Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

Martha Character Analysis

Martha is the daughter of the president of the college where George and Nick are professors. She is middle-aged, large and boisterous, and is married to George in an intense and acrimonious relationship. She admits to a history of infidelity and flirts with Nick throughout the play, ultimately seducing him into kissing her, and perhaps more. Her constant nagging of George about his lack of ambition suggests that she may be insecure about her own professional situation.

Martha Quotes in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

The Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf quotes below are all either spoken by Martha or refer to Martha. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Imperfect Marriage Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Books edition of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf published in 1983.
Act 1 Quotes

Ha, ha, ha, HA! Make the kids a drink, George. What do you want, kids? What do you want to drink, hunh?

Related Characters: Martha (speaker), George, Nick, Honey
Related Symbols: Babies, Alcohol
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

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He was going to be groomed. He’d take over someday…until [Daddy] watched for a couple of years and started thinking maybe it wasn’t such a good idea after all…that maybe Georgie boy didn’t have the stuff…that he didn’t have it in him!

Related Characters: Martha (speaker), George
Page Number: 84
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 2 Quotes

Our son ran away from home all the time because Martha here used to corner him.

Related Characters: George (speaker), Martha
Related Symbols: Babies
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:

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You told them! OOOOHHHH! OH, no, no, no, no! You couldn’t have told them…

Related Characters: Honey (speaker), Martha, George, Nick
Related Symbols: Babies
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:

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I’m loud, and I’m vulgar, and I wear the pants in this house because somebody’s got to, but I am not a monster. I am not.

Related Characters: Martha (speaker)
Page Number: 157
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Act 3 Quotes

I cry all the time too, Daddy. I cry allllll the time; but deep inside, so no one can see me. I cry all the time. And George cries all the time, too.

Related Characters: Martha (speaker), George
Related Symbols: Babies, Alcohol
Page Number: 185
Explanation and Analysis:

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George who is out somewhere there in the dark…George who is good to me, and whom I revile; who understands me, and whom I push off.

Related Characters: Martha (speaker), George
Page Number: 190
Explanation and Analysis:

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I’M RUNNING THE SHOW! (To MARTHA) Sweetheart, I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news for you…for us, of course. Some rather sad news.

Related Characters: George (speaker), Martha
Related Symbols: Babies
Page Number: 229
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

I FORGET! Sometimes…sometimes when it’s night, when it’s late, and…and everybody else is…talking…I forget and I…want to mention him…but I…HOLD ON…I hold on…but I’ve wanted to…so often…oh, George, you’ve pushed it…there was no need….there was not need for this. I mentioned him…all right…but you didn’t have to push it over the EDGE. You didn’t have to…kill him.

Related Characters: Martha (speaker), George
Related Symbols: Babies
Page Number: 237
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Martha Character Timeline in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

The timeline below shows where the character Martha appears in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Imperfect Marriage Theme Icon
Appearance, Secrecy, and Truth-Telling Theme Icon
...opens in the dark, and a crash is heard at the front door, followed by Martha’s laughter. Martha enters through the front door, George following behind her. Martha begins to curse,... (full context)
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Martha goes on to describe the movie, but George pleads that he’s tired from her father’s... (full context)
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Martha orders George to make her a drink and informs him that they have guests coming... (full context)
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George and Martha continue to bicker—George accuses her of springing things on him like this, and Martha accuses... (full context)
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They continue on in this vein, Martha calling George a “simp” and “phrasemaker”, and George comparing Martha to a cocker spaniel when... (full context)
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...doorbell interrupts their antagonistic banter, George very reluctantly goes to answer it as he provokes Martha. At the very moment that he opens up the door, she yells at him, “Fuck... (full context)
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...the artist. George begins to explain that it was made by a Greek man that Martha attacked one night, when Honey interrupts him, uncomfortable with the story. Nick starts off saying,... (full context)
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Ambition, Success, and Failure Theme Icon
...prepares drinks for the crew—brandy for Honey, bourbon for Nick, and (jokingly) rubbing alcohol for Martha. George recounts that when he was first dating Martha, she would order the “damnedest” things,... (full context)
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Martha again begins singing “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” and this time Honey joins in. They... (full context)
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...doesn’t like to become involved in other people’s affairs, and is uncomfortable around George and Martha’s marital disputes. George comforts him by saying he’ll get over that squeamishness, because the college... (full context)
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...in New Carthage, given that the college isn’t MIT or Oxford. He tells Nick that Martha’s father expects his staff to grow old at the college. George calls to his wife.... (full context)
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George lets Honey and Nick know that Martha is according them an honor by changing her dress, and characterizes her as the “right... (full context)
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Martha insults George, calling him an “old bog” in the History Department, but George coolly ignores... (full context)
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Martha encourages George to tell their guests about a boxing match they once had together, but... (full context)
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George comes from behind Martha and aims a short-barreled shotgun at her head. Honey screams when George pulls the trigger,... (full context)
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Martha asks her husband for a kiss and he dismisses her but she insists and then... (full context)
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Honey changes the subject by asking when George and Martha’s son is coming home. Martha says never mind, and George makes Martha answer for both... (full context)
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Martha and George dispute the color of their son’s eyes. George adds that Martha’s father has... (full context)
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Martha is just beginning to describe George’s entrance onto the college scene, when George returns to... (full context)
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George breaks a bottle against the portable bar and nearly cries, but Martha does not relent, and tells George she hopes the bottle was empty because he wouldn’t... (full context)
Act 2
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Children and Childishness Theme Icon
...tells Nick that he would like to set him straight about something his wife said. Martha interrupts and announces that she and Honey are drinking coffee. George and Martha go back... (full context)
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...which you wave-of-the-future boys are going to take over.” George reciprocates by telling Nick that Martha’s money comes from Martha’s father’s very rich second wife. (full context)
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Martha returns, with a very drunken Honey in tow. Martha tells George to apologize to Honey... (full context)
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Martha mentions another embarrassing disappointment of George’s—that he tried to publish a book, but was prevented... (full context)
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Martha discloses more of George’s embarrassing history: he wrote a novel, but when her father read... (full context)
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George yells at Martha that he will kill her and grabs her by the throat. Nick intervenes, and throws... (full context)
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Martha congratulates George for his performance, judging it to be the most life he’s shown in... (full context)
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...that he’s going to go read a book, because he always reads around four o’clock. Martha corrects him that he always reads at four pm, not am, but he absorbs himself... (full context)
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Martha calls George a motherfucker, and after kissing Nick, instructs him to wait for her in... (full context)
Act 3
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Martha enters the room and begins to ramble alone on the stage, echoing pieces of conversation... (full context)
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Nick enters the room and comments that Martha, too, has gone crazy. He reports that when he came back downstairs, his wife went... (full context)
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Nick asks where George is and Martha responds that he’s vanished. Martha, with great affection, and in a brogue enunciates, “’tis the... (full context)
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Martha goes on a rant about all of her pointless infidelities, and concludes by asserting that... (full context)
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Nick announces that he doesn’t think George has an intact vertebra. Martha challenges him, and criticizes his microscopic vision—claiming that he has the ability to see everything... (full context)
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...George describes that he picked them for their son’s birthday the next day. He and Martha dispute whether or not there was a moon in the sky that could have provided... (full context)
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...hog calls toward the hallway to get Honey, but Nick goes and gets her himself. Martha tearfully begs George not to play any more games, but he assures her that she’ll... (full context)
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...the room with Nick, hopping like a bunny. George begins to discuss their son, despite Martha’s pleading. He prompts Martha to take over, and she reports that their son was born... (full context)
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Honey suddenly exclaims that she wants a child. Martha ignores her and continues, beginning in on the difficult parts of the marriage— how they... (full context)
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Honey, hysterical, screams for them to stop it, telling them they “can’t…do…this!” George tells Martha that he has some bad news about their son. He reports that while she was... (full context)
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Martha and George go back and forth, her yelling “He is our child!” and him yelling... (full context)
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...proposes that the party should come to an end. Nick asks George if he and Martha couldn’t have any— and trails off. George and Martha admit that they couldn’t. The guests... (full context)
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George puts his hand on Martha’s shoulder and begins singing, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” Martha answers that she is and... (full context)