Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? | Study Guide

Edward Albee

Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Study Guide." Course Hero. 28 July 2016. Web. 13 Dec. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Whos-Afraid-of-Virginia-Woolf/>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2016, July 28). Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved December 13, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Whos-Afraid-of-Virginia-Woolf/

In text

(Course Hero, 2016)



Course Hero. "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Study Guide." July 28, 2016. Accessed December 13, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Whos-Afraid-of-Virginia-Woolf/.


Course Hero, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Study Guide," July 28, 2016, accessed December 13, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Whos-Afraid-of-Virginia-Woolf/.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? | Context


Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? premiered in 1962. At the time the United States was still largely experiencing the idealism and prosperity that characterized the post–World War II years. However, some events hinted at the unrest to come in the late 1960s. The same year that Albee's play debuted, for example, the desegregation of the University of Mississippi led to riots, inaugurating the civil rights movement that characterized the decade.

The Cold War

In Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Albee links the viciously bitter marriage of George and Martha to Cold War America. At the end of World War II (1945), the United States and the Soviet Union (now Russia) became the two superpowers in the world. Military and political tension built up between these countries as they built alliances and stockpiled armaments (including nuclear bombs) in a quest for world supremacy. Rather than battles, the two sides competed in psychological warfare, propaganda, spying, the space race, and athletics. This created a great deal of fear and tension on both sides, which is reflected in the mood between George and Martha. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 signaled the beginning of the end of the Cold War. It formally ended in 1991 when the Soviet Union dissolved.

The Theatre of the Absurd

Albee was a chief proponent of the Theatre of the Absurd, a genre that flourished in the 1950s and 1960s, when Albee was establishing himself as a playwright of importance. In addition to Albee, playwrights of the Theatre of the Absurd included Samuel Beckett (1906?–89), Eugène Ionesco (1909–94), and Vaclav Havel (1936–2011), among others. These playwrights held a pessimistic view of human existence, believing that life has no discernible, cohesive purpose. As a result communication sometimes became meaningless. Absurdist playwrights used these ideas to inform their plays and create their structures ... or lack thereof.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!