Harold Pinter

Start Free Trial

What is Harold Pinter's influence on today's theater?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Harold Pinter was a British playwright and director who lived from October 10, 1930 to December 24, 2008. He was highly decorated, with 50 awards and recognitions, including the 2005 Nobel Prize in Literature and the 2007 French Legion d'honneur. In 2011, the Comedy Theatre on Panton Street, London renamed itself to The Harold Pinter Theatre to honor the playwright's legacy. Pinter is considered to be one of the key figures of modern drama.

Before Pinter revolutionized modern theater, plays tended to lean heavily on exposition and characters' articulate elucidation of their ideas and motivations. Writers relied on carefully crafted speech to relate to the audience exactly how and why the character and his/her actions came to be so. This is true in the works of classic playwrights such as Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Eugene O'Neill, and Terence Rattigan.

Pinter, however, preferred to focus on the subtext and tension beneath dialogue—therefore severing the direct relationship between language and intent. In his 1971 play Old Times, for example, three friends are reunited and engage in a dialogic power struggle. The main conflict, however, is not articulated and so it remains the audience's obligation to decipher.

Pinter also did not follow the traditional plot expected of a drama. He is known to have claimed that the audience relied too much on the last-act resolution. Ultimately, Pinter saw drama to be an overheard conversation, therefore liberating it from the constraints of traditional plot and exposition. As he once said:

You don't have to hold the audience's hand; the dialogue doesn't have to illuminate the action. You don't have to clearly define who's a hero and who the villain is.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team