[[quoteright:350:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/Whos_Afraid_of_Virginia_Woolf_poster_5318.jpg]]

->''"I swear, if you existed, I'd divorce you."''
-->--'''Martha'''

A classic 1963 play by Edward Albee, which in turn spawned a classic 1966 film directed by MikeNichols and starring Creator/RichardBurton and Creator/ElizabethTaylor.

This character study follows George, a "boring" middle-aged history professor at a small [[HollywoodNewEngland New England]] college, and his caustic, abusive wife Martha. They invite another, younger professor, Nick, and his meek and mousy wife, Honey, into their home one very drunken very early morning. The older couple verbally spars in front of their guests, and then gradually turns their abuse -- and lust -- onto them.

----
!!Tropes:

* {{Absurdism}}: A notable American entry in the Theatre of the Absurd.
* TheAlcoholic: Everyone.
* AuthorAvatar. According to the WordOfGod, George is more or less based on Edward Albee's life.
* AwLookTheyReallyDoLoveEachOther: [[MindScrew Or possibly]] don't, depending on which [[AlternativeCharacterInterpretation aspects of the characters' personae]] you believe.
* BetaCouple: Majorly deconstructed with Nick and Honey.
* BigNo:
-->'''George''': [[spoiler: Our son is ''dead'', just like that!]] How does that make you feel?
-->'''Martha''': '''''NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!'''''
* ButLiquorIsQuicker: Although it turns out Nick doesn't need a great deal of encouragement.
* CatScare: George's umbrella.
* ContentWarnings: An example that predates the American film rating system. The poster's TagLine ("You are cordially invited to George and Martha's for an evening of fun and games*") was followed by this footnote: "*Important Exception: No one under 18 will be admitted unless accompanied by his parent." According to Website/IMDb, the film has a rating equivalent to PG-13 or R in most countries.
* DeadpanSnarker: George, frequently.
* DidTheyOrDidntThey: Martha seems to be disappointed when she comes back down from the bedroom. The conversation she has with George later implies that [[spoiler:Nick was ultimately unable to "perform"]].
* DomesticAbuse: Take a guess.
* DrunkDriver: In the film adaptation. First George[[note]]Given Richard Burton's history with alcohol, that's a hell of a RealitySubtext.[[/note]] and later Martha, who nearly ends up parking the car inside their house.
-->'''George''': Not my fault, the road should've been straight.
* FirstLawOfTragicomedies. Averted, since the humor is biting and sarcastic.
* {{Foreshadowing}}: George drops plenty of hints to Nick that [[spoiler: their child doesn't exist]] but he's too drunk to notice.
* GoodGirlsAvoidAbortion: [[spoiler: Subverted. It is implied that the sweet, fragile Honey secretly aborts any children she and her husband have conceived because she doesn't want children.]]
* HappyMarriageCharade: Jury's still out on which of the two couples has the shakier marriage. However, while George and Martha may be unable to communicate using anything other than insults and verbal abuse, they make no pretence to having a happy marriage (and yet are probably too dependent on each other emotionally to seriously consider divorcing); it is Nick and Honey who have the happy marriage charade, Nick having married Honey mostly for her father's money (her pregnancy was a convenient excuse) and Honey being implied to have [[spoiler:aborted the baby after marrying Nick]].
* HenpeckedHusband: At first George appears to be this in relation to Martha.
* HypocriticalHumor: When George and Martha try to find out where the "What a dump" line comes from, George suggests ''Chicago''. Martha responds: "Don't you know anything? ''Chicago'' was a '30s musical starring little Miss Alice Faye. Don't you know anything?" The film she's talking about is actually called ''In Old Chicago''.
* IncurableCoughOfDeath: An AvertedTrope. Characters in the film adaptation frequently cough, but it doesn't portend anything.
* IronicEcho: "I am, George. I am."
* LadyDrunk: Martha. Heavily implied to be Honey's future.
* TheLoinsSleepTonight: Nick turns out to be "a flop."
* LonelyTogether
* LuckyTranslation: The German version still has the boy in George's story asking for "whiskey"... only in German, it sounds exactly the same as the word for "wanky". It makes the story George tells just a little bit funnier.
* TheMasochismTango: George and Martha.
* MediationBackfire: There are hints that George and Martha deliberately invoke this trope in order to have something to bond over (i.e., abusing others instead of one another).
* MindScrew: How on Earth did two whack-jobs ever produce a son who is the embodiment of perfection? [[spoiler: He didn't exist. He was totally fake, a story made-up for Martha and George so that they could feel like they had something.]] Lucky for him.
* {{Minimalism}}: The play has one location, four characters and is in RealTime. The movie added a few outside locations and two bit parts.
* MinimalistCast
* MistakenForPregnant: [[spoiler: Honey]], charitably interpreted.
* MoralGuardians: The film version helped weaken film censorship after MPAA-president Jack Valenti ordered ''minimal'' dialogue cuts to the already-profane script.
* NoNameGiven:
** "Honey" is just Nick's pet name for his wife, she's never given an actual name in-story.
** The last names of George, Martha and Nick are not given. And Nick's '''first''' name is never spoken on stage (though obviously it's in the program and can be deduced by whittling down the MinimalistCast).
* NotSoDifferent: At first the two couples seem very dissimilar, but as the evening wears on we see the same traits emerging from both.
* ParlorGames
-->'''George:''' Well that's one game. What shall we do now? Come on, I mean, let's think of something else. We've played Humiliate the Host - we can't do that one. What should we do now?...Let's see, there are other games, how about uh, how about Hump the Hostess huh?...OK, I know what we do. Now that we're through with Humiliate the Host...and we don't want to play Hump the Hostess yet...how about a little round of Get the Guests?
* PickOnSomeoneYourOwnSize: Martha's initial reaction to George turning on Nick is to accuse him of "[[UnfortunateImplications pygmy]] [[UnusualDysphemism hunting]]".
* PunBasedTitle: An obvious play on "[[Disney/ThreeLittlePigs Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?]]" Albee put "Virginia Woolf" in the title in place of "Big Bad Wolf" because he was afraid of copyright infringement. It also adds to the concept of absurdism throughout the play.
* SelfMadeOrphan: [[spoiler: George]], though not intentionally.
* ShadowArchetype: George and Martha put on vivid display the conflicts that Honey and Nick try to keep submerged
* ShoutOut: To ''Theatre/AStreetcarNamedDesire''.
** Martha quotes a line ("What a dump!") from the BetteDavis movie ''BeyondTheForest'' (but she can't remember the title) which is mainly remembered for this reference. Made funnier by the fact that the in the initial casting for the film, BetteDavis herself was slated to play Martha.
** Plus the obvious reference to Creator/VirginiaWoolf in the title.
** The work itself also receives some shout outs in random, unexpected places, including a children's book series about a pair of hippos, and George and Martha being the name of of LittleLulu's parents. (And, of course, George & Martha Washington, the Father & Mother of the country.)
* SpeechCentricWork
* ThatCameOutWrong: Nick and George talking about the campus pasttime of "musical beds". Miraculously, [[ItMakesSenseInContext given the conversation preceding it and the drunkenness of the participants]], it doesn't come across as quite so hilariously offensive.
-->'''George''': Now that's it! You can take over a few classes from the older men, but until you start plowing pertinent wives, you really aren't working. The broad, inviting avenue to man's job is through his wife, and don't you forget it.
-->'''Nick''': And I'll bet your wife has the broadest, most inviting avenue of the whole damn campus! ''({{Beat}})'' Her father president and all.
* TitleDrop: During a round of drunken singing (to the tune of "Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?"). Somewhat invoked at other parts, particularly at [[spoiler: the end]]. In the film version, due to legal conflict with Creator/{{Disney}}, the song is sung to the tune of "Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush."
* TrivialTitle: Named after an OrphanedPunchline in the play.
* UnreliableNarrator: In-universe. [[spoiler:Almost everything George and Martha say to the guests is at best a distortion of the truth, if not an outright lie.]]
* UnusualEuphemism: Parodied when Honey asks coyly about using the bathroom;
--> '''George:''' Martha, will you show her where we keep the, uh, euphemism?
* YourCheatingHeart: George tells Nick that [[UnusualEuphemism "musical beds"]] is a popular sport, with the implication that Martha has cheated on him a number of times. [[spoiler: Nick decides to ride that train himself later that night.]]
----