The Birthday Party

by

Harold Pinter

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Goldberg Character Analysis

A charming, swift-talking man who arrives at Meg and Petey’s boarding house with his associate, McCann, with the intention of locating Stanley Webber. Goldberg introduces himself as Nat, but he frequently refers to himself as “Simey” while telling stories. Confusingly, he also calls himself “Benny” at one point, suggesting that his past is just as jumbled and inscrutable as Stanley’s. In fact, these two men seem to know one another, though when Stanley asks McCann if either he or Goldberg have spent time in Maidenhead, McCann upholds that they haven’t. Nonetheless, Goldberg later references the same Maidenhead tea shop that Stanley has already talked about, suggesting that he is indeed from the same town. Regardless of whether or not they hail from the same place, though, talking about the past is something Goldberg does quite often, speaking wistfully about old acquaintances and relatives and telling his listeners about the life advice he received from these people. This, it seems, is what Goldberg wants most: to be the kind of person who’s full of wisdom. Unfortunately, though, he himself has very little to offer in the way of life advice, and this is something that upsets him. Still, he’s smooth and socially confident, as made evident by the fact that he easily wins over Meg by complimenting her dress. He also gains the affection of Lulu, with whom he flirts during Stanley’s birthday party. The next morning, they have a frank conversation in which she lampoons him for having sex with her without intending to begin a relationship. However, Goldberg has other matters on his mind, focusing first and foremost on psychologically disturbing Stanley and taking him away from the boarding house.

Goldberg Quotes in The Birthday Party

The The Birthday Party quotes below are all either spoken by Goldberg or refer to Goldberg. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Ambiguity, Meaninglessness, and Absurdity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Samuel French edition of The Birthday Party published in 2011.
Act One Quotes

MCCANN. This job—no, listen—this job, is it going to be like anything we’ve ever done before?

[…]

GOLDBERG. The main issue is a singular issue and quite distinct from your previous work. Certain elements, however, might well approximate in points of procedure to some of your other activities. All is dependent on the attitude of our subject. At all events, McCann, I can assure you that the assignment will be carried out and the mission accomplished with no excessive aggravation to you or myself. Satisfied?

MCCANN. Sure. Thank you, Nat.

Related Characters: Goldberg (speaker), McCann (speaker), Stanley Webber
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

MEG. […] He once gave a concert. […] (Falteringly.) In…a big hall. His father gave him champagne. But then they locked the place up and he couldn’t get out. The caretaker had gone home. So he had to wait until the morning before he could get out. (With confidence.) They were very grateful. (Pause.) And then they all wanted to give him a tip. And so he took the tip. And then he got a fast train and he came down here.

GOLDBERG. Really?

MEG. Oh, yes. Straight down.

Related Characters: Meg Boles (speaker), Goldberg (speaker), Stanley Webber
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:
Act Two Quotes

GOLDBERG. You stink of sin.

MCCAN. I can smell it.

GOLDBERG. Do you recognise an external force?

STANLEY. What?

GOLDBERG. Do you recognise an external force?

MCCAN. That’s the question!

GOLDBERG. Do you recognise an external force, responsible for you, suffering for you?

STANLEY. (Starting up.) It’s late.

GOLDBERG. (Pushes him down.) Late! Late enough! When did you last pray?

MCCAN. He’s sweating!

GOLDBERG. When did you last pray?

Related Characters: Stanley Webber (speaker), Goldberg (speaker), McCann (speaker)
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

GOLDBERG. Is the number 846 possible or necessary?

STANLEY. Neither.

GOLDBERG. Wrong! Is the number 846 possible or necessary?

STANLEY. Both.

GOLDBERG. Wrong! It’s necessary but not possible.

STANLEY. Both.

GOLDBERG. Wrong! Why do you think the number 846 is necessarily possible?

STANLEY. Must be.

GOLDBERG. Wrong! It’s only necessarily necessary! We admit possibility only after we grant necessity. It is possible because necessary but by no means necessary through possibility. The possibility can only be assumed after the proof of necessity.

MCCANN. Right!

GOLDBERG. Right? Of course right! We’re right and you’re wrong, Webber, all along the line.

Related Characters: Stanley Webber (speaker), Goldberg (speaker), McCann (speaker)
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:

Well—it’s very, very nice to be here tonight, in my house, and I want to propose a toast to Stanley, because it’s his birthday, and he’s lived here for a long while now, and he’s my Stanley now. And I think he’s a good boy, although sometimes he’s bad. (An appreciative laugh from GOLDBERG.) And he’s the only Stanley I know, and I know him better than all the world, although he doesn’t think so. (“Hear—hear” from GOLDBERG.) Well, I could cry because I’m so happy, having him here and not gone away, on his birthday, and there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for him, and all you good people here tonight…(She sobs and sits above table.)

Related Characters: Meg Boles (speaker), Stanley Webber, Goldberg
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:
Act Three Quotes

Well, Mr. Boles, it can happen in all sorts of ways. A friend of mine was telling me about it only the other day. We’d both been concerned with another case—not entirely similar, of course, but…quite alike, quite alike. (He pauses. Crosses to the window seat.) Anyway, he was telling me, you see, this friend of mine, that sometimes it happens gradual—day by day it grows and grows and grows…day by day. And then other times it happens all at once. Poof! Like that! The nerves break. There’s no guarantee how it’s going to happen. But with certain people…it’s a foregone conclusion.

Related Characters: Goldberg (speaker), Stanley Webber, Petey Boles
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:

All my life I’ve said the same. Play up, play up, and play the game. Honour thy father and thy Mother. All along the line. Follow the line, the line, McCann, and you can’t go wrong. What do you think, I’m a self-made man? No! I sat where I was told to sit. I kept my eye on the ball. School? Don’t talk to me about school. Top in all subjects. And for why? Because I’m telling you, I’m telling you, follow my line? Follow my mental? Learn by heart. Never write down a thing. No. And don’t go too near the water. And you’ll find—that what I say is true. Because I believe that the world…(Vacant.) … Because I believe that the world…(Desperate.) … BECAUSE I BELIEVE THAT THE WORLD…(Lost. He sits in armchair.) Sit down, McCann, sit here where I can look at you. (McCann sits on the footstool. Intensely, with growing certainty.) My father said to me, Benny, Benny, he said, come here. He was dying. I knelt down. By him day and night. Who else was there? Forgive, Benny, he said, and let live. Yes, Dad. Go home to your wife. I will, Dad. Keep an eye open for low-lives, for schnorrers and for layabouts. He didn’t mention names. I lost my life in the service of others, he said, I’m not ashamed. Do your duty and keep your observations. Always bid good morning to the neighbours. Never, never forget your family, for they are the rock, the constitution and the core!

Related Characters: Goldberg (speaker), McCann
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:
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Goldberg Character Timeline in The Birthday Party

The timeline below shows where the character Goldberg appears in The Birthday Party. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act One
Order, Chaos, and Sanity Theme Icon
Lulu leaves, a knock sounds on the door, and Stanley exits as Goldberg and McCann enter carrying suitcases. “Is this it?” McCann asks, and Goldberg tells him not... (full context)
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As Goldberg continues to reminisce about his uncle’s advice, McCann grows increasingly worried that they haven’t come... (full context)
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After complimenting Goldberg, McCann asks him if “this job” will be “like anything [they’ve] ever done before.” In... (full context)
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Meg enters the living room, and Goldberg tells her that he and McCann spoke to Petey about staying in the boarding house.... (full context)
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Meg tells Goldberg and McCann that she wishes Stanley could play the piano tonight, since it’s his birthday.... (full context)
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After showing Goldberg and McCann their room, Meg comes downstairs again and speaks to Stanley in the living... (full context)
Act Two
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...McCann sits at the table and slowly tears a newspaper into “five equal strips” while Goldberg and Petey’s voices drift in from outside. Stanley enters the living room and greets McCann.... (full context)
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Stanley becomes visibly shaken by the fact that Goldberg and Petey are lurking outside. “You want to steady yourself,” McCann says as Stanley rushes... (full context)
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...is Irish, Stanley invites him to a nearby pub that serves Guinness, but Petey and Goldberg enter and interrupt their conversation. After introducing himself, Goldberg launches into a long description of... (full context)
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Goldberg ignores Stanley’s assertion that the boarding house can’t accommodate new guests, instead approaching him and... (full context)
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Stanley refuses to sit, so Goldberg tells McCann to force him to do so. When Stanley holds his ground, McCann repeats... (full context)
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“Why are you always wasting everybody’s time, Webber?” Goldberg asks, launching into a slew of questions that Stanley is hardly able to answer. He... (full context)
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...Stanley has to feel his way to it once more. When he sits back down, Goldberg and McCann resume their absurd questions. “Why did you kill your wife?” Goldberg asks. “What... (full context)
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“You stink of sin,” Goldberg says. “Do you recognise an external force?” Stanley doesn’t understand the question, but Goldberg only... (full context)
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Finally, Goldberg and McCann ask Stanley to answer whether the chicken or the egg came first, and... (full context)
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Upon seeing Meg, Goldberg regales her with compliments. They then start pouring drinks, and Goldberg urges Meg to walk... (full context)
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...world, although he doesn’t think so.” When she concludes her speech, she starts crying, and Goldberg pronounces her words “beautiful” and orders McCann to turn on the lights. At this point,... (full context)
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Instructing everyone to raise their glasses once more, Goldberg decides to toast Stanley. “Well,” he says, “I want to say first that I’ve never... (full context)
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When the lights go on again, Meg and McCann fall into conversation while Goldberg and Lulu flirt with one another. As each pair converses, their sentences overlap in a... (full context)
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While Goldberg and Lulu flirt—Lulu disclosing that she likes older men and that Goldberg looks like her... (full context)
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Isolation, Freedom, and Independence Theme Icon
...living room, Meg finds McCann, who—when he plays the blind man—finds Stanley. All the while, Goldberg and Lulu fondle one another. As McCann blindfolds Stanley, he takes his glasses, breaks them,... (full context)
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Just as Goldberg and McCann get Stanley to let go of Meg, the lights suddenly go out, leaving... (full context)
Act Three
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...Petey that she has run out of cornflakes and has nothing to feed him because Goldberg and McCann have eaten all the fried bread. Still, Petey sits and reads his newspaper... (full context)
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...if there’s a wheelbarrow inside it, but he assures her the car only belongs to Goldberg—a fact that relieves her. (full context)
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Before Meg leaves to go shopping, Goldberg comes downstairs and says that Stanley will be along soon. Hearing this, Meg tells Petey... (full context)
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Petey asks Goldberg what brought on Stanley’s nervous breakdown, and Goldberg suggests that these kinds of things can... (full context)
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...he was inside, the party had already ended. “There was dead silence,” he says to Goldberg. “Couldn’t hear a thing. So I went upstairs and your friend—Dermot—met me on the landing.... (full context)
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When McCann comes downstairs with two suitcases, Goldberg says, “Well?” but McCann doesn’t respond. Finally, when Goldberg pushes him, he says, “I’m not... (full context)
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Goldberg informs Petey that he and McCann will most likely leave before Meg returns. Accepting this,... (full context)
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Goldberg tells McCann to look in his mouth, saying he wants his “opinion.” As McCann peers... (full context)
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“And don’t go too near the water,” Goldberg tells McCann. “And you’ll find—that what I say is true. Because I believe that the... (full context)
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“Work hard and play hard,” Goldberg says, concluding a list of life lessons his father taught him while dying. “All the... (full context)
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Sensing that Lulu wants to speak to Goldberg in private, McCann steps out. “I’ve had enough games,” she says, and then accuses him... (full context)
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...broken glasses, and the audience sees that he is clean shaven. “How are you, Stan?” Goldberg asks. “He looks better, doesn’t he?” McCann says. “Much better,” Goldberg says. “A new man,”... (full context)
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“What’s your opinion of such a prospect? Eh, Stanley,” Goldberg asks. Concentrating hard, Stanley laboriously says, “Uh-gug … uh-gug … eeehhh-gag … Cahh … caahh... (full context)
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Goldberg tells Petey that there’s “plenty of room in the car” for him, but Petey remains... (full context)
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When Meg comes home, she doesn’t know that Goldberg and McCann have taken Stanley. Sitting at the table, she asks if the two guests... (full context)