The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter: Summary, History, and Meaning of the Play

The Birthday Party (play) was written by a renowned British playwright and Nobel Prize winner, Harold Pinter. It first appeared in print in 1959. The play is often referred to as a “comedy of menace” for its fluidity of time, isolated location, and ambiguity of identity.

The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter revolves around a piano player, Stanley Webber, who stays in a shabby seaside boarding house owned by the Boles. He is wary of strangers and doesn’t tell much about his past. 

One day, when Stanley is having his birthday party, two strangers arrive to turn everything upside down. Goldberg and McCann cause chaos at the boarding house without disclosing the purpose of their visit. They subject Stanley to intense cross-examination with questions that lack logic. The Birthday Party playwright uses the language of the play to highlight the meaningless existence of the characters and their inability to discover the truth. 

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