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Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee American Theatre, week eight Revolution and apocalypse.

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Presentation on theme: "Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee American Theatre, week eight Revolution and apocalypse."— Presentation transcript:

1 Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee American Theatre, week eight Revolution and apocalypse

2 Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  Revolution and experimentation  Theatrical innovation  Americanness and apocalypse  Politics  Society’s collapse  Sources and influences  O’Neill, Miller, Williams

3 Revolution ‘I am basically concerned with the health of my own society […] I have always thought of the United States as a revolutionary society and our revolution is supposed to be a continuing one, one of the very few slow revolutions that is not bogged down in bureaucracy and totalitarianism.’ (Albee, in an interview with Christopher Bigsby, 1980s.)

4 ‘Libera Me’ (a translation of the Latin that George speaks towards the end of the play) Deliver me, O Lord, from death eternal on that fearful day, when the heavens and the earth shall be moved, when thou shalt come to judge the world by fire. I am made to tremble, and I fear, till the judgment be upon us, and the coming wrath, when the heavens and the earth shall be moved. That day, day of wrath, calamity, and misery, day of great and exceeding bitterness, when thou shalt come to judge the world by fire. Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord: and let light perpetual shine upon them.

5 George and Martha Washington

6 [L]et every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty. (Quoted in Hugh Brogan, The Penguin History of America, 2nd edn. (London: Penguin, 1999), pp ) John F. Kennedy delivering his inaugural address, 20 January, 1961

7 ‘[h]is brilliantly articulate calls for a reinvigorated liberal humanism, his dramatic parables of the need for the restoration of human values on a public and private level, struck just the right note for the Kennedy years, as did his hints of a threatening apocalypse.’ (Christopher Bigsby, A Critical Introduction to Twentieth-Century American Drama, Volume Two: Williams/Miller/Albee, p.327.) Albee and his time

8 MARTHA: I don’t suppose, maybe, we could… GEORGE: No, Martha. MARTHA: Yes. No. GEORGE: Are you all right? MARTHA: Yes. No. (‘The Exorcism’, p.140, Penguin edn.)

9 Language concerns  Covering things up, use of subtext  Storytelling (true/false)  Destruction  Game playing  Humour  Control  Language taking place of action  Language forming individual worlds between characters  Anecdotes  Use of stage directions, italics

10  What roles do truth and illusion have in the play? Consider how Albee employs ideas about truth and/or illusion in one section (but not ‘The Exorcism’).  ‘[T]he health of a nation, a society, can be determined by the art it demands. We have insisted of television and our movies that they not have anything to do with anything, that they be our never-never land; and if we demand this same function of our live theatre, what will be left of the visual-auditory arts--save the dance (in which nobody talks) and music (to which nobody listens)?’ (Edward Albee, ‘Which Theatre is the Absurd One?’, New York Times, February 25, See wiki for a link to this article.)  What is Albee’s message in this quotation?  In what ways does Albee attempt to challenge his audience in Virginia Woolf?  What do you think Albee is criticizing in the play? Things to consider

11 ‘The Exorcism’  Why must George kill the boy?  What effect do you think the evening is likely to have upon Nick and Honey?  Look closely at the final section, from ‘GEORGE: I’M RUNNING THIS SHOW!’ to the end of the play.  How does Albee use humour in this section?  Is there optimism to be found in the final section of the play?


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