Natalija Stevanović

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The main purpose of this paper is to analyze the ways in which cruelty is used in the selected three plays by Edward Albee. All of the ways examined can ultimately be connected to the central purpose of the Theatre of Cruelty by Antonin Artaud, which is to reveal what is real, or, as Albee claims, to put up “an accurate mirror of reality” (Amacher 1969: 22). The first part of the paper covers definitions of cruelty and the Theatre of Cruelty, and also connects Edward Albee to Antonin Artaud. The following three sections provide the analysis of the plays by Edward Albee - “The Zoo Story” (1959), “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (1962), and “The Death of Bessie Smith” (1960). There are different ways in which characters in these plays use cruelty; in “The Zoo Story” cruelty is combined with kindness in the shape of teaching emotion; in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” the characters use cruelty to annihilate the illusion and perform catharsis and exorcism; and, finally, in “The Death of Bessie Smith”, cruelty is presented in the form of psychological and verbal abuse.


Albee, Artaud, cruelty, drama, theater, theater of cruelty

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