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Examine the idea of games and rituals in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

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Introduction

Examine the idea of games and rituals in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf is a play about the emptiness that comes with regarding a material lifestyle as a fulfilling one, and the cruelty associated with people who suffer from a lack of more spiritually rewarding pursuits. For example Martha and George's inability to have children, and her corresponding harsh comments to George on the subject of their son, "who could not tolerate the shabby failure his father had become". The games and rituals George and Martha are so obsessed with are in many ways an outlet for raw emotion they cannot vent in more meaningful ways, Martha simply a woman with too much time and George a 'bogged down' History lecturer. However, the games George and Martha play often serve to reinforce the love in their marriage - the ability to simply allow these comments to run off shows how comfortable they are with one another. These games mean clich�d demonstrations of cute affection are not required to show their love, which would in some ways romanticise the play, and cut through the true nature of their relationship. ...read more.

Middle

For example George and Nick, the old and the new, the professor of the future of science and the professor of history, have a reasonably long 'debate', a form of game. It has connotations of the knowledge learnt from the past overriding the more 'here and now' approach, another concealed message that there are things to be learnt from the past. However the rituals are more solid and planned, as with the rituals associated with the church they have a purpose, a meaning - they're symbolic. Games keep you occupied momentarily, but the rituals have an affect on your attitude to life. The rituals that Albee presents are very much simply a more dramatic and emotive effect than any games do. They give deep insight to the true nature of the characters, that cannot be judged purely on face value. It is Martha's ritualistic, rehearsed account of her son that provokes Honey's reaction of, "I want a baby!", which in some respects relieves previous anxiety she would have suffered from over her indecision i.e. the proposed abortions. The most moving and important ritual of the play, the final Requiem Mass, relives all of the tension caused by the bitter conflict. ...read more.

Conclusion

For example Martha's accusation of 'Phrasemaker', an idea we see so often throughout the play, with finishing each other's sentences,that they even do it to their guests; "Nick: actually, she's very frail and ... George: Slim-hipped". A prime example of the poisoning affect of the Games Martha and George's relationship revolves around is that they seem to forget others aren't familiar with the barrage of insults, that often appear intentionally offensive, "Nick: I try not to ... George: Get involved." The games and rituals serve the purpose of revealing things about characters we may have previously been unaware of, and build great amounts of tension that keep the audience enthralled. However, Albee has also used them to give structure to an otherwise talking-based play. The games add an erratic element, in the idea that it is a contest to be one. People arguing can just seem relentlessly stressful, which admittedly at times Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf is, but by presenting them in this way Albee turns it into a spectator sport. Albee achieves realistic conflict and tension, but simultaneously intersperses the human arguments with the more surreal and metaphorical sections of the play. The overall message created can be as awakening to the audience as it has been to some of the characters. ...read more.

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