Edward Albee: A Great Playwright


Edward Albee is one of the greatest playwrights of America. This prolific playwright is known as the pioneer of ‘The Theatre of the Absurd’. He received several prestigious awards for his literary contribution. He makes the pointlessness and absurdity of the human situation as the central subject matter of his plays. He is known for his biting wit, his mastery of dramatic tension and his grasp of ‘The Theatre of the Absurd’.

Edward Albee is a very popular American playwright who has composed several popular plays. The names of his popular plays are – The Zoo Story, The Sandbox, The American Dream, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, The Lover, A Delicate Balance, All Over, The Man Who Had Three Arms, Finding the Sun, Marriage Play, Seascape, Three Tall Women, The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia, The Ballad of the Sad Café, Tiny Alice, The Play About the Baby, The Death of Bessie Smith, At Home at the Zoo, The Lady from Dubuque, Lolita, Me, Myself and I, Occupant, Fam and Yam, Bartleby, Malcolm, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Everything in the Garden, Box and Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, Listening, Counting the Ways, Walking, Envy, The Lorca Play, Fragments, Knock! Knock! Who is There and Peter and Jerry. But he is best known for his The Zoo Story, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf ? and A Delicate Balance.

His plays established him as a powerful critic of American values. As a playwright he examines the condition of life in modern times. Meaninglessness of life is at the centre of his works. Many critics agree that his plays attempt to show that religious, moral, political and social structures of America have collapsed. Condemnation of brutality, emasculation, social discrepancy and emptiness are recurrent themes of Albee’s plays. His plays exhibit a pervading and overwhelming sense of loss. As a playwright Albee launched fierce attacks on middle- class complacency and hypocrisy and the moral failure of American society.

Time to time Edward Albee changes his style of writing. It moves from naturalistic style to an absurd style and returns back again. Albee has uniquely combined past literary styles in his naturalistic plays. He shifts abruptly into a surrealistic style at times. In some of his plays he moves into a formal style and in some of his plays he attempts a complete fusion of styles. The study of Albee’s plays makes it obvious the he is in search of a suitable style of his own.

Absurdism is an essential part of existential philosophy. In an absurdist story characters grapple with the meaninglessness of their circumstances. They want to find value and meaning. But the world frustrates them. They face alienation. Albee’s characters reflect these harsh realities. Therefore, they appear as fragmented and distorted. Jerry’s tragedy is not just an individual case. He is a universal symbol of the alienated modern man. The characters of Albee hardly make any real communication. Sometimes they keep silent for a long time. Applying such kind of dramatic language, Albee reveals the emptiness and suppression of modern man. Albee fills his plays with symbolic meanings.

In short, Albee’s characterization, symbolism and language are suitable to show the meaninglessness of life.


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