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Book Title: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?|
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 1.84 MB
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The author of the book: Edward Albee
Date of issue: March 1st 1983
ISBN 13: 9780451140791
Loaded: 2964 times
Reader ratings: 5.7
Read full description of the books:
This is, quite simply, one of my all time favourite plays. There is a film version, with Burton and Taylor as the two main characters, and while this isn’t a bad version (and it is in glorious black and white) I think that film struggles with words and this is a wordy play. And then there is that bizarre scene when they leave the house which makes no sense at all
I first read this play in high school and had to do a reading of the play in front of the class. Naturally, I was Nick, as the teacher was George. There is a nice fact that Albee is supposed to have said he had no idea of the significance of calling his major characters George and Martha – and definitely did not mean any reference to the first President of the United States and his missus. I find this a little hard to believe – either way, fate has stepped in and this fact remains, intentional or otherwise. I've always thought it adds something interesting to the play.
This might as well be two plays. On the surface there is a couple who look like they are about to tear each other apart. This reads like a ‘moments before the divorce’ play – and you would be stretched to find a play in which there are deeper feelings of hostility or more savage attacks between a married couple. But this is only on a surface level. The depth of affection and love between George and Martha is really the point of the play – the games they play are quite literally played so as to keep each other sane.
And this is not the only contradiction between our initial impressions and ‘reality’. Honey (has there ever been a more perfect name?) comes across at the start of the play as a mousey little moron of a wife, who puffs up with child to get her hands on a husband only to deflate again once the ring is on her finger. To look at her you might think she was completely incapable of sustaining a pregnancy and that this is the point – but actually, her life is spent having to drink brandy (never mix, never worry) to end a constant string of pregnancies.
This, of course, stands in stunning contrast to Martha, who comes across as the earth mother - but in reality is incapable of having children.
George comes across as a pathetic creature at the start of the play, unable to satisfy his wife who considers him so ineffectual that she doesn't even pretend to hide her flirtations with other men – but by the end we realise that he has completely controlled all of the action in the entire play and everything that has happened has happened due to his choices and his decisions. There are possibly few modern plays with a more God like character. More than this, everything that happens, happens due to his great love of Martha – something that seems incomprehensible at the start of the play as they are tearing strips off each other.
I went to see this play a year or so ago and was almost reduced to tears towards the end. The older I get the more I find that the sorts of things that are most likely to make me want to cry are not the sorts of things that might have had that affect on me when I was young. Then I would have been just as likely to have become upset over unrequited love or such - something I find a little dull now. Today I find what is almost too painful to handle is love that is based on a deep acceptance of who we are – if someone can love us for our scars, for ourselves – warts and all - I am almost invariably reduced to tears. At the end of Therapy when the main character kisses the mastectomy scar of what had been his childhood sweetheart I was virtually a blubbering mess. But of course, such love only exists in fiction - and that is, perhaps, its main role.
Fortunately, I’m too much of a boy to be caught crying in theatres – particularly over plays I know quite so well as I know this one (I must have read it a dozen times over the years). All the same, watching Gary McDonald recite the requiem mass at the end of the play as Martha realises that her son is truly dead and must remain so for them to continue to have any access to him at all was as close as I would like to be to tears in a grossly public place.
This is a truly devastating play, a play that shines and shines, a work of sheer power and genius. It is also one of the funniest plays I’ve ever seen. I don’t think it is possible to love this play any more than I do.
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Read information about the authorEdward Franklin Albee III was an American playwright known for works including Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Zoo Story, The Sandbox and The American Dream. His works are considered well-crafted and often unsympathetic examinations of the modern condition. His early works reflected a mastery and Americanization of the Theatre of the Absurd that found its peak in works by European playwrights such as Jean Genet, Samuel Beckett, and Eugène Ionesco. Younger American playwrights, such as Pulitzer Prize-winner Paula Vogel, credit Albee's daring mix of theatricalism and biting dialogue with helping to reinvent the post-war American theatre in the early 1960s. Albee's dedication to continuing to evolve his voice — as evidenced in later productions such as The Goat or Who is Sylvia (2000) — also routinely marks him as distinct from other American playwrights of his era.
Albee himself described his work as "an examination of the American Scene, an attack on the substitution of artificial for real values in our society, a condemnation of complacency, cruelty, and emasculation and vacuity, a stand against the fiction that everything in this slipping land of ours is peachy-keen."
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