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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. 20 July 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 July 20, 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 July 20, 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 July 20, 2017, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Whos-Afraid-of-Virginia-Woolf/.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? | Act 2, Walpurgisnacht (Section 6) | Summary

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Summary

Honey is still sprawled on the bathroom floor. George tells Martha to entertain their guests, and he leaves the room to get ice. Martha and Nick are left on the stage alone. Martha begins seducing Nick, touching his leg suggestively, blowing him a kiss, and putting her hand between his thighs. George returns to the living room, sees Nick touching Martha's breast, and sings "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Holding the ice, George says, "Ice for the lamps of China, Manchuria thrown in." George turns to Nick and says, "You better watch those yellow bastards, my love ... they aren't amused."

George looks at the drinking glass and says that Martha has been "nibbling" on it. He says that he is going to read awhile. Martha tells George to stop reading, as it is 4:00 in the morning. She demands that George pay attention to her or she will take Nick upstairs. Nick and Martha kiss as she teases George by saying that she is entertaining one of their guests. She brushes into the door chimes and they ring. With great disgust, Nick says that he has no respect for George. Surprised that Nick would criticize him, George says, "Because you're going to hump Martha, I'm disgusting?"

Close to tears, Martha again demands that George pay attention to her. In a fury Martha says that she will make George regret that he ever came to the college and married her. She leaves and George returns to his book, reading about the fall of Western civilization.

Analysis

In the context of the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, a large region in northeastern Asia, George uses an insulting phrase for Japanese people. The Japanese invaded Manchuria in 1931 and set up a puppet state called Manchukuo, which lasted until the end of World War II. George makes his comment just after he has seen Nick put his hand on Martha's breast. Instead of reacting with anger, George makes an obscure political reference, which underscores his impotence. Rather than taking appropriate action, George is reduced to showing off his knowledge, reinforcing his weakness.

As she is seducing Nick, Martha demands that George pay attention to her. She is close to tears because George ignores her and pretends to read. Martha's actions reveal that she seduces Nick to annoy George and to get him to pay more attention to her. When George fails to respond as Martha wants, she storms from the room in anger and powerlessness. Chalk up this round for George.

As he and Martha fight, George is reading about the "crippling alliances" of the West, which is doomed to fail because it is burdened with a "morality too rigid to accommodate itself to the swing of events." The passage is a thinly disguised reference to George and Martha's marriage, whose "crippling alliance" has caused them untold misery. Will their marriage fail? The audience wonders whether Martha's seduction of Nick will lead to divorce.

One of the most important parts of this play is the stage directions. Written in italics and enclosed in parentheses, the stage directions provide valuable information for the actors, showing, for example, how they should move around the stage. The stage directions also help readers grasp subtle shades of behavior and motivation. In this section the stage directions indicate that George is "outwardly calm." This reveals that he is inwardly seething with anger at Martha's behavior. The directions also tell George to "hurl the book at the chimes," which reveals his fury. Stage directions are also used to alert actors when to make their entrances and exits. This section ends with a stage direction that signals Honey's entrance.

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