Harold Pinter's 'Betrayal'

Nobel laureate Harold Pinter is noted for his use of "silence" as a playwright. Long, tense pauses between his characters became a technique and a trademark of his plays, often making audiences squirm and wonder what people do not — and perhaps cannot — say to one another. We revisit one of Pinter's most well-known plays, Betrayal.

Copyright © 2005 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

Some people retire with a gold watch and a send-off party at a local pub. On Thursday, the recently retired Harold Pinter was awarded the 2005 Nobel Prize for literature. Now he can afford any watch he wants. The Nobel Prize carries a cash reward of $1.3 million.

He's 75 years old, has always lived in London, and before he left the stage last year Harold Pinter wrote 29 plays, intricate stories about complex characters laid out in sparse and unpredictable dialogue. Mr. Pinter's also written novels, screenplays and poetry. His recent poem, "The Special Relationship," criticizes the war in Iraq.

Mr. Pinter's dramatic work makes the most of silence. Long, tense pauses between his characters became a technique and a trademark of his plays, often making audiences squirm and wonder what people do not, and perhaps cannot, say to one another. In this performance of his play "Betrayal" written in 1978 Mr. Pinter himself plays the role of Robert, a literary agent who discovers that his wife and best friend have been keeping a secret.

(Soundbite of "Betrayal")

Unidentified Woman: (Robert's Wife) We're lovers.

Mr. HAROLD PINTER: (As Robert): Ah, yes. I thought it might be something like that. Something along those lines.

Unidentified Woman: When?

Mr. PINTER: What?

Unidentified Woman: When did you think?

Mr. PINTER: Well, yesterday, early yesterday, when I saw his handwriting on the letter. Before yesterday I was quite ignorant.

Unidentified Woman: Ah, I'm sorry.

Mr. PINTER: Sorry. Where does it take place? Must be a bit awkward. I mean, we've got two kids. He's got two kids, not to mention a wife.

Unidentified Woman: We have a flat.

Mr. PINTER: Ah, I see. Nice? A flat? It's quite well-established, then, your--um, affair?

Unidentified Woman: Yes.

Mr. PINTER: How long?

Unidentified Woman: Some time.

Mr. PINTER: Yes, but how long exactly?

Unidentified Woman: Five years.

Mr. PINTER: Five years.

SIMON: Harold Pinter acting in a 1990 BBC radio production of his play "Betrayal." We now honor Harold Pinter, the 2005 winner of the Nobel Prize in literature and the master of silence: the pause.

Twenty-two minutes before the hour.

Copyright © 2005 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.