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The Pinter Pause

Presentation for Module on Absurd Theatre

Charlotte Horobin

on 22 February 2013

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Transcript of The Pinter Pause

The 'Three' Silences Silences are an integral and essential part in Pinter's dialogue. He utilises silence through three different terms - 'Ellipsis' 'Pause' and 'Silence'

The Ellipsis:
Three dots show a hesitation
May be slight, 'but it's there'. (Hall, in Scott, p.54 1986)

The Pause:
An alarming gap representing a mundane crisis
Filled with the unsaid
Indication that 'intense thought processes are continuing, that unspoken tensions are mounting'. (Esslin, in Ganz, p.56 1972)

The Silence:
A dead stop. 'The confrontation has become so extreme, there is nothing to be said'. (Hall, in Scott, p.54 1986)
The character comes out of the break in a different state to when [s]he began it
Notations for the end of a movement within the script and the beginning of another.

‘Pinter’s pauses and silences are often the climaxes of his plays, the still centres of the storm, the nuclei of tension around which the whole action is structured’ (Esslin, in Ganz, p.56 1972)

Pinter & Surrealism Pinter's plays mirror the automatic writing style of Surrealism and 'the stream of conciousness'
In 'The Homecoming' the 'Pinteresque' language represents the irrationality of everyday spoken word
It is full of 'bad syntax, tautologies, pleonasms, repetitions, non sequiturs and self-contradictions'. (Kennedy, in Scott, p.63 1986)
Previous language in theatre is not a true representation of conversation
'People on the stage have [...] always spoken more clearly, more directly, more to the purpose than they would have ever done in real life'. (Esslin, p.236 2000)
Pinter's language is not bound by rhythms or verse
Pinter's narrative follows the characters' streams of conciousness

Pinter developed Beckett's use of silence and incorporated it into his own plays
He captured the anxiety and ambiguity of life with 'terse hypnotic dialogue filled with gaping pauses'. (Gussow & Brantley 2008)
Became a 'Trademark' Technique of Pinter
A Pause in Pinter is as important as a line
The Pause could be seen as threatening as a raised fist 'The Homecoming' Act One
Lenny: And now perhaps I'll relieve you of your glass.
Ruth: I haven't quite finished.
Lenny: You've consumed quite enough, in my opinion.
Ruth: No, I haven't
Lenny: Quite sufficient, in my own opinion.
Ruth: Not in mine, Leonard.
Lenny: Don't call me that, please.
Ruth: Why not?
Lenny: That's the name my mother gave me.
Just give me the glass.
Ruth: No.
Lenny: I'll take it then.
Ruth: If you take the glass . . . I'll take you.
Lenny: How about me taking the glass without you taking me?
Ruth: Why don't I just take you?
Lenny: You're joking.

(Pinter, pp.51-2, 1991) Times Used in the Script:

Elipses: 170
Pause: 224
Silence: 20


Because they are invested with meaning. Rather than blank silence, Pinter's Pause focuses on the complex process of human interaction, the careful choosing of words for absolute precision. Pinter himself once said, “I think that we communicate all too well, in our silence, in what is unsaid.” Creative Response

Write the same climatic scene twice:

One with the Pinter Pause
One without the Pinter Pause

Which is the more effective and put Pinter's stylistics to the test. in 'The Homecoming' The 'Pinter Pause' What is the 'Pinter Pause?' 'The Homecoming' Act Two [Teddy goes to the front door]

Ruth: Eddie

[Teddy turns]


Don't become a stranger

[Teddy goes, shuts the front door]


(Pinter, pp.135-136, 1991) Why all the Pauses? The Pauses (all on Lenny's part) show he is intimidated by Ruth's power
Lenny's fear of Ruth is darkly comical for audience
Through the Pause it is evident that Lenny is 'on the defensive, [and that] Ruth's superiority and sexuality are established'. (Trussler, in Scott, p.180 1986)
Ruth controls the situation, and thus, the dialogue
The Pause is an embodiment of power
Final Words of Farewell 'Only five words, only eight syllables are actually spoken in that whole passage. […] but through the surprise use of a name, through a pregnant pause and an utterly final silence, and through the subtle ambiguity of a phrase that is both a weak cliché and yet carries a strong literal meaning of deep tragic impact, Pinter has put a wealth of drama, psychological profundity, suspense, irony and pathos into those eight syllables.' (Esslin, in Ganz, p.59 1972) & The Theatre of the Absurd Why use Silence at all? Bibliography Pinter, H. (1991) 'The Homecoming.' Faber & Faber. London

Billington, M. (1996) 'The Life and Work of Harold Pinter.' Faber & Faber. London.
Esslin, M. (1965) 'Introduction' in 'Absurd Drama Collection.' Penguin. London.
Esslin, M. (1970) 'The People Wound. The Plays of Harold Pinter.' Methuen & Co. Ltd. London.
Esslin, M. (6th edtn) (2000) 'Pinter the Playwright.' Methuen & Co. Ltd. London.
Esslin, M. (3rd edtn.) (2001) 'The Theatre of the Absurd.' Vintage Books. New York.
Ganz, A. (ed) (1972) 'Pinter: A Collection of Critical Essays.' Prentice-Hall, Inc. New Jersey
Hinchliffe, A.P. (1969) 'The Absurd.' Methuen & Co. Ltd. London.
Hinchliffe, A.P. (1974) 'British Theatre 1950-70.' Basil Blackwell. Oxford.
Lahr, J & Lahr, A. (eds) (1974) 'A Casebook on Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming.' Davis-Poynter. London.
Plimpton, G. (ed) (2000) 'Playwrights at Work.' The Harvill Press. London.
Raby, P. (ed) (2nd edtn) (2009) 'The Cambridge Campanion to Harold Pinter.' Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.
Scott, M. (ed) (1986) 'Harold Pinter: The Birthday Party, The Caretaker and The Homecoming. A Casebook.' Macmillan Basingstoke

Brantley, B & Gussow, M. (2008) 'Harold Pinter, Whose Silences Redefined Drama, Dies at 78.' From <http://theater.nytimes.com/2008/12/26/theater/26pinter.html?_r=0&adxnnl=1&pagewanted=all&adxnnlx=1361371257-PajRrNsMOfYe7L2IXODv2g> Accessed: 20th Feb 2013
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