s life with cancer as a journey, where her physical suffering is slowly represses her individuality.

One’s emotional suffering can lead to a better understanding of one’s identity. In Donne’s poem “If poysonous mineralls”, the speaker of the Sonnet seems to be a man that is asking desperately for forgiveness from God, feeling that it is not fair his sins are more evil because he possesses “intent or reason”. Donne’s era was at the time of the plague, and a time when Protestants clashed with Catholics, thus, he lived in a time of great suffering and conflict. “If lecherous goats, if serpents envious cannot be damned, alas, why should I be?” This angry, frustrated tone questions God’s choice of allowing these sinners to go unpunished, and he, marked as a sinner, must suffer for his mistakes. The iambic pentameter creates a rhythm in the Sonnet that makes it sound much more like a plea of one who is suffering, rather than a conversational and questioning approach. As the poem progresses, the transformation of Donne’s identity into a Protestant mindset,...
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