Study Guide

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Plot Analysis

By Edward Albee

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Plot Analysis

Initial Situation

George and Martha are trapped in a bitter world of illusion.

We begin with two people who have been trying to tear each other down for years. They hide behind illusions – like their imaginary son – to make it through the bitterness that is their lives.


Nick and Honey arrive. The shattering of illusions begins.

George and Martha drag their young guests into their verbal warfare. As the battle of wills rages, illusions begin to crack. Social niceties soon fall by the wayside and the characters' ugliness is on full display.


Martha attempts to sleep with Nick.

When Martha goes upstairs with Nick it's the really the last straw for George. Though he acts like he doesn't care, it drives him toward his climactic action.


The Exorcism.

After the loss of many battles, George finally wins his war with Martha. When he "kills" their imaginary son and exposes him as an illusion, his wife's will to fight finally seems broken.



There's no time for more suspense as the play immediately begins heading into its falling action.


The guests leave; Martha begs.

The play draws to a close as Nick and Honey take their leave. Martha makes one last effort to convince George that they should "give birth" to their son again. He refuses.


George and Martha begin to live with no illusions.

At the play's final moment George and Martha are left alone together, stripped of all illusions. They have nothing but the cold hard reality of their existence to comfort them. In a strange way, they seem to be closer to each other than they've been for the entire play.

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