The history of humankind is filled with numerous examples of prominent figures that have made a significant contribution to various fields of expertise having no special education or capacities to study. In any case, the versatility of the human mind is one of the most crucial factors that determine the way a person progresses and influences the development of science. This essay is devoted to one of the most significant individuals in history, Harold Pinter, who made a great contribution to the evolution of science, psychology, and art in particular.
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Harold Pinter is one of the few leading playwrights of the world. His creative productivity is astounding. He is the author of not only 29 plays, but also 24 scenarios (among the most famous movie script The French Lieutenant’s Woman) and 17 plays for radio. His plays are staged in dozens of theaters in the world (for example, in eight theaters of Belgium) (Raby 13). They have been translated into many languages. A man without a university education, since he did not have the financial capacity to study, became an honorary doctor of 14 universities. Pinter knew theater firsthand. He was an actor, director, and author of the script for his plays.
Harold Pinter was born in London in 1930, grew up in impoverished post-war England. After graduating from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, he worked as a janitor, a dishwasher, and a bookseller. His acting career started when he was hired for the Enya McMaster provincial theater troupe. There he had graduated his “universities.” At the same time, his poems appeared in the press (Billington 15). Harold Pinter began to write plays. One of the first creations was The Room (1957). It is still present in the repertoire of many theaters. In England, in the 1950s, he became one of the leading playwrights, gradually standing out and moving away from the “angry” young writers like John Osborne, John Arden, John Wayne (Billington 23). There is no sarcasm, no terrible condemnation of the foundations of society in his plays. Having started like the “angry writers,” with the critics, Pinter went to the fragile inner human world. His social clashes appeared to be on a different level – intimate, psychological. Pinter was not limited to the playwright status; he continued to play on stage, usually his own characters, and set pieces, both his and others’, for example, Shakespeare, Joyce, and David Mamet’s plays. The first writer’s success came to him in the late 1950s. His career as a playwright, actor, director, writer, poet, and politician had lasted for 58 years (Raby 34).
In 1953, Harold Pinter met the actress Vivien Merchant. The wedding took place three years later. In 1958, the son of Harold and Vivian, David, was born. However, the marriage was not successful and collapsed in 1980. That same year, Pinter married for the second time. His choice was Lady Antonia Fraser (Billington 28). In 1957, the University of Bristol showed the premiere of Pinter’s play The Room. With this play began his career as a playwright. Three years later, the world saw the production of The Caretaker, which opened the great writer to the public of Britain. During the early 1960s, Pinter wrote almost all of his acclaimed drama (Collection, 1961; Lovers, 1962; Tea Party and The Homecoming, 1964). He also wrote scripts for his plays. Harold Pinter died on December 24, 2008, in London (UK) (Billington 35).
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In October 2005, the man was 75 years old. The anniversary was marked by the Prague Franz Kafka prize, which Vaclav Havel took on behalf of Pinter. At the same time, BBC broadcasted the latest Pinter’s drama The Voice. The publisher Faber and Faber produced a collection of Pinter’s articles written from 1998 to 2004 (Billington 56). In London, in different theaters, a few pieces of the writer were staged simultaneously. On the radio and television, there was a series of interviews with him. Finally, on December 7, at the traditional ceremony in Stockholm, his Nobel speech was voiced, and it was also published in several newspapers (Billington 58). However, Pinter himself did not come to Stockholm for health reasons. It was a big disappointment.
Having prized Harold Pinter with the award, the Nobel committee gave him a platform, an opportunity to be heard by millions of people. In his Nobel speech, Pinter reiterated his anti-war thesis. It is believed that when on December 15, 2005, President Bush declared that the war in Iraq had been launched on the basis of false suspicions and that 30,000 of Iraqi civilians were killed (although the real figure is over 120 000 victims), this recognition was attributable to Harold Pinter (Raby 32). His position and civil courage confirmed: in the world, there is always something to do for the honest and brave man.
The Artistic Heritage
The genre of his plays is difficult to determine. What is it: a comedy, tragedy, mystery or farce? On the stage, there are continuous conversations; sometimes characters burst and shower each other with sarcastic remarks, then everything is balanced, talks resume. Pinter said of his plays, “I cannot tell you the contents of any of my plays. The only thing I can say is that it happened like this, they put it in such a way” (Kennedy 38). Critics call him a master of silence or pause wizard and define his comedies as plays of threats. In 2000, writer and critic David Hayes shared his impression that when one watches a play by Pinter, they expect a sudden development and never know what surprise the author has prepared for them (Kennedy 57).
Pinter’s plays describe loneliness, the separateness of people, hypocrisy; there is no violence in the foreground, but in the back, the possibility of it is always present. Through the words of his characters, the playwright talks about the humiliation of the person: how poverty degrades, dependence mortifies, and misunderstanding diminishes. Summarizing, it can be said that people in Pinter’s plays cannot cope with the issues they face in life.
In his plays, there are few actors. They often include two or three persons. The author describes the same disunity of people as Beckett does (Billington 89). However, in Beckett’s works, it is turned into a theater of the absurd. In Pinter’s play, two characters are as if in dialogue, but in fact, there are two separate monologs pronounced in the void, without merging and becoming a conversation, almost like in Beckett’s works. However, unlike Becket’s heroes, the characters of Pinter are not abstract; they do not exist in a vacuum but rather in a particular world.
The characters in Pinter’s plays have nothing in common, though they can be linked by family ties: the father – the son or the husband – the wife. Disunity is present here again. This dissociation leaves the heroes at a loss. They are not only poor but also alone, and no one needs them. Against the background of disunity and hidden grief (the characters themselves do not say that they are unhappy; however, the audience can feel that something is wrong), suddenly an aggressive character appears. No one knows what he is capable of. Perhaps, he can do everything. Sometimes, on stage, there are a knife, scissors, and a heavy hammer. They are not used, but their presence is alarming; it brings excitement to the play. The talk is finally becoming a real dialogue between two people, an exchange of thoughts. Words hurt, humiliate, offend, and bring happiness, but Pinter’s vision of his heroes is ruthless.
The play seems to be a comedy, but Pinter’s comedy can be found more unpleasant than funny because the author reveals a person inside out, his motives. Even the victim and the aggressor in Pinter’s works are sometimes reversed. There are two types of Pinter’s plays: play-reflections and plays where the characters act because someone or something pushes them to action (Raby 123). Often, this action is circular, meaning that the play ends where it started. However, the audience leaves the theater enriched with knowledge and understanding of the people whom it met on the stage and empathized with during the play. They are strange, these Pinter’s heroes. They have a lot on their minds; they cannot always express it and do not always want to do so. That is why Pinter’s works are fun to play and interesting to stage. He is a master of the unsaid. There may be another reason for the interest in his plays: the author is both an actor and a director. Thus, he leaves some freedom for the directors. It also gives his works an additional color, enriching them, because different directors may give various interpretations of the same concept.
Direction of Pinter’s Art
During his life, Pinter was looking for an answer to the essential questions that all of us have: the meaning of life, the courage of silence and solitude, honesty, including the artist’s honesty. Pinter’s plays are mysterious. They are full of pauses and fragmentary phrases that seem to be devoid of logic. However, these seemingly disjointed sentences create the stage drama. Pinter is sometimes called absurdist because his protagonists, like the heroes of the theater of the absurd, hide secrets (Aliakbari and Pourgiv 78). Nevertheless, these characters are different from the ones in the plays of Beckett and Ionesco as they have their biography, their past, present, and sometimes future. Some Pinter’s pieces can be called mysteries; the secret hidden in them is mesmerizing. Though it may sound strange, it was influenced by English Gothic novels. The representatives of this trend, the authors like Anne Radcliffe (The Italian) and Charles Maturin (Melmoth the Wanderer) were the first to develop the drama of innuendo, with consequent fear of the unknown – the past, the future (Raby 87). Pinter transferred those emotions into the modern world. Some critics believe that Pinter studied the art of subtext in the works of Chekhov: his characters’ chatter hides domestic drama; it seems like a useless compound of words bearing nothing, but in fact can turn into unskilled, desperate attempts of actors to find understanding (Billington 145). Wretchedness in communication is their last attempt to avoid separation.
In the creation of the context, the poetic talent of the playwright is also important. The art of words, rich language, pauses, which create an atmosphere of silence around the characters ? all this protects their inner world. Harold Pinter described England’s world as he knew it? the post-war, tense, rocky relationship between people. In his plays, one can explore England of those years, similarly to the novels of Dickens and England of 1840-1860. Protagonists inhabiting Pinter’s plays fifty years ago are recognizable in the new plays; their exposure remains very unpretentious, the driving impulses are the same. Typically, the plot of Pinter’s plays is simple: lunch, a meeting of two or three people, a couple or couples. However, under the cover of everyday life, there is an abyss; the author breaks into closed rooms, where there is oppression, suppression. The characters are led by fear and alienation; the premonition of violence sleeps in them. Suddenly, humor appears and discharges the tense situation. It happened because the actors and the play are like Pinter.
In 2001, at the Lincoln Center in New York City, during the Harold Pinter festival, two plays were staged in one evening. Although they are separated by more than forty years, the characters are the same (Kennedy 86). In The Room (1957), a married couple, Rose and Bert, are on the stage. Rose serves breakfast to her husband and begins an endless monolog. It seems that Bert responds to accusations, complaints, and criticism. In fact, he is silent. She talks about the weather, about his work. However, the audience is restless. It feels that the platitudes hide some threat that the heroine is hiding in her past (Pinter 178). In The Celebration (2000), two couples have a birthday party in a restaurant; they say toasts, drink champagne, but then recriminations and insults begin as well as adultery is revealed (Billington 167).
Pinter’s plays are always in tune with the times; his protagonists are the projection of the existing order of things. If there is fear in the society, they convey it; if there is xenophobia, they, regardless of their social status, become racists. The presence of extreme right-wing elements is the main characteristic of the modern society, and Pinter does not cease to warn the world about the dangers of the Nazi ideology, subordination, oppression of the weak, and the consent of the weak to such treatment (The Caretaker) (Raby 154).
Poetry in Harold Pinter’s Works
Poems occupy a no less important role in the work of Harold Pinter than the prose. Sometimes, they are born from the play, such as On the Road (Billington 169). Over the years, the poems became exclusively political. They came out as collections or were published in the leading British newspapers. Pinter himself said about the importance of poetry for him, “Sometimes only the poetry helps me understand the reasons for my work, and I’m standing in the middle like a transmitter-mediator. If this process is unconscious, it is for the better” (Billington 189). Several years ago, a literary critic Michael Billington stated that Harold Pinter was an instinctively radical poet who chose the genre of the play as a means of self-expression (Billington 193).
At the beginning of the 2000’s, Pinter announced that he would stop writing plays and focus on civilian activities (Billington 202). The citizen defeated the poet. Harold Pinter had been involved in a public activity from the 1970s; issues that concerned him, in the end, came down to one thing: the struggle for human dignity. His aspirations also included the fight for freedom of expression, opposition to torture, and refusal to recognize lies as truth, even if the lies were “necessary” for the purpose of national security.
The behavior of the US military in Chile, Nicaragua, and Panama; NATO’s bombing of Serbia; the occupation of Iraq; torture; the use of prohibited weapons, such as cluster bombs or bombs stuffed with depleted uranium? Harold Pinter did not lose sight of anything. In spring 2003, Harold Pinter was at the forefront of the anti-war demonstration in London, which attracted two million people (Billington 149). He spoke in the House of Commons against the war. Over the course of two years, he had not weakened his pressure on the US and the British governments, as evidenced by his Nobel speech.
His active citizenship was so amazing, especially against the background of the silence of many other prominent figures in culture, that sometimes the audience wondered if the reason for Pinter’s bravery was a terminal illness that had made him realize he had nothing to lose (Billington 215). However, his track record of civic activities speaks for itself. It all started back in the early 1970s. There were two events in particular: the overthrow of Chilean President Allende in a military coup in 1973 and the supported by the Americans Somoza regime in Nicaragua. Harold Pinter was convinced that the duty of each generation was to establish the truth of our personal life and the truth of our society; if it did not happen, then there was no hope to return the lost dignity of man (Billington 235).
The paper concerned the essential milestones of Harold Pinter’s development as an individual, an artist, and a social activist. His character, courage, and creative contribution determined new approaches to art, its understanding, and interpretation. Moreover, various fields of human expertise that Pinter had covered in his activities changed the vector of their development. Therefore, it is evident that Pinter showed a new way the humankind could use in its progress.