Playwright Harold Pinter's dialogue has been compared to everyday prattle that covers a menacing subtext. Truth and falsehoods are subjective, memory can't be relied on, words are negotiating tools or weapons.
Pinter commented on this approach in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 2005. He said, "Language in art remains a highly ambiguous transaction, a quicksand, a trampoline, a frozen pool which might give way under you, the author, at any time."
In "The Birthday Party," testy chitchat builds to an angry outburst as Goldberg and McCann, two imposing guests at the boardinghouse, get to know Stanley Webber, a longtime resident and a recluse, during a house party.
Goldberg: When did you come to this place?
Stanley: Last year.
Goldberg: Where did you come from?
Stanley: Somewhere else.
Goldberg: Why did you come here?
Stanley: My feet hurt!
Goldberg: Why did you stay?
Stanley: I had a headache!
Goldberg: Did you take anything for it?
Stanley: Fruit salts.
Goldberg: Did they fizz? Did they fizz or didn't they fizz?
McCann: He doesn't know!
Goldberg: You don't know. What's happened to your memory, Webber? When did you last have a bath?
Stanley: I have one every --
Harold Pinter: master of menace
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