Characteristics of Harold Pinter's Work - Characteristics of Pinter's Work - Comedy of Menace

Comedy of Menace

Once asked what his plays are about, Pinter lobbed back a phrase "the weasel under the cocktail cabinet", which he regrets has been taken seriously and applied in popular criticism:

Once many years ago, I found myself engaged uneasily in a public discussion on theatre. Someone asked me what was my work 'about'. I replied with no thought at all and merely to frustrate this line of enquiry: 'the weasel under the cocktail cabinet'. This was a great mistake. Over the years I have seen that remark quoted in a number of learned columns. It has now seemingly acquired a profound significance, and is seen to be a highly relevant and meaningful observation about my own work. But for me the remark meant precisely nothing.

Despite Pinter's protestations to the contrary, many reviewers and other critics consider the remark, though facetious, an apt description of his plays. For although Pinter repudiated it, it does contain an important clue about his relationship to English dramatic tradition (Sofer 29); "Mr. Pinter … is celebrated for what the critic Irving Wardle has called 'the comedy of menace' " (Brantley, "Harold Pinter"; cf. "A Master of Menace" ).

In December 1971, in his interview with Pinter about Old Times, Mel Gussow recalled that "After The Homecoming said that 'couldn't any longer stay in the room with this bunch of people who opened doors and came in and went out. Landscape and Silence are in a very different form. There isn't any menace at all.' " Later, when he asked Pinter to expand on his view that he had "tired" of "menace", Pinter added: "when I said that I was tired of menace, I was using a word that I didn't coin. I never thought of menace myself. It was called 'comedy of menace' quite a long time ago. I never stuck categories on myself, or on any of us . But if what I understand the word menace to mean is certain elements that I have employed in the past in the shape of a particular play, then I don't think it's worthy of much more exploration."

Read more about this topic:  Characteristics Of Harold Pinter's Work, Characteristics of Pinter's Work

Other articles related to "comedy of menace, comedy":

Comedy Of Menace - Selected Examples From Pinter's Plays and Sketches
... As Pinter's The Dumb Waiter has been categorised as a "comedy of menace," so may be McDonagh's In Bruges, as it closely resembles it yet, despite the comedy and the sense ... You can interpret it as an Absurdist comedy – a kind of Godot in Birmingham – about two men passing the time in a universe without meaning or purpose. 90) The comedy in this "comedy of menace" often derives from such arguments between Gus and Ben, especially the one that occurs when "Ben tells Gus to go and ...

Famous quotes containing the words menace and/or comedy:

    People who know what is good for other people all the time are as big a menace in our society as the capitalists.
    May Hobbs (b. 1938)

    The comedy of hollow sounds derives
    From truth and not from satire on our lives.
    Wallace Stevens (1879–1955)