1000 Books In 10 Years; Vol. 73: Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, by Edward Albee

Edward’s Albee’s classic three act, one setting play explores the epilogue to the classic comedy. Where in most comedies we see the courting of one or more women that leads to the culmination of marriage, we never actually get to spend time examining the marriage. And Albee does exactly that, illustrating that whilst most comedies put on the heirs of a happy ending, those fleeting moments of joy are really the entry way into a relationship that will get tired and bitter and vengeful and cruel. Perhaps not outwardly the most optimistic of attitudes, but there is within the play underlying optimism. Yes, we are cruel to those who love us most because they are they only ones who will put up with it, but at the same time, there are people who will love us unconditionally despite our blatant shortcomings. People who, whilst not perfect themselves, will still tolerate us at our very worse and forgive us our petty outrages.

 

The play, for those who aren’t familiar with its content, is about a middle-aged and middle-class couple (he is a professor, she is the daughter the school’s patriarch), who after a party thrown for the university’s faculty, invite a young couple who are new to the university to their place for drinks afterward. Hilarity ensues. What follows is a test of endurance between two warriors and a warning to the young couple of what to expect as complacency and age settle into a relationship. Whilst the young man of the two sees the scenario as an uncomfortable glimpse into an unhealthy relationship, with himself and himself as the clear superior, he finds by the end of the play that he is an emasculated pawn, or worse mark. The younger wife, though seemingly naïve, is the only one to come off unscathed, whilst certain revelations illustrate that she is not nearly as naïve as she seems at first, and far more empowered, while the middle-aged couple, though vulgar, and cruel at times, seem playful and even at times seem to have genuine compassion for each other. The play reminds me of an Alden Nowlan poem I once read which noted (and I paraphrase): Thirty years they’ve been married, and never once has he thought to kill her, which means, he likes he sure enough, but it isn’t love.

Rambler About Rambler

Jason John Horn is a writer and critic who recently completed his Master's in English Literature at the University of Windsor. He has composed a play, a novella and a number of short stories and satirical essays.

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