"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" is a play by Edward Albee which alludes to the English novelist and critic Virginia Woolf, but has nothing to do with her. It is the first of Albee's three-act dramas, and the most admired.
The play begins at two in the morning when the George and Martha return from a faculty tea party hosted by Martha's father, the president of New England College. Both of them have had too much to drink. Then George finds out that Martha has invited a couple over. Their guests arrive, a younger couple, Nick, a colleague, and his wife, Honey.
The true identity of each character is revealed as the play progresses. George is a history professor at a small New England college and his wife Martha, six years younger, is the daughter of the college president. Honey seems to be the nervous type and acts with jitters. She is slim and plain looking.
George and Martha involve the younger couple in the verbal abuse that seems to be a nightly ritual with them. At first Nick and Honey are taken aback by such display of behaviour from their hosts, eventually, they join in the game playing and continuous manipulation from Marta and George. Later, Honey drinks too much and not use to it, becomes ill.
The sexuality of all four characters is put on the spot, and under the influence of alcohol, they all divulge their individual secrets. George is constantly having difficulty being married to a charlatan and loud-mouthed president's daughter, while Martha is annoyed at her husband's incompetence of always compares him to her father. Martha even compares him later to Nick.
On the other hand, Nick is unhappy feeling that he has been tricked into marrying Honey and especially when she suffered a difficult pregnancy. As a result, their marriage is passionless.
After too much to drink, Martha discloses a secret to Honey, that George and her have created an imaginary son if only to keep the family tie that binds between them. George is shocked that Martha should reveal such personal secret.
Likewise, Nick and Honey, also aired their empty relationship, that he married Honey for her father's wealth, besides Honey doesn't want a baby, she takes birth control pills, that's why she's often sick.
Martha's continuous provocation of George in which he turns a deaf ear gets her so irritated that she tries to further provoke George by seducing Nick.
Eventually, towards the end of the play, they are all transformed to renounce their world of illusion and deceptions they themselves have created. The symbolic gesture starts with George declaring the "death" of his child. Martha has no choice but to accept this. George also points out the deficiencies in the relationship of Nick and Honey. A symbol of another positive result is that for the first time, Honey, expresses her desire to have a baby.
By this time, it's dawn of the next day. If reality indeed frightens Martha ("Who is Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"), softly, George sings the play's title as a lullaby, an acknowledgment of their illusions and mortal feelings of compassion.
The 1966 Film adaptation star Elizabeth Taylor (Martha), Richard Burton (George), George Segal (Nick), and Sandy Dennis (Honey).