One of Harold Pinter's later plays, Betrayal has striking similarities to his early works as well as several distinctive features.
His dramas have darkly comedic undertones created by the situations, interpersonal relations, and dialogue that includes what have become known as “Pinter pauses.” Most of Pinter’s play have only a few characters—sometimes just two—whose relationships are sometimes familial, but other times obscure. Often all the characters are male, as in The Dumbwaiter and The Caretaker. Occasionally a female character is central; in that regard, Betrayal resembles The Homecoming.
In Betrayal , the relationships among the three protagonists seem clear: they are a straight married couple, and the man’s friend with whom the wife is having an affair. Later the playwright reveals that the connections are more complex. In this play as others, the characters are shown to be dishonest—sometimes lying to themselves or unable to confront their own negative qualities. In its emphasis on intimate and family relationships, this play has affinity with The Homecoming, in which members of a family must weather the challenges that arise when some of them return form living abroad.
Betrayal is unusual in structure when compared not only to Pinter’s other plays but also with most contemporary theatrical works. The scenes are presented in reverse chronological order, with the contemporary scenes presented first and those occurring long ago presented last. It closely resembles all of Pinter’s works in that a cloud of mystery hangs over the play, endowing it with a menacing aura. This foreboding means the audience constantly senses that something terrible is about to befall the characters.