Themes and Meanings

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Sleuth, like its own Milo Tindle, disguises itself and purports to disapprove of the old-fashioned parlor room murder mysteries popularized by such masters of the genre as Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Also like Milo, the play indulges in flamboyant and elaborate tricks used so successfully by the past masters. In so doing, Sleuth unmasks itself for what it really is: Anthony Shaffer’s backhanded, revitalized homage to the supposed outdated parlor room puzzler. While it is lambasting the genre for being sterile, overly intellectual, and bloodless, Sleuth is also lauding the genre for its playful plot twists, elaborate deceptions, and unabashed ability to entertain.

Andrew Wyke is the personification of the genre itself. He is quick-witted, theatrical, and obsessed with elaborate plot schemes. His speech is lively and rich with horrible puns and allusions to his beloved literary compatriots as well as his own works. He is also, like the genre, extremely class-conscious, intolerant of people whom he deems not part of his insulated, aristocratic world. Milo, young, vigorous, and handsome, the son of an Italian immigrant, is a threat to Andrew. He represents everything that Andrew is not. As he tells Milo just before he shoots him in act 1:I hate your smarmy, good-looking Latin face and your easy manner. . . . I hate you because you are a culling spick. A wop—a not one-of-me. Come, little man,...

(The entire section is 573 words.)

Sleuth Themes

Deception
The elaborate game playing that takes place in Sleuth is indicative of its most important theme: deception....

(The entire section is 722 words.)