A good and holy death: Ars moriendi and the battle of wit versus truth

Daniel Rentfro*

*Corresponding author for this work

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There is an ancient Christian tradition of a ‘good and holy death’. That tradition has largely been forgotten in the medicalization of death, which regards death solely as an enemy to be defeated at all costs. This paper examines the tradition of a holy death through the lens of Margaret Edson's play W;t, with particular attention paid to the use of John Donne's poetry in the play. The paper then uses theologian Allen Verhey's writings on the Christian art of dying as a means to understand the play in a Christian context, with special attention paid to the way in which it portrays Vivian Bearing, the play's protagonist, as a victim as much as a beneficiary of modern medicine.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)730-744
Number of pages15
JournalNew Blackfriars
Issue number1108
Early online date7 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - 23 Nov 2022


  • W;t
  • Christianity
  • Death and dying
  • John Donne
  • Allen Verhey


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