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Harold Pinter's theatre of cruelty


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Alfirević, Acija. (2017). Harold Pinter's theatre of cruelty. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of Comparative Literature.
(Poslijediplomski doktorski studij književnosti, izvedbenih umjetnosti, filma i kulture) [mentor Senker, Boris].

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I. Introduction This chapter consists of 3 parts: 1. Harold Pinter's Reception in Great Britain From his first written one-act play, The Room, in 1957 until the last, Celebration, in 2000, Harold Pinter experienced various reception in his native country. His very first work was praised by the critics and viewers as something anew, then the second full-lenght play The Birthday Party was severely attacked which, however, did not prevent him from writing new plays. Over time Pinter was recognized as a distinguished and unique playwright in the context of not only British but European as well as the world contemporary drama. 2. Harold Pinter's Reception in Croatia Harold Pinter's plays were produced in Croatia soon after their world premiers/openings in Great Britain. At the very beginning the critics were not favourable to his plays, although from their quoted reviews it is evident that they approached to his plays with an interest and serious engagement. The critics often compared Pinter to Beckett and Ionesco as well as Kafka, but they also recognized his distinguished poetics and an authentic dramatic voice. 3. Commentary The part of the chapter depicts differences and similarities between Pinter's reception in Great Britain and Croatia. II. Theatre of Cruelty 1. The Theory A French poet and theatre person Antonin Artaud was first to establish this term and conceived a ceremonial theatre of magic purgation that has a profound influence on avant-garde writers and directors. In the number of manifestos Artaud passionately rejected the fossilized psychological theatre of words and proposed a theatre inspired by the sacred ritual of the Orient. What he found in the Oriental theatre was a primitive mentality that exposed the human soul and the condition in which it lives in a drama of cruelty. Artaud longed to reinstate the theatre's primordial dignity by magically exercising the dramatic power of reality in order to affect man's senses so that he/she might understand his/her desires and acts from a larger perspective. Artaud's conception of the theatre is a functional one to overwhelm the spectator in such a way that he/she cannot be left intact. By liberating man's instictual preoccupation with crime and eroticism, Artaud hoped to achieve a therapeutic transformation in the spectator. In order to experience true feelings the spectator must participate emotionally in the dramatic action, which consists of an event, or happening. Artaud wished to create a sort of collective delirium and even a physical shock in order to reveal the fundamental cruelty that is at the basis of every dramatic action. The cruelty of which Artaud spoke was not one of bloody killings onstage but rather a cruelty of lucid determination to which we are all necessarily submitted. 2. The Practice In order to put his ideas in practice Artaud produced Les Cenci, his adaptation of text by Stendhal and Shelly, Although the production was a failure, it had an impact on Artaud's Collaborators like Roger Blin and Jean-Louis Barrault. 3. The Legacy Apart from France, Artaud's influence spread over to the United States especially after his book The Theatre and its Double was translated into English and published in New York in 1958. Polish directors Jerzy Grotowski and Tadeusz Kantor were also influenced by Artaud as well as British director Peter Brook. Croatian theatre directors were also attracted by Artaud's theory and several plays were produced with a reasonable success. III. Analysis of Harold Pinter's plays with the elements of the ''theatre of cruelty'' 1. Introduction Although Harold Pinter was not acquainted with Artaud's theory, in his plays one can find many great elements of cruelty – verbal, physical and psychological. The lebel ''comedies of menace'' which has been applied to Pinter's plays is correct as far as it goes, yet behind the menace there stands the consciousness of an anxiety about the cruelty of the post-Holocaust, postnuclear world itself. In the same way the frantic search for territory of one's own, a safe haven from which that world can be excluded – the territorial element of Pinter's work – also emerges as merely an aspect of the basic realization of the ruthless brutality/cruelty of the times, a panic-striken desire to shelter from a world pervaded by terror and torture. 2. Verbal and physical cruelty In Pinter's plays from the first stage of his work like The Room, The Dumb Waiter, The Birthday Party, A Night Out, The Carataker and The Homecoming – there are elements of explicite verbal and physical cruelty, as well as in the plays of his later phase: One for the Road, Mountain Language. These plays are analysed as such and in the context of Artaud's ''theatre of cruelty''. 3. Verbal and psychological cruelty Pinter depicted not only the working classes, but as well the middle and upper classes which lifestyle and enviroment did not prevent them of cruel behaviour. However, their kind of cruelty was less physical but more psychological. The plays analyzed as such are: A Slight Ache, The Collection, No Man's Land, The Hothouse, Ashes to Ashes and Celebration.

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: Harold Pinter, Antonin Artaud, theatre of cruelty, European drama
Subjects: Comparative literature
Departments: Department of Comparative Literature
Supervisor: Senker, Boris
Additional Information: Poslijediplomski doktorski studij književnosti, izvedbenih umjetnosti, filma i kulture
Date Deposited: 07 Jul 2017 12:59
Last Modified: 07 Jul 2017 12:59

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