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The Birthday Party, a comedy of menace (Pinter)
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The Birthday Party: A "Comedy of Menace"
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"Comedy of menace" was a term first used to describe Harold Pinter's plays by the drama critic Irving Wardle. He borrowed the term from the subtitle of one of David Campton's plays, The Lunatic View: A Comedy of Menace. A comedy is a humorous play which contains variations on the elements of surprise, incongruity, conflict, repetitiveness, and the effect of opposite expectations and so on in order to amuse and make the audience laugh. A menace is something which threatens to cause harm, evil or injury which seems quite incompatible with the idea of a comedy. However, as The Birthday Party shows, it is quite possible for a playwright to create both humour and menace in the same play, and even at the same time, in order to produce certain effects and to transmit ideas to the audience.
Comedy is present in The Birthday Party from the very first scene; it is a way of gently introducing the audience to the world which Pinter is trying to create. The humour is quite subtle at first, for example the exchange between
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