What is nature of conflict and confrontation in Betrayal? How is it shown?

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Betrayal has both internal and external conflicts. Harold Pinter’s play centers on a love triangle that goes on for decades. The three individuals are constantly moving in and out of intimacy and conflict, often within the course of a single scene.

The characters who appear onstage are a married, heterosexual couple, Emma and Robert, and another man, Jerry, who is the husband’s best friend and with whom the wife is having an affair; Jerry’s wife, Judith, does not appear onstage. Emma knows that Robert is aware of the affair, but for many years she does not share this information with Jerry. She also knows that Robert is having affairs of his own. Everyone suffers from internal conflicts caused by their betrayal and their guilt over keeping secrets. In terms of confrontation, however, it is rarely explicit; instead, people seem to interact calmly and rationally.

Furthermore, Jerry and Robert work together in publishing, and it seems that Emma is having another affair, with one of their authors, Roger. Thus the shared interests of the two friends sometimes supercede their conflict over Emma’s affair with Jerry, especially as they both feel betrayed by Emma.

On a more general level, the external conflict may be characterized as individual against society, not just individuals against each other. Pinter deliberately leaves that aspect murky, as the audience does not always know how much information about this array of affairs is known to individuals beyond the trio.

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