Margaret Edson Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Margaret Ann Edson was born on the Fourth of July, 1961, in Washington, D.C. Her father was a newspaper columnist, and her mother was a medical social worker. Edson attended Washington, D.C., schools before studying history at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she graduated magna cum laude in 1983. Her jobs after college included work as unit clerk in the cancer and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) wards of a teaching hospital from 1984 to 1986, a low-level position that would ultimately have a profound impact on her thinking and her writing career. After a hiatus of several years, she attended Georgetown University, where she earned an M.A. degree in literature in 1992.

In 1991, while working in a bicycle shop, Edson began writing a play based on her experiences in the hospital. She eventually titled this play Wit, though the title is often spelled W;t, a reference to the work’s playful obsession with the details of language, including punctuation. The play centers on Vivian Bearing, a professor and scholar of the fiercely intellectual and devoutly spiritual holy sonnets of the seventeenth century English poet John Donne. Bearing has succeeded at the highest level in her academic pursuits, but she finds herself unprepared to deal with her final challenge, a diagnosis of terminal ovarian cancer. Edson sent her play to theater companies across the United States, and it was first performed in 1995 by the South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, California. After winning numerous 1996 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards, Wit attracted the attention of the East Coast...

(The entire section is 666 words.)


(Drama for Students)

Margaret Edson Published by Gale Cengage

Margaret Edson, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Wit, was born in Washington, D.C., on July 4, 1961. Her mother, a medical...

(The entire section is 438 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Greene, Martha. “Unwitting Redemption in Margaret Edson’s Wit.” Christianity and Literature 51 (Winter, 2002): 241-256. Examines the complexities of religion and spirituality—both John Donne’s and Vivian Bearing’s—in Edson’s play.

Martini, Adrienne. “The Playwright in Spite of Herself.” American Theatre 16 (October, 1999): 22-25. An interview in which Edson discusses her life before and after the success of Wit.

Renner, Pamela. “Science and Sensibility.” American Theatre 16 (April, 1999): 34-37. Discusses the treatment of medical science in Edson’s Wit and in the plays of Lisa Loomer.