Who's Afraid of Edward Albee?

  • :: 4 Works Cited
  • Length: 1607 words (4.6 double-spaced pages)
  • Rating: Excellent
Open Document

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Text Preview

More ↓

Continue reading...

Open Document

Who's Afraid of Edward Albee?

   Edward Albee was considered the chief playwright of the Theater of the Absurd when his first successful one-act experimental plays emerged.  The Zoo Story, The Death of Bessie Smith, The Sandbox, and Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung were all released during Albee's thirties between 1959 and 1968 (Artists  1-2).  Edward Albee was born in the nation's capitol on March 12, 1928, and his career has brought him three Pulitzer Prizes over four decades, the first for A Delicate Balance in 1966 and the most recent in 1994 for Three Tall Women.  While Albee's original works established him as a leading voice in America's Theater of the Absurd, his more mature plays were representative of traditional playwrights like Eugene O'Neill and August Strindberg. 


Unlike many successful writers, the childhood of Albee was not one of deprivation.  On the contrary,  Albee was adopted at the age of two weeks by a millionaire family.  From that point on he knew a life of wealth and privilege.  He resided with his family in Westchester, New York.  His childhood experience was quite remote from that of many writers who knew squalor and deprivation.  As one magazine article said regarding his childhood years, "It was a time of servants, tutors, riding lessons, winters in Miami, summers sailing on the Sound:  there was a Rolls Royce to bring him, smuggled in lap robes, to matinees in the city; an inexhaustible wardrobe housed in a closet as big as a room.  Albee has never made any explicit comments about the happiness of his childhood.  His father was believed, however, to be dominated by his wife, who was considerably younger than her husband and an avid athlete" (Biography  1).  His grandfather was one of the major figures in the development of the razzmatazz of American show-business and the owner of a famous chain of vaudeville theaters.  Albee was named after him and this lineage gave him a great deal of exposure to plays and theater people at a young age.  Albee was not very adept at schoolwork though he showed promise as a writer from a young age.  He dropped out of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, after a year and a half to pursue a writing career full time in New York.  However, while at Trinity, Albee did gain theater experience by playing a variety of characters in plays produced by the college drama department.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Who's Afraid of Edward Albee?." 123HelpMe.com. 19 Apr 2018
Title Length Color Rating  
Who's Afraid of Edward Albee? Essay - Who's Afraid of Edward Albee.      Edward Albee was considered the chief playwright of the Theater of the Absurd when his first successful one-act experimental plays emerged.  The Zoo Story, The Death of Bessie Smith, The Sandbox, and Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung were all released during Albee's thirties between 1959 and 1968 (Artists  1-2).  Edward Albee was born in the nation's capitol on March 12, 1928, and his career has brought him three Pulitzer Prizes over four decades, the first for A Delicate Balance in 1966 and the most recent in 1994 for Three Tall Women.  While Albee's original works established him as a leading voice in America's Theater of the Absurd, his more mature...   [tags: Biography Biographies Essays]
:: 4 Works Cited
1607 words
(4.6 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf by Edward Albee Essay - ... At a given time ona character may be fully dominant and may torture the other character but shift of dominance is occurring frequently and relationship between the characters shift dramatically thoughout the drama. Albee expresses the characters sardonic and sadistic pleasure by causing the pain to each other. The play provides a vital insight into the American life. Albee resonates the decline of American dream with the Virginia woolf throught the play . He attacks the dreams and self-deceptions that forms American mythology.Albee puts a powerful question to his audience: who is afraid of life without any illusions....   [tags: controversial playwrights, voices] 1218 words
(3.5 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Gender Roles in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Essay - Though usually viewed as a violent play about turbulent marriages, Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. should be regarded as an early feminist text. Bonnie Finkelstein writes that the 1962 play portrays and analyzes the damaging effects of traditional, stereotypical gender roles, particularly for women; the play serves to point out how unrealistic, useless and extraordinarily damning they ultimately are. Finkelstein notes that the 1963 publication of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique unofficially began a re-evaluation of gender roles in the United States (Finkelstein 55)....   [tags: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?]
:: 5 Works Cited
2087 words
(6 pages)
Term Papers [preview]
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee Essay - Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee How a Couple Denies Reality by Escaping into a World of Fantasy --------------------------------------------------------------- INTRODUCTION Edward Albee’s account of the strange relationship between George and Martha was an award-winning Broadway play and a cinema classic. As a drama, it succeeds on all levels. But like all great dramatic works, it is much more than an absorbing story.To understand their mutual cruelty and their failure to accept the world around them, we must understand why they are what they are....   [tags: English Literature]
:: 2 Works Cited
1576 words
(4.5 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
American Dream in Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf Essay - In the final act of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Honey apologetically and drunkenly explains that she has peeled the label off her brandy bottle. To this, George replies, "We all peel labels, sweetie: and when you get through the skin, all three layers, through the muscle, slosh aside the organs, and get down to bone, you still haven't got all the way, yet. There's something inside the bone… the marrow… and that's what you gotta get at." In a play blending realism and absurdism, Edward Albee peels off the institutions and values that Americans held and hold dear, such as family, beauty, marriage, success, religion, and education....   [tags: Who's Afraid Virginia Woolf Essays]
:: 1 Works Cited
1881 words
(5.4 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Existence of Reality in Christopher Durang's Beyond Therapy and Edward Albee's Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf? - Existence of Reality in Christopher Durang's Beyond Therapy and Edward Albee's Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf. Growing up, I always assumed that my parents would grow old together. I fantasized about introducing my future children to their still-married grandparents and attending, if not personally planning, my parent’s fiftieth anniversary celebration. Although my parents fought and struggled with areas of perpetual disagreement, somehow things always worked out and in my naivety, I believed they always would....   [tags: Durang Albee Real Reality Woolf Beyond Essays] 1089 words
(3.1 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Edward Albee’s play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Essay - Edward Albee’s play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. In Edward Albee’s play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. the major thematic concerns are those involving perception versus reality. In the beginning of the play, both couples seem to be average, loving couples of the nineteen-fifties. Even George and Martha seem to be playful in their insults toward each other. Things do not start to turn until George warns Martha not to “start in about the bit with the kid”, after which both of them begin to get more hostile toward each other....   [tags: essays research papers] 514 words
(1.5 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
A Delicate Balance by Edward Albee Proposal Essay - My proposal to the class is the play A Delicate Balance by Edward Albee. It is a psychologically based drama dealing with the issues and complexities of upper-middle-class suburb dwellers. There are six characters, including two men and four women. All of the characters are in an adult age range. The plot of the play takes place in the living room of Agnes and Tobias, a middle-aged married couple as their life is disrupted by the coming and going of friends and family with many problems to face....   [tags: delicate balance, edward albee, social classes] 702 words
(2 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf Essay - Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf For this book talk, I read an Edward Albee's play, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf." I saw the movie version of this book, which I found excellent, so it inspired me to read the book. The book begins when George, who is an associate professor of a New England college, and Martha, who is the daughter of the college professor comes home after a faculty party. Although it is well after midnight and they are heavily drunk, Martha invites another couple, Nick who is a new and young professor in the college, and his wife Honey....   [tags: Who's Afraid Virginia Woolf Essays] 665 words
(1.9 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Reality versus Illusion in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Essay - Reality versus Illusion in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.        In his play, The American Dream, Edward Albee unveils a tortured family that is symbolic of the reality beneath the illusion of the American dream.  In Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Albee takes a more traditional approach than the theater of the absurd, and his language is more natural, but he returns to this theme with a vengeance.  For in all of drama there are few plays about domestic relationships that are as caustic, violent and as poisoned with the milk of human bitterness, cynicism and pessimism as is Woolf.  The story regards George and Martha, a married couple (he a history professor and she the University Presiden...   [tags: Who's Afraid Virginia Woolf]
:: 3 Works Cited
1969 words
(5.6 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]

Related Searches

  Albee's success did not come overnight despite his literary promise and his high-profile contacts in the theater.  Instead, he labored at odd jobs for nearly a decade before his "breakthrough" came upon the publication of The Zoo Story, a one-act play modeled on the Theater of the Absurd ala playwrights like Beckett, Genet and Pinter.  The play was astonishingly accomplished for a first effort but Albee had to be convinced to try his hand at writing plays, "Originally his writing efforts focused on poetry and fiction until Thornton Wilder encouraged him to try playwrighting" (Artists  1). 


There are some who feel that Albee never achieved the level of talent displayed in The Zoo Story, except for the plays Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? And A Delicate Balance.  These works display more traditional influences and the influence of O'Neill is readily apparent in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  Nonetheless, Albee was hailed immediately as the great new American dramatist and some critics contend that his wayward poetic writing may have been an intentional attempt by the writer to deflate his overvalued literary reputation.  Both Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and A Delicate Balance are representative of the themes and characterization that represent Albee's more traditional works.  Albee's plays commonly deal with themes revolving around questions of illusion versus reality, possession versus communion and they also portray violence as an aspect of love.  Domination versus submission is also a common element of Albee's works.  When it comes to characterization, most of Albee's characters are portrayed as desperate individuals who play cruel psychological games. 

However, they are often manipulated as much as they manipulate and as destructive as they are destroyed.  Where women are concerned, Albee generally portrays women as domineering emotional vampires, perhaps best characterized by Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 


American producers were not initially keen on Albee's brand of satire and examination of values, so The Zoo Story was first produced in Berlin.  While Albee was considered the leading American exponent of the Theater of the Absurd, his particular worldview did not encompass the belief common to the leaders of the movement, "The leaders of this movement were concerned with the human struggle to come to terms with the reality of a senseless world.  Albee essentially established the American version of absurdist theater with his stinging critique of popular culture that he felt reflected a dangerous complacency in the American theater.  However, unlike his European counterparts Albee does not believe that man is at hopeless odds to change his world" (Artists  1).


One of Albee's main targets of attack in his works was the American dream.  A Delicate Balance is a wide-awake answer to the American dream and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, considered by many to be Albee's masterpiece, is pure social satire and a scathing attack on the American dream.  The play was startling when it first emerged because McCarthyism and blacklisting had resulted in stilling the voices of social criticism in the American theater.  Albee's reception among critics has been hot and cold over the decades and many feel his best plays were his first five.  However, a recent play, Three Tall Women, won nearly unanimous praise from American reviewers in addition to winning Albee his third Pulitzer Prize.  Albee has learned to develop an indifferent tolerance to reaction to his plays over the years.  As he said in a recent interview, "I think of my plays as a continuing pattern of me writing.  I don't think I've written a bad play or a good play; I don't think in those terms.  This is Edward Albee's next play.  And I'm interested in finding out if there is a relationship between my view of it and anybody else's.  Yes is better than no.  But I don't get a swelled head from these things.  I don't allow crucifixion in the press to destroy me, and I'm certainly not going to allow acclaim to destroy me either" (Yes  2).


Albee's contribution to the American theater extend much further than his role as the writer of some of America's most acclaimed dramas.  He has also produced and directed plays and has worked diligently to provide performance outlets for new plays.  Albee made what was considered a brilliant adaptation of The Ballad of the Sad Café based on the Carson McCullers novela.  He also adapted James Purdy's Malcolm and Everything in the Garden from a play by Giles Cooper.  The playwright also produced a stage adaptation of Nabakov's Lolita in the early 1980s.  For his lifetime of accomplishments, Edward Albee received the 1996 Kennedy Center Lifetime Achievement Award and in 1997 was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Clinton (Edward  1).  Albee's works did more than shock critics and audiences, they helped change the nature of drama in the American theater, a point that was recognized during the Kennedy Center Honors Ceremony in 1996, "Edward Albee burst onto the American theatrical scene in the late 1950s with a variety of plays that detailed the agonies and disillusionment of that decade and the transition from the placid Eisenhower years to the turbulent 1960s.  Albee's plays, with their intensity, their grappling with modern themes, and their experiments in form, startled critics and audiences alike while changing the landscape of American drama (Edward  1). 


Albee was known to have a close relationship with his family members, in particular his maternal grandmother to whom he dedicated the short play The Sandbox.  Albee is praised among the theater community not only for his works as playwright, director and producer but also because of the fact he has worked tirelessly to promote new talent and techniques in American theater.  In recent interviews Albee has attempted to explain his works as naturalistic in addition to complaining about the deterioration of serious theater in America,  "All of my plays are stylized, to one extent or another, but all drama is artifice.  Within those parameters, all of my plays are absolutely naturalistic.  Some are less what the audience expects than others, which is my definition of stylization.  Sure they have, but theater's always been a minority participation, like the string quartet.  Fewer people pay attention to serious theater-forget the dross on Broadway.  It's making theater an obscenely esoteric form" Yes  2).  Albee continues to be an important voice in American theater at the age of 70.  He devotes a great deal of his time and energy to promoting serious theater and drama on the American stage.  He believes that audiences are not filled with imbeciles but all too often they are given few choices between levels of mediocrity.  He continues to create and work toward projects that give them a better choice.  He remains today one of America's most celebrated and influential playwrights and a true friend of the American theater.  As to his own outlook on life, the comments of the dramatist in a recent interview might sum it up, "I find irony in everything" (Yes  3).






Artists Repertory Theater:  Edward Albee. http://www.artistsrep.org/bios/edward_albee.html,  Sept. 29, 1999:  1-2. 


Biographical sketch of Edward Albee. http://tqd.advanced.org/2847/authors/albee.htm,  Sept. 29, 1999:  1. 


Edward Albee. http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~art/albee2.html,  Sept. 29, 1999:  1. 


Yes is better than no:  Interview with Edward Albee. http://hipp.gator.net/3tallalbeeinterview.html,  Sept. 29, 1999:  1-3. 




















Return to 123HelpMe.com