The Morality Play Revisited in Margaret Edson’s Wit
Taking into consideration the contrasting views of two medieval drama scholars, this article will explore the elements of a medieval morality play in Margaret Edson’s modern play Wit. The proposed hypothesis assumes that although Wit cannot be treated as an example of a full-scope “modern morality play,” it may be seen as a twentieth-century derivative of the genre. The play presents the story of terminally-ill literature professor Vivian Bearing, for whom the last months of her life turn into a pilgrimage towards an education in ethics which she neither expects nor welcomes. Gradually, as in Everyman, all her earthly resources, and above all her knowledge of metaphysical poetry, become irrelevant as she realises that life and death are entirely new concepts when not discussed in the abstract. In order to locate the play within the paradigms of morality play tradition, Wit will be compared to several medieval and Renaissance plays. The aspects of the morality play to be considered in relation to Wit include its potentially instructive purpose, medieval motifs, the idea of the protagonist’s universality and a number of dramatic devices and solutions.