Critical Context

Most critics are quick to compare The Goat to Albee’s renowned work Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, but the points of reference are diverse. In both works, Albee deconstructs the American Dream, from Martin’s ideal marriage to his highly successful career, but in The Goat the real source of that dissolution remains unclear. As Martin’s world splinters, he is rejected by his family and betrayed by his best friend; this much is a typical Albee event. That Martin’s genuine love for Sylvia, a goat, is tragically tainted, however, is atypical and nearly impossible to reconcile.

The dialogue in The Goat is crisp, witty, smart, and well considered, a classic characteristic of Albee’s oeuvre, just one degree more articulate than actual conversation, even in the midst of Martin and Stevie’s intense marital battles. It is the nature of an Albee play to be dense and not quite knowable, and The Goat presents an audience with one of his most profound conundrums. Moving from a comedy-of-manners opening capable of evoking laughter to a tragically poignant climax and a starkly horrific conclusion, the play has earned both lavish praise and vehement condemnation.

Given that Albee is a gay writer and that some of his works, such as The Play About the Baby (pr. 1998, pb. 2002), explore the philosophy that heterosexual relationships are necessarily suspect, some critics have observed that this...

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