Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
|Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?|
1962 Broadway poster
|Date premiered||October 13, 1962|
|Setting||Martha and George's New England home|
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a play by
The play is in three acts, normally taking a little less than three hours to perform, with two 10-minute
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? won both the 1963
George and Martha engage in dangerous emotional games. George is an associate professor of history and Martha is the daughter of the president of the college where George teaches. After they return home from a faculty party, Martha reveals she has invited a young married couple, whom she met at the party, for a drink. The guests arrive – Nick, a biology professor (who Martha thinks teaches math), and his wife, Honey. As the four drink, Martha and George engage in scathing verbal abuse of each other in front of Nick and Honey. The younger couple is first embarrassed and later enmeshed. They stay.
Martha taunts George aggressively, and he retaliates with his usual
George suggests a new game called "Get the Guests". George insults and mocks Honey with an extemporaneous tale of "the Mousie" who "tooted brandy immodestly and spent half her time in the upchuck". Honey realizes that the story is about her and her "hysterical pregnancy". The implication is that she trapped Nick into marrying her because of a false pregnancy. She feels sick and runs to the bathroom again.
At the end of this scene, Martha starts to act seductively towards Nick in George's presence. George pretends to react calmly, reading a book. As Martha and Nick walk upstairs, George throws his book against the door. In all productions until 2005, Honey returns, wondering who rang the doorbell (Martha and Nick had knocked into some bells). George comes up with a plan to tell Martha that their son has died, and the act ends with George eagerly preparing to tell her. In what is labeled the "Definitive Edition" of the script, however, the second act ends before Honey arrives.
The term Exorcism means the expulsion or attempted expulsion of a supposed evil spirit from a person or place. In this Act, it seems that Martha and George intend to remove the great desire they have always had for a child through continuing their story of their imagined son and his death.
Martha appears alone in the living room, shouting at the others to come out from hiding. Nick joins her. The doorbell rings: it is George, with a bunch of
George asks Nick to bring Honey back for the final game – "Bringing Up Baby". George and Martha have a son, about whom George has repeatedly told Martha to keep quiet. George talks about Martha's overbearing attitude toward their son. He then prompts her for her "recitation", in which they describe, in a bizarre duet, their son's upbringing. Martha describes their son's beauty and talents and then accuses George of ruining his life. As this segment progresses, George recites sections of the
At the end of the play, George informs Martha that a messenger from
It becomes clear to the guests that George and Martha's son is a mutually agreed-upon fiction. The fictional son is a final "game" the two have been playing since discovering early in their marriage that they are