Biography (Critical Survey of Drama, Second Revised Edition)
Harold Pinter was born October 10, 1930, in England, the son of a hardworking Jewish tailor whose business eventually failed. Pinter grew up in a rundown working-class area, full of railroad yards and bad-smelling factories. When World War II broke out in 1939, Pinter, like most London children, was evacuated to the countryside to be safe from the German bombing. Living in the countryside or by the sea was not, for Pinter, as idyllic as it might have been: “I was quite a morose little boy.” He returned to London before the end of the war and remembers seeing V-2 rockets flying overhead and his backyard in flames. After the war ended, the violence did not cease; anti-Semitism was strong in his neighborhood, and Jews were frequently threatened. Perhaps these early brushes with war and violence decided him; when he was eighteen and eligible for National Service, he declared himself a conscientious objector. He was afraid he would be jailed, but in fact, he was merely fined. In grammar school, he was a sprinter and set a record for the hundred-yard dash. He was also an actor in school plays, playing Macbeth and Romeo, and he received a grant in 1948 to study acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He did not stay long, however, and spent the next year tramping the streets. He published a few poems in literary magazines (he was only nineteen when the first were published) and got an acting job with a Shakespearean company touring Ireland; other acting jobs...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: British, Irish, & Commonwealth Poets)
Harold Pinter was born to a Jewish family in London’s East End. The son of a tailor, Pinter was an only child, morose, morbid, and lonely, with few friends. As a young boy, he was aware of the anti-Jewish fascist marches on the predominately Jewish East End, which were met with strong resistance. He grew up in a working-class area, surrounded by fascist threats and economic insecurity. Near his house was the Lee River, which Pinter fantasized as idyllic. Indeed, Pinter’s output is permeated with the juxtaposition of beauty and squalor, security and insecurity.
Following the declaration of war in 1939, he was evacuated to a castle in Cornwall. He returned home during the Blitz and in September, 1942, gained a scholarship to the selective Grocer’s Company High School, Hackney, where he stayed until July, 1948. Pinter associated his childhood with a lack of money and walking. Many years later, he recalled walking a long way to the home of his school and lifelong friend, Henry Woolf, to find only Woolf’s parents at home. While waiting for his friend, he began to write a poem. Almost reverentially, Woolf’s parents watched the young Pinter write his poem. Pinter first began to write at the age of thirteen because he was obsessed with a girl who tormented him.
Pinter formed lifelong friendships at school. They provided continuity and stability in an ever-changing world. He acted, wrote poetry, and read. He was greatly influenced by his...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Harold Pinter was born in Hackney, a working-class suburb of East London, England, on October 10, 1930, the son of Hyman and Frances Pinter. Even though the neighborhood was a rough area of abandoned warehouses, dilapidated tenements, and, at times, roving bands of fascists, his father was able to provide his family with a terraced house in a fairly comfortable middle-class setting. During the air raids on London in World War II, Pinter was evacuated from the city, and the themes of restrained panic and impending violence that recur in his plays suggest how deeply his war experience affected his writing.
Pinter expressed an early interest in acting. While attending Hackney Downs Grammar School, he won acclaim in the school magazine for his performances in several dramatic roles, although he remained ambivalent toward his academic studies. As he recalled in a 1966 interview with The Paris Review: “The only thing that interested me at school was English language and literature. . . . I was mostly in love at the time and tied up with that.” He did, however, develop a keen interest in sports—especially cricket and track—and motifs of sports and games often surface in his plays.
At eighteen, Pinter refused mandatory military duty as a conscientious objector, but not on religious grounds. He faced a possible jail term for his...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Harold Pinter established himself as one of the most significant playwrights writing in English since the 1950’s. Even as he devoted more and more of his time to writing for the screen rather than for the stage, revivals of his early plays continued to draw audiences to mainstream productions both in London’s West End and on New York’s Broadway, as well as to smaller regional and university theaters. Many critics consider his full-length plays, especially The Birthday Party, The Caretaker, and The Homecoming, to be among the best plays written after World War II. His plays, a quirky combination of absurdism and social realism, or what one critic has called “expressionistic naturalism,” revitalized popular theater in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and his Pinteresque style remains indelibly original.
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
During the brief period between 1957 and 1965, Harold Pinter established himself as one of the most talented and innovative playwrights in England. Although he turned to other interests after the mid-1970’s—directing plays, writing film scripts, and pursuing political interests, in addition to authoring very short and lyrical forms—he remains one of the most important playwrights of the twentieth century.
Pinter was born in a Jewish area of the East End of London, the son of a tailor, on October 10, 1930. Educated at Hackney Downs Grammar School, he joined the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London in 1949. He began an acting career shortly thereafter, during which time he met his first wife, the actress Vivien Merchant. (They were later divorced, and she died in 1982.) Pinter turned to writing professionally in the mid-1950’s, and although his work had little success initially, he startled the theater world with his “electrifying” and “brilliant” The Birthday Party in 1958. In 1980 he married the historian Lady Antonia Fraser. The two remained married until Pinter’s death in 2008 after a long battle with cancer.
It has been said that throughout Pinter’s early plays, a single question predominates. The pattern of these plays has been read in many ways, but most commentators remark upon the “menace” or “the...
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On October 30, 1930, Harold Pinter was born to Jewish parents in Hackney, a working-class neighborhood in London. It was a difficult time for Jews in England. Hitler's rise to power had begun, and the fascism he championed had its British sympathizers. In 1939, Britain entered World War II; during the Blitz, Hitler's intense bombing of London, Pinter, like many young people, was evacuated to the countryside, which was considered safer. Later, Pinter returned to London and experienced the terror of the Blitz firsthand. After the war, difficulties for British Jews continued. Jews were attacked in the streets, and Pinter later recalled his own involvement in a number of altercations.
Pinter attended the Hackney Down Grammar School and, in 1948, received a grant to study at the Royal Academy of the Dramatic Arts but soon dropped out. Shortly afterwards, he started reading the works of Samuel Beckett (Waiting for Godot), who became a great influence on Pinter's work. In 1950, two of Pinter's own plays were published. That same year, he began working professionally as an actor, both in London and on tour. During this time he met the actress Vivien Merchant. The two were married in 1956, and their son Daniel was born in 1958. Pinter and Merchant were divorced in 1980, at which time Pinter married Lady Antonia Fraser.
In 1956, John Osborne's play Look Back in Anger ushered in a new period of British drama; the period was characterized by...
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Harold Pinter was born on October 30, 1930, in Hackney, a working-class neighborhood in East London, the only child of Hyman (a tailor) and Frances (Mann) Pinter. Although Pinter seemed to have a relatively happy childhood, he also experienced terror during World War II, during Germany’s air attacks on London. Pinter’s Jewish heritage also caused problems for him while he was growing up. Gangs would continually menace anyone with Jewish features. Pinter, however, often was able to talk his way out of these confrontations. Feelings of terror caused by an inescapable menace, along with the manipulative power of language later became prominent themes in his works.
Pinter’s love for the theatre emerged in his grammar school days when he played the title roles in Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet. He also revealed his literary talents during this period. The Hackney Downs School Magazine published Pinter’s essay on James Joyce and two of his poems that showed the beginnings of his distinctive literary style. In 1948 Pinter began his acting studies at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) but soon left. For the next ten years, he wrote poems and short prose pieces and acted on the stage and on television under the pseudonym David Baron. He has noted that his acting experience gave him valuable insight into how successful plays are structured and provided him with a sharp ear for dialogue.
In 1957, over a four-day period,...
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Harold Pinter was born in the northern borough of Hackney, a working-class section in London, England, on October 10, 1930. Pinter's father, Hyman (Jack) was a hard-working tailor of women's apparel and his mother, Frances, a homemaker. The Pinter family was part of the immigrant wave of Jews that arrived in London around the turn of the century. Pinter's forebears came from Poland and Odessa and brought with them a love of culture and learning. At the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Pinter was evacuated to a castle in Cornwall for a year where, away from his loving home for the first time, he suffered loneliness, bewilderment, separation, and loss—themes that recur in all his works. He also discovered just how sly and nasty a group of boys isolated from their families could be Back in Hackney, where he spent most of the war years, he was constantly made aware of the impermanence of life.
Pinter attended Hackney Downs Grammar School from 1944 to 1948, where his talents were inspired by Joe Brearley, an English teacher. Pinter wrote for the school magazine and discovered a flair for acting in school productions. He also was one of a group who called themselves "The Boys," a sort of gang tied together by their common love for intellectual adventure. Along with other boyish pursuits, the group would often gather and argue about literature. Although the Boys were not immune from the desire for domination and the clashes brought about by sexual...
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Harold Pinter was born on October 10, 1930, in Hackney, a section of metropolitan London, England. His father, Hyman, and his mother, Frances Mann, were descended from Sephardic Jews from Portugal, who had, around 1900, migrated to England after an interim residence in Hungary. The family, relatively poor, lived very frugally, like the other working-class families in the area.
Between 1941 and 1947, Pinter attended the Hackney Downs Grammar School, where he began writing poetry and prose. He also took an interest in theater, taking roles as both Macbeth and Romeo in school productions of Shakespeare. His education continued in 1948, when he obtained a grant to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, but, finding the academy oppressive, he only stayed for two terms. In the same year, he tried to obtain legal status as a conscientious objector, which he was denied, and he was eventually fined when he refused to answer an army draft call.
In 1949, while he continued to write non-dramatic works as Harold Pinta, he launched a career as professional actor. His first work was as a bit actor for the British Broadcasting Corporation's (BBC) Home Service radio, from which, in 1951, he moved up to a role in Shakespeare's Henry VIII, a production of BBC's Third Programme. He also resumed formal training at the Central School of Speech and Drama. Thereafter, under the stage name David Baron, he acted with Shakespearean and other repertory companies in both England and Ireland. On tour, he met and worked with the actress Vivien Merchant, whom he married on September 14, 1956. The pair struggled to make ends meet, and Pinter was forced to assume a variety of odd jobs, including stints as a dance-hall bouncer or "chucker,'' a dishwasher, a caretaker, and a salesman.
Pinter's first foray into play writing came in 1957, when a friend asked him to write a piece for production at Bristol University. The result was The Room, a one-act play that earned the favorable notice of critic Harold Hobson and revealed Pinter's unique talent and technique. The work was not professionally produced until after The Birthday Party opened and floundered in 1958, but it was Hobson's review of The Room's university production that brought Pinter to the attention of the young, new-wave producer Michael Codron, who decided to stage The Birthday Party.
Pinter's first major staged success was The Caretaker, which, in 1960, began a run in London's West End and won the playwright The Evening Standard Award. Along with The Birthday Party and The Homecoming (1965), The Caretaker established Pinter's reputation as a major absurdist playwright, and, in the opinion of some commentators, his claim to being Britain's most important dramatist since George Bernard Shaw (Major Barbara).
In the 1960s, Pinter proved his diversity by producing a steady stream of both stage and media works. He began an extended association with the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1962 with The Collection at the Aldwych Theatre, but by then he had also begun writing for cinema, adapting The Caretaker to film. Although his creative energy remained unabated, he devoted more and more of it to scripting plays for television and the screen. Some of these were originally written for the stage, but most were first written for specific media. Some, like The Pumpkin Eater (1964) and The Quiller Memorandum (1966), were adaptations from the fiction of other writers. Acclaim for his media works quickly rivaled that awarded his stage works and greatly expanded his creative involvement and focus.
Although some believe that Pinter's best theatrical works were his earliest pieces in the absurdist mode, the playwright has remained a major voice in the British theater since the early-1960s. If financial success and the diffusion of his creative energy have diminished his stage power, as some have claimed, there has been no real erosion in his reputation as England's premier, post-World War II playwright, his only serious rivals being John Osborne (Look Back in Anger) and Tom Stoppard (Arcadia). Nevertheless, despite some well-received plays like One for the Road (1984) and Mountain Language (1988), the playwright has met with some decline in his critical fortunes. It is has almost become a scholarly truism that none of Pinter's works written for the stage after the 1960s has superceded The Caretaker, The Homecoming, or The Birthday Party as Pinter's major contributions to modern theater.
IntroductionHarold Pinter began his career as an actor, but he quickly turned his attention to writing and became one of the twentieth century’s most prolific and important playwrights. Pinter loves to play with words, and many of his works feature witty banter between characters interspersed with long pauses. Pinter did not originally want to be categorized as a political writer, but in the 1980s, his work took on a decidedly leftist tone. Pinter’s personal life has been as stormy as that of many of his characters. He was married to actress Vivien Merchant for several years, and they had one son. He then embarked on several long affairs, which cost him his marriage and the love and respect of his son.
- Harold Pinter’s stage name as an actor was David Baron.
- Pinter won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2005 and the Legion d’honneur in 2007.
- Pinter is a huge cricket fan. He has said, “One of my main obsessions in life is the game of cricket—I play and watch and read about it all the time.”
- Pinter has been vocal about his politics and was once thrown out of the U.S. embassy in Turkey.
- Pinter publicly announced in 2005 that he was retiring from playwriting. Since then, he has written a screenplay, short dramatic sketches, and a great deal of poetry.
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Harold Pinter Criticism
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The Dumb Waiter Review - Harold Pinter - Salem on Literature
The Life and Work of Harold Pinter Review - Michael Billington ...