Pinter and the critics

Yael Zarhy-Levo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


“To a great extent my public image is one that’s been cultivated by the press. That’s the Harold Pinter they choose to create.” (Interview with Stephen Moss, 4 September 1999, in The Guardian)/In this chapter I deal with a particular public image of Harold Pinter - that of Pinter as playwright. This image was first constructed by the press, and specifically by theatre reviewers, in the early phases of Pinter’s writing career, and has since been further cultivated by the reviewers in the later phases of his career. Pinter, however, while well aware of the reviewers' construct of his dramatic work, does not appear to have remained passive in the face of it. Rather, he has chosen a unique response, seemingly collaborative at first, but ultimately trapping the critics in their own confined space. In this overview of Pinter’s career, presenting the ‘Pinter’ construct on the one hand, and the playwright’s mode(s) of response on the other, I have chosen to focus on three highlights: first, the consolidation of the construct throughout Pinter’s process of acceptance by the critical community and his ’semi-collaborative' response; second, Pinter’s unpredictable poetic move, manifested by his mid-career play A Kind of Alaska, and the reviewers' response in this case; and third, Pinter’s late play Ashes to Ashes, the culmination of his overtly political plays and yet another mode of poetic response to the critics, together with the critical reaction it elicited. This chapter examines in particular the London productions of Pinter’s plays, and consequently the reviews appearing in the London press. The reviewers' conduct in the case of Pinter exemplifies the tactics of criticism in general.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to Harold Pinter, Second Edition
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781139002431
ISBN (Print)9780521886093
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2009


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