Harold Pinter

“TRUTH IN DRAMA IS FOREVER ELUSIVE” – Harold Pinter, 2005 Nobel Lecture.

Harold Pinter was a British playwright, who was considered to be one of the leaders of the Theatre of the Absurd. His plays formed their own sub-category called “comedy of menace” (Roudane), and I will be analyzing his play The Homecoming next. First I wanted to generally outline some characteristics of a Pinter play.

“A picture of the absurdity of the human condition in our world, and the plays are comic. But beneath the laughter and overpowering the  laughter, there is a cry of despair from a well of human hopelessness.” – Bernard Dukore, The Theatre of Harold Pinter.

  • Generally takes place in an enclosed space (Dukore, 43).

  • Minimum plot (Dukore, 43).

  • Power struggles between characters (Dukore, 43).

  • Obscure meaning (Dukore, 43).

  • Unpredictable and interesting, authentic dialogue (Dukore, 43) that reflects actual speech and emphasizes how absurd everyday language is (Free, 1).

  • Both funny and frightening (Dukore, 43).

  • Pauses, silences, tableaux (Rayner, 482).

  • The characters are realistic in the way they react and behave but they are still very mysterious (Dukore, 43).

  • The audience is never sure of where the characters are from or what their motives are (Dukore, 43).

  • The “annihilation of an individual” (Cohn, 55), portrays the “modern man beaten down by the world around him” (Dukore, 47).

  • Symbolic characters – the defenseless victim, or the villain sent by a mysterious organization (Cohn, 57). The audience is never sure of quite what the symbolism means (Dukore, 44).

  • Reflects the “tensions and attitudes” of the time period (Dukore, 46).

  • Reflects the failure of communication by showing characters who do not communicate (Dukore, 47).

  • Isolated characters (Dukore, 47).

  • Characters who are afraid to lose their individuality, or who are afraid to show their individuality (Dukore, 47).


“The real truth is that there never is any such thing as one truth to be found in dramatic art. There are many. These truths challenge each other, recoil from each other, reflect each other, ignore each other, tease each other, are blind to each other. Sometimes you feel you have the truth of a moment in your hands, then it slips through your fingers and is lost.” – Harold Pinter, 2005 Nobel Lecture

Works Cited

Cohn, Ruby. “The World of Harold Pinter.” The Tulane Drama Review 6.3 (1962): 55-68. JSTOR. Web. 22 Mar. 2013.

Dukore, Bernard. “The Theatre of Harold Pinter.” The Tulane Drama Review 6.3 (1962): 43-54. JSTOR. Web. 22 Mar. 2013.

Free, William J. “Treatment of Character in Harold Pinter’s “The Homecoming”” South Atlantic Bulletin 34.4 (Nov. 1969): 1-5. JSTOR. Web. 25 Mar. 2013.

Pinter, Harold. “Art Truth & Politics: Excerpts from the 2005 Nobel Lecture.” World Literature Today 80.3 (2006): 21-27. JSTOR. Web. 22 Mar. 2013.

Roudané, Matthew. Drama Essentials: An Anthology of Plays. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 2009. Print.


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