Topic: Explore the theme of religion in the play.
Whos afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a play written in 1962 by the American playwright Edward Albee. The title sets the tone of the play, with on one side the intellect and the drama with Virginia Woolf who was a famous writer who committed suicide. And on the other hand, a childish atmosphere with the allegory of the nursery rime whos afraid of the big bad wolf. As a result, whos afraid of Virginia Woolf offers a great deal of emotions. During the 1950s, world was almost exclusively seen through films, with an idealised perfect life. It is partly why Albee wrote this play, to offer what he thought as being a real vision of the world. In a dark tensed historical and political context, since whos afraid of Virginia Woolf was published during the cold war; Albee focuses his interest on an insight of the real American way of life. Moreover, the theatre of the absurd has widely influenced his writing. Living in a deeply religious, country and historical period, Albee uses the theme of religion all along in the play. As a consequence, we will explore the theme of religion and understand how it is linked to each character.
In whos afraid of Virginia Woolf, Nick is linked to religion explicitly with his sayings but as well implicitly. As all good American citizens of the 50s-60, everything he decides, does, must respect the catholic traditions. For example, when he believes Honey to be pregnant, he immediately decides to marry her; otherwise he wouldnt have been respected in some community. As a result, his motivations for a greater social status would have been compromised. Albee used this example to show the over importance of religion in every American family.
Nick could also be related to religion through his marriage with Honey. Indeed, Nick, who is a very ambitious man, confesses to George that he hasnt married Honey for her looks nor her intellectual capacities since shes qualified has being a plain young woman in the character presentation. In fact, we learn that Honeys father was a rich man of god who, when he died gave his fortune to his daughter. Consequently, by marrying Nick, Honey shared her fathers money with him.
Albees decision of giving the name Nick to one of his characters wasnt a random choice. Indeed, Nicks name has a polysemous function in the play. It doesnt only echo to the Russian politician Nikita Khruschev, it also has religious implications. In fact, Nick recalls Old Nick which is a different way of saying the devil. This allegory of Satan could imply that Nick is going to disturb peace, harmony and represent a threat for the couple Martha/George, and especially in the second act.
Moreover, Nicks name has a direct implication in the title of the second act: Walpurgisnacht. Indeed, Walpurgisnacht is a religious allusion to a satanic event, in which witches meet.
Even if Nick tries to give an appearance of the perfect husband who respects religion, the reasons for his marriage, what implies his name and the fact that hes a scientist, go against this idealised vision of him.
Honey is, like said previously the daughter of a rich preach, which mean shes directly linked to religion. But, as a matter of fact, it is said that he won this fortune in a quite suspicious way. This direct attack of Albee towards religion underlines his negative feelings and vision of religion. In my opinion, we can link Honey, and George and Marthas son. They can both be an allegory of Jesus. Indeed, the son is refered to as a poor lamb, which makes of him a Christ symbol since Jesus was also called the Lamb of God. Moreover, Jesus was sacrificed to save mankind, whereas the son is killed to save George and Marthas marriage.
Like Jesus, who endured all the harm so that humanity remains unwounded, it seems that Honey takes everything to her account during the multiple fights between the protagonists. As well as in the Christ passion, Honey is tortured. As a result she cries, drinks, vomits
Honey is the character who suffered the most during the play; (even if at the end Martha loses her imaginary son), Honey can barely breath when she assists to the sons death. It is why we can compare her to a Christian martyr.
Through the play, George is often linked with the religion theme; furthermore, he uses religious sentences to counter Martha.
In the second act, he refers to Martha as being the devil or Satan: satanic beach. With Nick, George can be compared to worshippers who adore Martha as if she was a goddess.
The fact that George is the host, refers to, his role as master of ceremonies and to the manifestation of the body of Christ who performs an exorcism. The doorbells chimes which sound at the end of the second act can be akin to the chimes that sound during a catholic mass. It could be interpreted as the transformation of George, the host into the manifestation of the body of Christ. It represents an important moment of progress in this black mass since it is the prelude of it. Indeed, George shortly after starts chanting the requiem from Catholic liturgy which introduces the killing of his son, fallowed by the exorcising of his marriage. As a matter of fact, the title of the third act refers to this event since it is: The Exorcism. At one point, George calls his Exorcism an Easter pageant, which recalls the day Jesus was sacrificed to save the world. The fact that George has the power to kill his son makes him seem as if he was some sort of god or that he possesses an upper force.
It is thanks to religious arguments and acting that George succeeded in the fall of Martha since at the end, Martha is completely dejected.
Martha is, with no doubt, the character who is the most rooted in the theme of religion.
In the first act, Martha claims to be an atheist, and the only true pagan on the eastern seaboard, which could be confirmed by multiple events. For instance, when is mentioned the painting of Marthas breasts as part of a ritual, we understand that she has a primitive religious view. She considers her self as the Earth Mother, like in the African matriarchal communities. It is confirmed when she says that shes the one wearing the pants in this house.
Moreover, Martha constantly uses swear words which refer to God or Jesus, as God damn or Jesus Christ which is ones again a proof of her total disrespect for the catholic religion.
The first act, entitled Fun and Games has a pagan religious significance, which is almost exclusively due to Marthas behaviour by drinking, charming, swearing
The American values and beliefs that were so important in the 60s are, especially for Martha but also for the characters, confused and seem to even have been abandoned.
We saw previously that Martha was the central focus of two worshippers, George and Nick. But in fact, all men are blinded by her divine character. She controls men with language, with her choice of words, of voice It is why it seems that she celebrates sexuality almost religiously, as if she was sent by god to give happiness to men.