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Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf explores the more realist notions of relationships, the declining state of America and the illusion that is The American Dream; namely the effect trying to fulfil this dream has on people's lives.

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Introduction

Read the extract from Act Three. Comment in some detail on the linguistic and theatrical effects Albee creates in this passage showing how he manipulates the response of characters and audience. This passage is a fine example of Albee's dramatic techniques that elevate his plays from the typical Broadway productions of the time that Albee complained were simply, "A reaffirmation of the audience's values, for those who wanted reminding of the status quo". Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf explores the more realist notions of relationships, the declining state of America and the illusion that is The American Dream; namely the effect trying to fulfil this dream has on people's lives. This passage begins with George's sober recital tones contrasting with Martha's innocent reminiscing of her fabricated Son's early years; she is positively jovial despite the nature of the story, suggesting the happiness the child has brought George and Martha was once great. Martha's mood is in great contrast to the majority of the play, and she displays a natural, almost maternal kindness we had not previously seen. ...read more.

Middle

George's mocking retort, "[making a sign]: Dominus vobiscum" Martha's tone outside the reminiscing is as usual, cutting and cruel comments towards George, but there are more elements of depression, "A drowning man takes down those nearest". Up until this passage Martha had at least found enjoyment in parading her sharp tongue, although she does maintain her aggressive stance on matters, "God how I fought him", much like the boxing match. Martha ventures into what was previously considered to be more George's territory - an intellectual political attack on George's irrelevance, and George seizes the moment to begin to dominate the argument. Martha quickly folds, and reveals her true instability to the room, "He is fine, everything is fine." She tries to break the discussion of the son in order to stop herself from being exposed in front of the guests, but George reverts to a consistent idea throughout the play. As with many previous arguments, one of the two will begin a personal attack by disassociating themselves from the couple that is George and Martha, "You see, Martha, here ...". ...read more.

Conclusion

The speech in which George and Martha talk over one another is a very strange theatrical moment, and needs to be executed precisely to work, but succeeds in conveying Martha's confusion - she is saying things to George that they both know are completely untrue in order to show George the error in his ways. Amazingly moving to watch, it holds no water on paper. Although, the simultaneous start and finish displays an incredible sense of unity, even though Martha is balling her heart out, distressed, while George nonchalantly chants in Latin - despite the absurdity of the scene it is astonishingly personal, mainly because of the intensity of Martha's speech. The play very much separates itself from the Broadway productions of the era, due to its realistic nature and bold approach towards offending the audience. As Albee said himself, he would be 'disappointed if the play did not offend: it's supposed to'. But these factors are just baggage that come with the absurdist genre of the play, a series of bizarre events paired with a realistic dialogue that entangles the audience in regularity of the set versus the peculiar, objectionable behaviour of the characters, that contrasts so beautifully with the drawing-room comedies of the period. ...read more.

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