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ABOUT THE BOOK Wit Margaret Edson PDF Free Download

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. Review

Wit is that rare beast: art that engages both the heart and the mind. “It is not my intention to give away the plot,” Vivian Bearing, Ph.D., announces near the beginning of Margaret Edson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “but I think I die at the end. They’ve given me less than two hours.” For two hours, this famed Donne scholar takes center stage, interrupting her doctors, nurses, and students to explicate her own story, its metaphors and conceits. Recently diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer, she is being treated with an experimental drug cocktail administered in “eight cycles. Eight neat little strophes.” The chemo makes her feel worse than she ever thought possible; in fact, the treatment is making her sick, not the disease–an irony she says she’d appreciate in a Donne sonnet, if not so much in life.

Throughout, Vivian finds, the doctors study and discuss her body like a text: “Once I did the teaching, now I am taught. This is much easier. I just hold still and look cancerous. It requires less acting every time.” As her time draws to a close, a sea change begins to work in the way Vivian thinks about life, death, and indeed, Donne. His complex, tightly knotted poems have always been a puzzle for her formidable intellect, a chance to display “verbal swordplay” and wit. Her sickness presents an entirely different challenge. A powerful, prickly personality, capable of dry asides even during a bout of gut-wrenching nausea (“You may remark that my vocabulary has taken a turn for the Anglo-Saxon”), Vivian develops a new appreciation for the simple, the maudlin, the kind. Not to give away the plot, but the final moments in Margaret Edson’s debut are as wrenching–as human–as anything in recent drama. –Mary Park


“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

From the Publisher

Now the basis for an HBO film starring Emma Thompson, Christopher Lloyd, Eileen Atkins, Audra McDonald, Jonathan Woodward, and Harold Pinter, and directed by Mike Nichols, airing in March and April 2001.

About 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.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

(VIVIAN BEARING walks on the empty stage pushing her IV pole. She is fifty, tall and very thin, barefoot, and completely bald. She wears two hospital gowns-one tied in the front and one tied in the back-a baseball cap, and a hospital ID bracelet. The house lights are at half strength. VIVIAN looks out at the audience, sizing them up.) VIVIAN – (In false familiarity, waving and nodding to the audience) Hi. How are you feeling today? Great. That’s just great. (In her own professorial tone) This is not my standard greeting, I assure you.

I tend toward something a little more formal, a little less inquisitive, such as say, “Hello.”

But it is the standard greeting here.

There is some debate as to the correct response to this salutation. Should one reply “I feel good,” using “feel” as a copulative to link the subject, “I,” to its subjective complement, “good” ; or “I feel well,” modifying with an adverb the subject’s state of being?

I don’t know. I am a professor of seventeenth-century poetry, specializing in the Holy Sonnets of John Donne.

So I just say, “Fine.”

Of course it is not very often that I do feel fine.

I have been asked “How are you feeling today?” while I was throwing up into a plastic washbasin. I have been asked as I was emerging from a four-hour operation with a tube in every orifice, “How are you feeling today?”

I am waiting for the moment when someone asks me this question and I am dead.

I’m a little sorry I’ll miss that. Copyright 1999 Margaret Edson

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