Ideas and themes change according to the different times and the historical, social, cultural and personal context of the time they are written In, with the texts either reflecting or contrasting the Ideas of that time. Death and mortality and the spiritual and emotional connections are themes that have evolved over time due to the different contexts. These themes are thematically central to John Donna’s poetry written In the 17th century and Margaret Dose’s 20th century play W;t.
During the 1 7th Century, religion, especially Christianity, permeated all aspects of society.
Donna’s Death be not proud and Hymen to God my God, in my Sickness reflect his Christian belief that the material body was a temporary vessel for the soul’s Journey and hence death was not something to be feared. In his Holy Sonnet, Death be not proud, Done patronizes death, and attempts to dispel the fears associated with death, reflecting the influence of his personal and historical contexts on his poetry. Donna’s immediate use of the imperative, ‘Death be not proud, though some have called thee mighty and dreadfully, for, thou art not see’, belittles the existence of death by creating a condescending tone.
Moreover by personifying death and then directly addressing It, Done demeans death’s power saying that Its nothing but an end result to fate and chance. To further correctly death, Done uses a metaphor to equate death to rest and sleep’, robbing It of Its power. In contrast, Dose’s W;t portrays a society in which the concept of a universal religion no longer exists, instead science was the savior. As a result death is seen as the final and absolute end in a context influenced by the existential fear of mortality and death which was prominent in late 20th century society.
Dose’s main character Viand’s constant attachment to the IV pole symbolizes the modern medical science world. Vivian describes herself as, ‘Just the specimen, Just the dust Jacket, Just the white piece of paper’. The repetition of ‘Just the’ and the objectification of Vivian through those descriptions reflect that life and body are viewed scientifically, as an observable phenomenon, capable of study. Academia and science are hence represented as having Increasing Importance, thus creating an environment where mortality is increasingly feared.
In Hymen to God my God, in my Sickness the Hessians who attend to the speaker, much like the Code Team who attend to Vivian, are concerned with merely the material body. Done uses an extended conceit to compare the dying speaker to a map, suggesting that “west and east in all flat maps are one” highlighting that West’ where the sun sets, is in reality connected to the “Resurrection” in the east, where the sun rises. He questions the reality of death using a rhetorical questions; “what shall my west hurt me? ” showing his clear confidence in life after death.
In a similar manner, the concluding scenes off;t epic a resemblance to the notion put forward by Done, where theatrically ‘a frenzy takes over’ as the Code Team attempt to resuscitate Vivian, perceiving the survival of her physical body as the most important task. This flurried obsession with her material body Is Juxtaposed with Viand’s ‘slow and graceful’ walk towards ‘a little light’ showing her acceptance that death is “nothing but a breath – a comma – separates the shedding of her material fears, Vivian embodies Donna’s interpretation of death in this is my plays last scene when he walks away from his soul, leaving his sins Enid.
The 17th Century Renaissance era placed greater importance on the human need for spiritual and emotional connections than the late 20th Century did. This notion is supported in Donna’s A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning in which emotional connections are all encompassing and contain a spiritual element. Here the speaker puts forward the idea that their love is beyond the scientifically rational and can withstand physical separation through the use of scientific imagery such as, trepidation of the spheres… Is innocent’.
Furthermore Done uses a metaphysical enceinte by portraying the idealized love between the two as a compass, with the lovers representing the two end points. The speaker’s faith in the spiritual connection between the lovers is revealed as he believes that their emotional connection cannot be weakened by the metaphoric separation of the endpoint of the compass, When the other far doth Rome, It leans, and hearkens after it’. Alternatively, W;t portrays a society, whose individuals through scholarship and intellect, can become increasingly isolated and as a result lack emotional and spiritual connections.
The medical professionals, Jason and Kelvin, repeatedly voice empty platitudes such as ‘how are you feeling today? In a procedure known as a clinical. The clinical, which is supposed to establish a connection between doctor and patient, has essentially become a meaningless ritual, representing the lack of concern for emotional and spiritual connection in the late 20th century. Thus, through John Donna’s poetry, written in the 17th Century and Margaret Dose’s 20th Century play W;t, we are able to see how texts written in different time and context can either reflect or contrast the ideas of that time.