Edward Albee: Biography & Plays

Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby

Kaitlin has a BA in political science and experience teaching.

This lesson details the life of the American playwright, Edward Albee, and his work, including his famous play, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Read the lesson and take the quiz!

Virginia Woolf Has Nothing on Him

Getting something you want always takes work. Usually, it costs you something to achieve your goals, be it time, money, relationships, or a combination of all these things. The entertainment business is notorious for taking all of these things, plus a measure of sanity along with it, and even then, a great deal of people never make it in that business. Edward Albee sacrificed a stable, wealthy upbringing to pursue his passion of writing plays. His most famous play, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? won various awards and is celebrated as a pillar of the American theatre repertoire. Albee continues to write and explore the human psyche through the medium of the stage.


Edward Albee was born in 1928 in Washington, D.C. He was adopted two weeks later by Reed and Frances Albee. The Albees, a wealthy couple that made their family money in entertainment, gave Albee every advantage in the world and raised him to be a member of upper class society in New York. However, Albee chafed at the social requirements his family set for him. He was a discipline problem and was kicked out of various schools until he was sent to Choate, where he graduated in 1946. Albee wrote throughout his high school career and continued in college. He also explored acting. The friends Albee made at college shared his interest in theatre and writing, a fact that infuriated his mother. He attended Trinity College before being expelled for skipping chapel and some of his classes.

Albee moved to New York after returning home for a brief period. He survived by working a number of odd jobs. He also had a trust fund from his grandmother. While in New York, he began to explore the combination of his two passions--writing and theatre. He became a playwright. Albee has been writing since that time, winning numerous awards. Despite identifying as a gay man, he has stated that he wants his writing to rise above gender and sexuality stereotypes. He had a severe drinking problem in the early 1970's, but stopped with the help of his future partner, Jonathan Thomas, who was a sculptor. The men were together until Thomas's death in 2005. Albee is currently still writing and teaching at the University of Houston. He is also deeply involved with a writer's foundation that he set up in Montauk, New York.

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