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4.20  ·  Rating details ·  13,700 ratings  ·  599 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 Faber & Faber (first published 1995)
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rachel z 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 pla…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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Average rating 4.20  · 
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 ·  13,700 ratings  ·  599 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
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, plays
We are always scrambling for what gives our time meaning and how that relates with what gives our lives meaning. W;t captures all the scrambling. It exposes the truth that I feel in my gut--all this cleverness isn't taking clever people as far as they would like--and still we continue being clever.

Vivian Bearing is a professor of English who teaches a the magnificently complex poetry of John Donne. She is diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer and tackles this challenge the same way she critical
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
I'm not the suavest person when it comes to plays. Growing up on a diet of soundtracks derived from musicals, operas, ballets, and symphonies has trained my brain to expect accordingly whenever a stage comes into view; and while I've since then been fed, voluntarily or otherwise, a steady stream of Shakespeare & co. scripts and done plenty of analysis subsequently, it's not the same as the actual thing. In adulthood, I have a great deal more freedom to actively pursue said actual thing (difficul ...more
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.
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
Dec 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: english, 2018, ebook, usa, plays
Maybe 4 1/2*.
A very smart ;), moving short play. Pardon the order of the adjectives I used, in case I got it wrong.
Highly recommended.
Thank you, Lavinia. ;)
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
Mihaela B.
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Although it's a short play, I read half of it one evening and the other half the next day, partly because I was sleepy and party because it's hard to take it. It's about a horrible disease, lack of sympathy, need of human connection, strength and vulnerability, loneliness and death. It's metaphysical and deeply touching.
And then I started watching the movie (starring Emma Thompson) and the impact was ten times stronger. I wasn't able to keep on watching it until the end. It's tough because it's
Oct 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding book that every writer should read. Breathtaking. Heartbreaking.
Nov 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: drah-mah, favorites
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 Marie
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 lines. Appar ...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: english, american
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.
Aug 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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.
Mar 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Emotionally brutal. Brilliantly conceived. Really fucking depressing.
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
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 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
I’m quite curious to see how this is performed on stage.
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
Jun 24, 2019 rated it liked it
My only defense is the acquisition of vocabulary.

Wit is an intense if narrow mediation on mortality and our ephemeral responses to such finality. There isn't much sentimentality on display, no dates with angels. Our fated protagonist doesn't meet her true love in the course of oncology. What there is, is John Donne, deterioration, and body fluids. Then, there is Silence.

An As I Lay Dying bleached of sentiment.
Apr 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theater, 2019
The best thing I've read this year. I hesitate to try to say what it's about. Death, cancer, John Donne, salvation, grace, humility, humanity, growth, knowledge. I ugly cried. I recommend this book to all the women I know. Not because it's about a woman with cancer but because all of my lady friends will get something out of it. ...more
Nov 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
Emma Kate
Dec 31, 2019 is currently reading it
Wow. That was harrowing.

Nathan Albright
Mar 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: challenge-2018
This particular play won the Pulitzer Prize, and though I seldom read much in terms of contemporary drama [1], it is pretty easy to see why this play won that prize despite being (somehow) the author's first published play.  Indeed, looking at this play is instructive in viewing what serves as Pulitzer-bait for other potential playwrights.  There is obvious human interest in this story, as it shows a single middle-aged literature professor dying of cancer and reflecting in her solitude on her li ...more
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Wit, the personal quality, is highly overrated. It's what we use to establish distance, to detach and put up walls. It's a good quality to have but it's a danger of overdosing on it that makes it a poor thing to build your persona around. It invades all areas of your life and you end up trying to be witty all the time, never having a moment of genuine contemplation or understanding or acceptance.

The reverse, however, isn't much better. Lose you wit and you lose your humanity, that little shred o
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