What are two significant reasons for the semicolon in the play W;t?

Two significant reasons for the semicolon in W;t can be seen in John Donne's poem "Death Be Not Proud," and later in the play, when Vivian is literally near death. Depending on the edition of Donne's poem, either a semicolon or a comma is used to separate life and death. Vivian's professor insists a comma is correct, as "nothing but a breath separates life from death." Vivian later tries to conquer death, utilizing the semicolon in her recitation but to no avail.

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The semicolon in the title of Margaret Edson’s play W;t is significant for two reasons: this punctuation mark is misused by Vivian in her attempts to control both literary meaning and death. Stronger than the comma, the semicolon links two independent clauses or ideas. Unlike a period, the semicolon creates a pause—but not a complete definitive break or separation—between the two ideas. In his poem “Death Be Not Proud,” John Donne either used or did not use the semicolon, depending on which scholarly edition is read. This sonnet examines man's struggle with death and the use of “intellect and drama” to defeat death.

When Vivian is a student, she analyzes a version of the poem which reads, “And Death shall be no more;...

(The entire section contains 377 words.)

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