Suffering and Identity in Donne and Wit

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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, asking god to forget and forgive his sins, becomes evident. “I think it mercy, if thou wilt forget”, Donne believes that his suffering will be relieved, if God will forget his sin’s and forgive him. This regained connection he establishes with God is a different tone to the beginning of the Sonnet, as he has establishes a deeper identity. In Donne’s sonnet, “If poysonous mineralls”, it is evident that through one’s individual suffering leads to questioning, and this questioning can then allow one to establish and understand their identity.

In W;t by Margaret Edson, Vivian bearings emotional suffering is a turning point in the play, as the only suffering evident throughout the first half of the play is her physical suffering. Vivian’s pride and preoccupation with Language as power, distracts her from her emotional deterioration and suffering. Language is her identity, which is shown through the concurrent speeches on page 3 and 4. Rather than focusing on the emotional impact of being told about her cancerer, she is focusing on his choice of words, completely eliminating a chance of emotional suffering. As the play progresses Vivian’s physical weakness, weakens her emotional stability and therefore allows her emotional suffering to be enhanced, and her identity to be lost. Her pride and dignity is stripped away on page 42, where a conversation between Susie and herself take place. “(crying in spite of herself). I’m scared.” The short syntax and stage directions emphasize the stripping of her decorum, and therefore allowing the suffering to prosper in her fear. Vivian’s emotional suffering changes as her journey progresses. Her emotional strength at the beginning of the play is remolded as she begins too loose her power, and her identity.

To suffer physically can allow an individual to discover one’s self. In Stanza one, Donne refers to music, suggesting a celebration and harmony of God, “I shall be made thy Musique”. This extended metaphor shows that Donne...
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