The fifty-two-year-old wife of a college history professor. Martha defines herself through her "Daddy," the president of the college in the New England town of New Carthage. In her past, after her mother died when Martha was a child, she attended a convent school and young ladies' junior college, where she fell in love with a blue collar gardener and married him on a whim. Her shocked, upstanding father quickly annulled the marriage though it was consummated and brought her home, where she reveled in the power of playing hostess for her widowed father. She chose George, believing he had potential to become the head of the history department and eventually to replace her father as president of the university. George's failure to rise to this position is her biggest disappointment, and she refuses to let her husband see just how much of a disappointment he is to her. Now 52, Martha is a braying, heavy-drinking embarrassment, who seduces new faculty member Nick just to anger George and has no qualms about airing her dirty laundry in front of guests. Martha's decision to share the story of their imaginary son with the guests breaks the unspoken rules of the emotionally cruel games she plays with George and leads to chaos.
Forty-six years old and an acknowledged failure. George is in the history department, though much to Martha's chagrin, he is not the head of the history department. As a teenage boy he may have accidentally shot his mother and accidentally killed his father in a car crash. Or this may be just a fiction he has created. George's professional high-point came during the war when he was left in charge of the department while the other faculty members were serving in the military. Since then, he has written an autobiographical novel, the publication of which was forbidden by Martha's father. Always in the shadow of his father-in-law, whom he calls a great white mouse with red eyes, George plays along with Martha's games. When alone with her, he ignores her as much as possible. But when she launches into a game of Humiliate the Host, exposing his most painful secrets to Nick and Honey, George decides to strike back. Unable to control his wife, George usually retreats into his history books. He makes the biggest power play of his life here, "killing" the imaginary son he shares with Martha, thus punishing her for bringing their illusion into the harsh light of reality.
Nick is thirty years old and blond, a young genius who received his Master's degree at twenty. He grew up in the Midwest with his wife Honey, whom he knew since childhood. Though he initially appears to love his wife, it becomes evident that he married her for her money and because she was pregnant with what turned out to be a hysterical pregnancy. An ambitious new member of the college's biology department, Nick is the golden-haired boy who just might succeed where George failed taking every opportunity offered to him to get ahead, including sex with faculty wives. At first, he acts horrified by George and Martha's antics but soon becomes drawn in. He attempts to sleep with Martha and is proved impotent.
Nick's twenty-six-year-old wife. She's frail and "slim-hipped." Honey is rich, left money by her late evangelist father. She drowns her sorrows in brandy, getting silly and childlike. She suffered a hysterical pregnancy, which led Nick to marry her. While drunk, she confesses to George her fear of the pain of childbirth and of getting pregnant which she is, unbeknownst to Nick, preventing secretly. Drunk and throwing up in the bathroom for most of the play, Honey is the most innocent of all the characters. Her immediate reactions to the chaos around her function as a sort of Greek chorus on George and Martha's marriage.
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
At the start, we become aware of the mechanizations behind George and Martha's marriage. Martha seems to be overly critical, nagging, and extremely unhappy. George, on the other hand, simply acts as if he isn't there. He ignores Martha, he humors...
Edward Albee has said that the song, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" means "Who is afraid to live without illusion?" At the end of the play, Martha says that she is. Indeed, the illusion of their son sustains George and Martha's tempestuous...