The marriage motif in Edward Albee



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The plays of Edward Albee offer a rich variety of theme and form. One finds in Albee elements of absurdist, ritualistic, metaphysical, naturalistic, satirical, realistic, and surrealistic drama. One discovers also such recurring themes as illusion versus reality, alienation, fun and games, sex, materialism, and dehumanization. The motif of marriage unites the major body of his work, regardless of its form. This study examines the marriage motif in seven of Albee's plays: The Zoo Story, The Sandbox, The American Dream, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Tiny Alice, A Delicate Balance, and Everything in the Garden. In these plays, Albee exposes an institution seeking to perpetuate itself by displaying a mask of respectability to conceal its interior hostility, frustration, and abuse. Having largely been contracted for self-gratifying reasons, matrimony deteriorates into impersonality, ritualism, and depersonalization. This corroding process, vividly intensified through Albee's use of marital mirror images, leads to pernicious competition. Marriage is a battleground, with the martial objective being domination and destruction of self-hood. The brutality of such weapons as sex, alcohol, betrayal, and emasculation exceeds the ferocity of the war.