Wit

( 7 )

Overview

Winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, 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 probes the vital importance of human relationships. What we as her audience take away from this ...

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Wit: A Play

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Overview

Winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, 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 probes the vital importance of human relationships. What we as her audience take away from this remarkable drama is a keener sense that, while death is real and unavoidable, our lives are ours to cherish or throw away—a lesson that can be both uplifting and redemptive. As the playwright herself puts it, “The play is not about doctors or even about cancer. It’s about kindness, but it shows arrogance. It’s about compassion, but it shows insensitivity.”

In Wit, Edson delves into timeless questions with no final answers: How should we live our lives knowing that we will die? Is the way we live our lives and interact with others more important than what we achieve materially, professionally, or intellectually? How does language figure into our lives? Can science and art help us conquer death, or our fear of it? What will seem most important to each of us about life as that life comes to an end?

The immediacy of the presentation, and the clarity and elegance of Edson’s writing, make this sophisticated, multilayered play accessible to almost any interested reader.

As the play begins, Vivian Bearing, a renowned professor of English who has

spent years studying and teaching the intricate, difficult Holy Sonnets of the

seventeenth-century poet John Donne, is diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer. Confident of her ability to stay in control of events, she brings to her illness the same intensely rational and painstakingly methodical approach that has guided her stellar academic career. But as her disease and its excruciatingly painful treatment inexorably progress, she begins to question the single-minded values and standards that have always directed her, finally coming to understand the aspects of life that make it truly worth living.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Among the finest plays of the decade . . . An original and urgent work of art.”—David Lyons, The Wall Street Journal

“A dazzling and humane play you will remember till your dying day.”—John Simon, New York magazine

“[A] brutally human and beautifully layered new play . . . You will feel both enlightened and, in a strange way, enormously comforted.”—Peter Marks, The New York Times

“A one-of-a-kind experience: wise, thoughtful, witty and wrenching.”—Vincent

Canby, The New York Times Year in Review

“A thrilling, exciting evening in the theater . . . [Wit is] an extraordinary and most moving play.”—Clive Barnes, New York Post

“Wit is exquisite . . . an exhilarating and harrowing 90-minute revelation.”—

Linda Winer, Newsday

“Edson writes superbly . . . [A] moving, enthralling and challenging experience that reminds you what theater is for.”—Fintan O’Toole, New York Daily News

NY Times
[A] brutally human and beautifully layered new play...you feel both enlightened and, in a strange way, enormously comforted.
NY Magazine
A dazzling and humane new play that you will remember till your dying day.
John Simon
A dazzling and humane play you will remember till your dying day. -- New York Magazine
Donald Lyons
An original and urgent work of art . . . among the finest plays of the decade. -- The Wall Street Journal
Peter Marks
[A] brutally human and beautifully layered new play . . . you feel both enlightened and, in a strange way, enormously comforted. -- The New York Times
Journal of the American Medical Association
While the play's ferocious intensity may intimidate, its transformative power should be provocative and enlightening for those of us who must make life-and-death decisions for our patients.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780571198771
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber
  • Publication date: 3/29/1999
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 96
  • Sales rank: 79,407
  • Product dimensions: 4.95 (w) x 7.85 (h) x 0.28 (d)

Meet the Author

Margaret Edson was born in Washington, D.C. in 1961. She has degrees in history and literature. She wrote Wit in 1991, after a period spent working as a clerk in the oncology/AIDS department of a Washington hospital in 1985. Edson now lives in Atlanta, where she teaches kindergarten.

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Read an Excerpt

The questions, discussion topics, and suggested reading list that follow are intended to enhance your group’s enjoyment of Margaret Edson’s powerfully imagined Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, Wit. We hope they will provide you with many interesting angles from which to approach this remarkable play, a work which beautifully illuminates the gifts-love, friendship, kindness-that make life truly worth living, through its probing and frequently poetic examination of one of humanity’s universal and defining experiences: death.

Vivian Bearing, a renowned professor of literature who has spent years studying and teaching the famously intricate Holy Sonnets of the seventeenth-century poet John Donne, is diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer. Confident of her ability to stay in control of events, she brings to her illness the same approach-intensely rational and painstakingly methodical-that has guided her stellar academic career. But as her disease and its painful treatment inexorably progress, she begins to question the single-minded values that have always guided her and, in the process, learns lessons that are both challenging and redemptive. In Wit, we are confronted with timeless questions: How should we live our lives knowing that we will die? Are our relationships with others more important than material, professional, or intellectual achievement? What, if any, are the roles of science and art in reconciling us to our mortality? With an unforgettable combination of elegant phrasing and emotional power, Wit compels us to reassess our own lives, just as Vivian Bearing must do.

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

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 probes the vital importance of human relationships.

What we as her audience take away from this remarkable drama is a keener

sense that, while death is real and unavoidable, our lives are ours to cherish or throw

away—a lesson that can be both uplifting and redemptive. As the playwright herself

puts it, “The play is not about doctors or even about cancer. It’s about kindness,

but it shows arrogance. It’s about compassion, but it shows insensitivity.” In Wit,

Edson delves into timeless questions with no final answers: How should we live our

lives knowing that we will die? Is the way we live our lives and interact with others

more important than what we achieve materially, professionally, or intellectually?

How does language figure into our lives? Can science and art help us conquer death,

or our fear of it? What will seem most important to each of us about life as that life

comes to an end?

The immediacy of the presentation, and the clarity and elegance of Edson’s writing,

make this sophisticated, multilayered play accessible to almost any interested

reader. While the vocabulary and concepts are not simple, this guide should help

you in your presentation of the material. It also points out and explores a number

of themes, angles, and issues in the play of particular interest to young readers.WINNER

As the play begins, Vivian Bearing, a renowned professor of English who has spent

years studying and teaching the intricate, difficult Holy Sonnets of the seventeenthcentury

poet John Donne, is diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer. Confident of

her ability to stay in control of events, she brings to her illness the same intensely rational

and painstakingly methodical approach that has guided her stellar academic

career. But as her disease and its excruciatingly painful treatment inexorably

progress, she begins to question the single-minded values and standards that have always

directed her, finally coming to understand the aspects of life that make it truly

worth living.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(3)

4 Star

(3)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2008

    Amazing

    I am 15 years old and I found this play astounding. I laughed and cryed throughout the entire story. The story is so very human and meaningful to everyone. this story is touching on many levels to everyone. I would surely recomend this story to anybody. If you or someone you know is going through chemotherapy read this play. Oh and 'How are you feeling today?'

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2003

    Poigant & Expressive!

    Edson¿s WIT, is one of the most touching and brilliant plays to have been published. The plays¿ brilliance lies in its plot and stage direction. WIT was also made into a drama special, which aired on HBO a few years back. The amazing performance was led by Emma Thompson, the main character, whom is a Professor struggling with cancer. If you are looking for fantastic real-life drama and something awe inspiring, WIT, is the right choice.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2003

    Sensational Play

    I have read several novels that later are filmed on movies. And I never found the films are half as good as the novels (books) themselves. If you read the book, you could dive into every character's mind, and the impression printed in your head go deeper than what can be seen on the screen; particularly, and understandingly, because films has a limit on duration. But seeing 'Wit' played on HBO, with brilliant acting by Emma Thompson (she deserved two Oscars for this play!), I couldn't imagine if the book itself would be twice as good as the movie. I doubted if such excitement exist at all.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2001

    Wit uplifts

    Margaret Edson's play depicts a brilliant and dedicated but solitary professor of English dealing with ovarian cancer. Her specialization in the metaphysical poetry of John Donne serves her well with its profound meditations on life and death and intellectual wit. The passion the professor shows will uplift any reader or audience member, and will be a special treat to anyone with a passion for literature.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2001

    I loved Wit!

    I saw Wit performed at the Pittsburgh Public Theater and it was fabulous! The acting, the jokes, the story line, the set, the lighting, everything was great!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2001

    Well worth your time...!

    The play is amazing considering this is her first. The author's one very talented wordsmith. I read it in one go since I couldn't get myself to put it down. The conversations are warm, intelligent and sad by turns - all I can really say is that I'm glad some people have the talent to pen such amazing works of art. (I read the play in the store, but couldn't get myself to leave it behind: I ended up buying a copy.)

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    Posted December 27, 2010

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    Posted January 28, 2010

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    Posted September 18, 2009

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    Posted October 20, 2008

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    Posted June 22, 2009

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    Posted July 1, 2011

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