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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Harold Pinter and the theatre of the absurd Bobrow, Norah E. A.


As delineated in the Introduction, the central direction of this thesis is that of determining the nature and purpose of Harold Pinter's-drama, of tracing his relationship to contemporary drama and dramatists in general, and the theatre of the Absurd in particular. Contrary to the popular belief that the concept of the Absurd suddenly burst upon the literary scene within the last decade, the emphasis of the first chapter lies on the evolutionary process of its development. The idea of the Absurd, or better, an intuition of the concept of the Absurd can be discovered in the philosophic, literary, and theatrical expression of the western world since the end of the last century. These manifestations of the Absurd did not reach the mind of the multitude until it began to express itself through the medium of the theatre. Even then, however, it remained somewhat esoteric in its appeal and reception. Harold Pinter enters the scene of the Absurd, not as an innovator but as a playwright with an exceptional sense of theatre. He does not attempt to redefine its basic ideas, the concept itself is already somewhat diffuse in meaning; his, is an expression of an intense and concentrated image of the absurd. He forged a new weapon with which to impress the Absurd on the consciousness of the popular mind. Pinter's variation of the Absurd thus differs from the continental expression of Beckett and Ionesco in emphasis and manner of expression, not in idea. Its area of concentration is not on the human condition, but on the abject apparition of the individual imprisoned in existence and society. Unlike Beckett's his queries are not of a metaphysical nature. Pinter probes into the masked reality of everyday life. What he exposes is the presence of a menace which threatens, intimidates and destroys the individual, yet remains unidentified. Toward the expression of this conception of man's predicament, Pinter has conceived of a dramatic metaphor which is best described as 'latent grotesque' in effect. Thus the grotesque dominates the idea of his drama and is the very essence of his threatrical form. The theatre which can now be identified with Pinter's name is a drama of anxiety which progresses from the comic grotesque to the terrifying grotesque. Laughter which resolves itself in fear is the new instrument with which an awareness of the Absurd is impressed upon the audience.

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