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Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Edward Albee

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Course Hero. "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Study Guide." Course Hero. 28 July 2016. Web. 16 Jan. 2017. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Whos-Afraid-of-Virginia-Woolf/>.

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Course Hero. (2016, July 28). Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved January 16, 2017, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Whos-Afraid-of-Virginia-Woolf/

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Course Hero. "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Study Guide." July 28, 2016. Accessed January 16, 2017. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Whos-Afraid-of-Virginia-Woolf/.

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Course Hero, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Study Guide," July 28, 2016, accessed January 16, 2017, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Whos-Afraid-of-Virginia-Woolf/.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? | Act 2, Walpurgisnacht (Section 4) | Summary
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Summary

Honey asks George to pour her some brandy. Nick wants her to stop drinking because she is drunk and has been vomiting. Martha comments that George used to drink bergin, and George sharply tells her, "Shut up!" Martha asks Nick if George told him all about how he would have been a success if it were not for her father. Nick tries to escalate their fight by asking about George's book. George asks Martha to stop talking about his book.

Honey suggests that they dance. While George and Martha argue over who is going to dance with whom, Honey dances alone. Martha calls George a "son of a bitch" when he turns off the music. Honey is annoyed at Nick and wants him to leave her alone. George calls Honey "angel-tits" and asks her if she wants to dance with him, which annoys Nick. Honey refuses to dance if she can't dance the way she wants.

Martha puts on a slow jazz tune and she and Nick dance in a sexy way. Martha once again brings up George's novel, saying that her father stopped its publication because he found it shocking. George screams at Martha to stop talking about the book, but she keeps on talking. He turns off the music, ripping the record from the record player. The violence delights Honey. Martha says that her father threatened to fire George if he published his novel. Nick and Honey mock George too. George screams, "THE GAME IS OVER!" Nick remembers the story George told about the boy who killed his parents. When Martha says the story actually happened to George, George throttles her. Nick separates George and Martha. Martha calls George "Murderer." George says they will now play a new game called "Hump the Hostess."

Analysis

The sexy dancing between Martha and Nick leads into the seduction scene, with Martha seducing Nick in the game George calls "Hump the Hostess." His language is crude, intended to shock the audience. The language accomplished Albee's aim, as the play has run into issues with censors over the years. When the play opened in 1962, Albee's language was considered very vulgar.

George's book may be real or illusory, furthering the theme of reality versus illusion. Nor does the audience know if the story of the boy who killed his parents is George's own story. Regardless, George's novel has the same symbolism as George and Martha's son: the failure to create something for the future, a legacy. George and Martha cannot create a future because they are trapped in an endless cycle of the present. Therefore, their argument itself doesn't matter: they could be arguing about politicians, the weather, or the price of tea in China. What matters is the way in which they argue with each other, how they treat each other.

When George screams, "THE GAME IS OVER!" he becomes the Master of Ceremonies and asserts control over a situation that has spiraled out of control. He is trying to assert his manhood, especially when he says it is time to play "Hump the Hostess." Martha usually calls the shots in their marriage and their fighting, as she has more power than George, due to her forceful personality and status as the college president's daughter. This scene again shows the power struggle between George and Martha, which defines their marriage.

At the time in which the play is set (1960s), some records, called 45s, had only two songs (one on each side of the disc), while others, called LPs or 33s, were collections of songs called albums. The records were played on record players, which had an arm that held a needle. The needle fit into the grooves on the record to produce the sound. Ripping the record off the record player, as George does, would have scratched the record, rendering it unplayable. The scratching makes a dramatic sound, which would have shocked the audience and actors, stopping the action. Likely, many people in the audience would be upset by the destruction of a record in this fashion—the dramatic effect Albee wants to create. This is another example of Albee's mastery of stagecraft, using objects and sound (among other effects) to create drama and keep the audience on the edge of their seats.

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