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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf – the text

Albee’s first job was writing continuity dialogue for a radio station. After leaving home to settle in Greenwich Village he held a variety of jobs – including three years as a Western Union messenger. The jobs supplemented a trust from his grandmother and were chosen because they were dead ends and would not interfere with his writing.

Truth versus illusion. Reality versus fantasy. These were Albee’s themes, questions which crop up again and again in modern drama and fiction. He has described his work as taking a stand against the fiction that everything in this slipping land of ours is peachy-keen.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is, simultaneously, an investigation into a marriage and a metaphor for contemporary America, or perhaps for the whole of modern western democracy.

I was in there having a beer one night, and I saw “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” scrawled in soap, I suppose, on this mirror. When I started to write the play it cropped up in my mind again. And of course, who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf means who’s afraid of the big bad wolf . . . who’s afraid of living life without false illusions. And it did strike me as being a rather typical, university intellectual joke. — Edward Albee

I’ve been reading the script because we’re going to see the production at Manchester’s Royal Exchange tomorrow, and I didn’t want to hit the theatre cold.


Go here to listen to Albee talking about the execution, at the age of 37, of Spain’s greatest poet and playwright.

4 Responses to “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf – the text”

  1. I wonder if false illusions aren’t necessary sometimes, John…if only for a fleeting moment so as to keep a troubled soul peaceful and the breathing nice and easy. As long as reality is immediately discerned and the 2 not mixed-up.
    Just a thought. 🙂

    jb says: Absolutely, Susan. That’s what is so fascinating about the subject. Please don’t take my illusions away, I’d be lost without them.

  2. anne says:

    So what did you think of the production? I remember seeing the Uta Hagen original when I was a child, and then the Liz Taylor film was shot at my college (though not when I was there), then I saw another version at a summer theater. It’s always been quite over the top and yet deeply moving. How about yours?

    jb says: Deeply moving, yes. And it certainly made me think. I’ll post something about it tomorrow.

  3. Stephen Maxam says:

    Being 64 and without children, I know what George and Martha felt in that regard, anyway.
    George, I guess, felt that the illusion of having a child was keeping the pain of not having one alive and destructive despite the feelings of parental love that were acted out.
    This story is one of the deepest love stories I have ever encountered.
    I have known a few people who had marriages like this. I spent many drunken weekends with two of them and their son, who was my age. This was during the time of this film in the sixties and the son, who was a poet, turned me onto it.

  4. California Summer Camps says:

    False illusions are just a fiction of one’s imagination. Who is to really say what is true to someone that is an illusion to you, and what is not an illusion to someone that seems like to you. Who’s afraid of Virginia Wolf is a fantastic story that is very well planned and mapped out. I have always enjoyed it in every form… book, movie, play, production, etc. Love them all.