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4.2  ·  Rating details ·  10,904 Ratings  ·  418 Reviews
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, the Drama Desk Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, the Lucille Lortel Award, and the Oppenheimer Award

Margaret Edson’s powerfully imagined Pulitzer Prize–winning play examines what makes life worth living through her exploration of one of existence’s unifying experiences—mortality—while she also prob
Paperback, 85 pages
Published March 29th 1999 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1995)
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Rachel From Wiki-- 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…moreFrom Wiki-- 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. Both Wit and W;t have been used in various articles on the play for the title.(less)
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Community Reviews

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K.D. Absolutely
Nov 17, 2011 rated it it was ok
Recommended to K.D. by: Pulitzer
A moving Pulitzer award-winning brilliant play by Margaret Edson (born 1961). A dying highly respected poetry professor specializing on John Donne works. The professor is diagnosed with stage 4 (there is no stage 5) ovarian cancer and she is expected to die in few days. The play chronicles her last few hours on earth. She is visited by her former professor who offers to read her a John Donne poem. She declines so her visitor pulls out a children’s book she just brought for her great-grandson’s b ...more
Dov Zeller
I am going to refrain from giving this stars (a practice I am trying out.)

There are already some really good reviews on gr. I am not going to thoroughly review the play, but I do want to say a bit about my ambivalent response.

This is a play narrated by a woman dying of metastatic cancer. Before getting sick she was a hard-core academic and her focus was 17th century poetry, particularly John Donne. She has very little access to emotional connection. She intellectualizes just about everything. An
Reza Mardani
Jul 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
کتاب رو رحیم قاسمیان با عنوان زیرکی ترجمه کرده و انتشارات نیلا هم چاپش کرده. نمایش نامه کوتاه و قشنگیه که چند روز از زندگی یه استاد ادبیات رو که سرطان گرفته و تحت معالجه است نشون میده.
Feb 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american
This is a five star book that I don't feel the need to ever see again, which then makes it a four star book. Yeah that makes no sense. deal.

it is a nice criticism of the medical system, and the university system in general I would say.

It's not a peach, but it's probably a plum.
Kate M
Mar 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Wow. This was overwhelming, and a bit too close to home for me, both because of my own experience and knowing what my dad must have been feeling as he faced death. Edson has sharp insight, often nailing my own feelings of isolation and desperation during the cancer treatment experience. The only thing that didn't speak to me was the very end, but that is just my own skepticism about an afterlife; it is beautifully written and a good ending.

One of the things that struck me was the appropriateness
Jan 09, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: drama
The 1999 Pulitzer winner for drama. The play focuses on middle-aged college professor, Vivian Bearing, and her struggle with late-stage ovarian cancer. It explores her intellectual, stoic approach to English literature and how that same perspective frames her perspective on her medical fate. That perspective changes as she compares her detached demeanor with that of the impersonal medical researcher who is treating her. This play was rather disappointing on the whole. First, I don’t care for the ...more
Aug 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
from The Book Hooligan

"In truth it is like this: You cannot imagine how time can be so still. It hangs. It weighs. And yet there is so little of it. It goes so slowly. And yet it is so scarce." - Vivian Bearing

In all my 20 or so years in this world I have never paid much attention to punctuation marks. I just know that I use them to end sentences, separate thoughts in a paragraph, and enumerate a number of things in a single sentence. I have never considered the elegant beauty of each punctuatio
Nov 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, drah-mah
I saw the movie version (made for television, despite its absolute perfection) not long after I read the Edson's play. I've watched the movie version so many times, the actual play and movie have merged a bit in my memory.

There is no way to "spoil" the plot, given that we learn Vivian Bearing, a John Donne scholar of distinction, tells us she is dying at the outset. Bearing's entire life has been one of the mind. Her terminal cancer forces her to confront the mind/body split in a particularly co
Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten*
Okay, so we did Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike at my community theatre a month ago. One of my dearest friends played Cassandra, the crazy/awesome/psychic housekeeper, and halfway through the run the co-props designer brings up Wit. I'd never heard of it but he told me all about how it's basically carried by one actor, the lead woman, whose character is a cancer patient. There are other characters in and out, but she never leaves the stage (no intermission) and has probably 90% of the ...more
Mar 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stuff
This play hit close to home. My mother went through the process and experience that Vivian so humanely describes for us in this play.
This play is about victory. And kindness, compassion.
Margaret Edson nailed the journey of a just-diagnosed, relatively healthy-feeling patient to death.
She showed how impersonal the medical system can be but that there are those within the system that remember that the patient harbors fears and insecurities and discomforts; these people try to ease the journey b
Zöe Yu
Jun 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american, english
It is definitely a great play. I was constantly thinking on Susan Sontag's Illness and its metaphor. This book is full of wisdom and thinking about life. Whether life is a coma or a semicolon, or it is a wit that's it. These are riddles for human kind, even linguists or literary scholars won't know the answer.

It worths re-reading. And I'm thinking we are all the next.
Feb 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a brilliant little play juxtaposing cancer and John Donne poetry, which frequently deals with death. Definitely worth the quick read and would be great to see performed.
Jan 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I rarely come across plays as potent as this one. “Wit: a Play” accomplishes some quite incongruous feats: it effectively piques our curiosity for the obscure poetry of a 16th Century John Donne; it disinterestedly instructs us on how modern medicine treats cancer; and yet, it shows the readers how the treatment takes shape at a very personal level. The play let us accompany an austere literature professor, Dr. Vivian Bearing, on her cancerous and catastrophic last days.

Poetry and cancer: the f
Oct 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I first saw the play Wit (it is actually "W;t") in a tiny theater in Philadelphia. I was left speechless at the end, and it lived in my head for weeks. This play is an extraordinary effort for a first time writer.

As a nurse,the story of Vivian Bearing, to me, is a story of kindness, and the lack of it. At the time I read it, I was also teaching and saw the professorial character of Vivian in many of my colleagues. The sense of power over students and the hurt that power exerts is something that
I was blown away by this play - it's incredibly short, but the emotional impact of it left me reeling for a very long time. It's the kind of play that's just as intellectual as it is emotional (and indeed, this is one of the key thematic discussions of the play).

Wit is about an English professor, Dr. Vivian Bearing, who specializes in the obscure yet notoriously difficult subject of Donne's Holy Sonnets. The play chronicles her experiences as she struggles with the advanced stages of ovarian can
Nov 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I am writing this review with a fresh set of tears watering my eyes. I am amazed at Edson's ability to make both so intellectually stimulating and so disarmingly touching.

Here we have Vivian, a scholar, PhD, in her own view perhaps an intellectual first and a human second. She is dying of cancer. She is the subject (object) or research at a University hospital, under a former student's care, Jason, a researcher first, a human second.

At first we see her courageous and stoic approach to the terr
Jan 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read this today at lunch because I forgot my Kindle at home. I knew the plot--I believe we watched the telefilm in my AP Lit course back when we covered John Donne--but it was still a sucker-punch of a play. Exquisitely written, achingly lonely and sad. The metaphors are so strong without feeling like they bash you over the head with it, which I really appreciated.

In lesser hands, this could've been overly sentimental, or overly black-and-white, and perhaps in some ways it is; the characters
Apr 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: plays, 2008
I'm thinking about the play from a production standpoint, and am amazed that people can handle the seriousness and intellectual tie ins. It is an amazingly difficult piece and I'd imagine that any actress in the lead role would need some serious therapy after doing this for months. Oh god, how emotionally draining... A college professor with no friends, no family, just literature, journeying through a battle with cancer. It is heart-wrenching but quite artistic. I'd love to see it live, but you ...more
Camille Dent (TheCamillion)
Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: plays
This is an astoundingly beautiful play. I literally loved everything about it--the characters, blocking, script, themes! I loved how central Donne's poetry is and the evaluation of hermeneutics and irony throughout the entire play. It's so multilayered with tiny nuances up for analysis! As someone who leans towards isolation and libraries over social interaction, I really identified with Vivian's voice, and she certainly gave me a lot to think about.
Jan 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: plays
So very, very good. I'm going to have to buy my own copy of this play so I can re-read it whenever I need.
Jan 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a powerful little play. I will get to see it performed shortly in a local production starring a friend. This has a lot of emotion and truth wrapped up in a clever little package.
Nov 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Ali Amiri

برای یکی مثل خودم که از بچگی عاشق «جان دان» بوده، خوندن این نمایشنامه تجربۀ متعالیِ درجه یکی خواهد بود. به جز این، تم نمایشنامه، رویارویی با مرگِ محتوم، پرداختِ فوقالعادهای داره.

ترجمۀ رحیم قاسمیان هم خوب است


Just so beautiful and powerful. My new goal is to seek out a staged production.
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Stunning. Beautiful meditation on John Donne's "Death Be Not Proud" sonnet, and on how we as a society handle medical issues around terminal cancer.
Dec 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: play
I finished this book less than an hour ago, so I'm still under its spell. But I have a feeling that this play will stick with me for a while. It chronicles the experience of an English scholar addressing herself and her terminal illness with the same tenacity and fierce intellectual questioning that she did while researching and teaching Donne's Holy Sonnets as a renowned 17th-century-poetry scholar. So much is packed into this slim play: intellect, metaphysical questions surrounding Death/Salva ...more
Apr 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: realism, school, play
I first read Margaret Edson's Wit in college, and I was moved to tears. Now I have the privilege of sharing this play (and film) with my college class.

Before reading the play, we explore John Donne's poem [Death, Be Not Proud] so that they begin reading with a better understanding of what's to come. Then, we actually move through the play rather quickly. Our focus of discussion is characterization because I ask students to write a character analysis essay over any of the main characters in the
Feb 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: plays
Despite the potential for movie of the week sentimentality I found this powerful and genuinely moving. In fact the main character in the play fights something of a losing battle against the need for sentiment, humanity, flexibility, something less than rigour at all costs.

There is no doubt the knowledge of imminent death would change us all and here one manifestation of that type of change is worked through vividly, intelligently and very poignantly. What is also put under scrutiny is the need f
Nahid Soltanzadeh
Jan 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: plays
last semester I had a class at PSU about the representations of illness in literature. we read many novels and nonfiction pieces and articles. Now Wit has it all.
The dehumanization of cancer patients in the treatment process, the transformation of the patient from a human being to a research subject, the patient's struggles in reconciling her identity and the impacts of illness on her self-image, the tension of an existential crisis while looking death in the eyes, and the list goes on....

Apr 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was April's selection in my community's Health and Ethics book club.

_W;t_ is a short play that will leave me thinking about it for a long time. It was incredibly concise, but the questions and ideas it raised were layered and and terrifically complex.

Reading _W;t_ reminded me of being in my college English classes--some taught by professors who were as "hard-nosed" and brutal in their teaching as Vivian Bearing seemed to be--and digging deep into Donne and other metaphysical poets, and I en
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“Now is a time for, dare I say it, kindness. I thought being extremely smart would take care of it. But I see I have been found out.” 32 likes
“……, but as I am a scholar I feel obliged to document what it is like here, most of the time, between the dramatic climaxes. In truth it is like this: You cannot imagine how time can be so still. It hangs. It weighs, and yet there is so little of it. It goes so slowly and it is so scarce. If I was writing this scene it would last a full 15 minutes. I would lie here and you would sit there.” 13 likes
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