Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Drama, Revised Edition)
Albee’s version of the emotional ties within a family and the behavior of Ross, Martin’s “best” friend, suggest a bleak outlook for a society that reverts to primal instincts when threatened. Could any marriage withstand the test to which Martin puts his? The Goat returns to the theme of the problems within a marriage that were brutally explored in Albee’s play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (pr., pb. 1962), but it makes the gender warfare between the warring couples in the earlier play seem like a mere game.
Martin, the epitome of a good man, successful in every sense of the word, has ventured somehow into a place where the morals he has lived by do not matter, and he does not seem to understand why he should care. His “things happen” philosophy bespeaks a moral indifference, and, in his view, he just cannot be held accountable for his feelings or his actions in regard to Sylvia, the goat. This passion beyond reason that Martin feels for Sylvia calls into question many aspects of the life that he has been living, undermining its authenticity and creating the never-answered question of what propelled him into this carnal compensation in the first place. Acceptance of this paradox is beyond the purview of any wife, the play suggests, and, despite Martin’s previously good track record as a husband and provider, the marriage is irrevocably destroyed.
Elsewhere in this provocative play, Albee touches on...
(The entire section is 377 words.)
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