The Birthday Party

by

Harold Pinter

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Stanley Webber Character Analysis

A man who has been living for the past year in Meg and Petey Boles’s boarding house. Stanley is reclusive and unkempt, wearing filthy old pants and a pajama top. If Meg didn’t go out of her way each morning to make sure he ate breakfast and drank his tea, it seems he would never leave the comfort of his bedroom. This is perhaps because he has come to this seaside town in order to hide from his past life, although Pinter never clarifies what Stanley is running from. All the same, he leads an isolated existence, refusing to venture beyond the boarding house and claiming that he’d have “nowhere” to go even if he did leave. Having become accustomed to this kind of solitude, Stanley is distraught when Goldberg and McCann come to the boarding house and start interrogating him, making him feel guilty despite the fact that they never actually reveal what he’s done. Unfortunately, Meg and Petey hardly notice the effect these newcomers have on Stanley, even when he finally has a mental breakdown as a result of their tormenting. At the same time, the darkness Goldberg and McCann bring out in Stanley is shocking, as he eventually tries to strangle Meg and rape Lulu (one of his acquaintances). As such, Pinter portrays him as someone who has either always been dangerous, or who has been pushed to the edge by Goldberg and McCann’s psychological games. Indeed, by the end the play, Stanley is completely unhinged, finding himself incapable of communicating or standing up for himself, which is why he allows Goldberg and McCann to escort him out of the boarding house and away from his sequestered life.

Stanley Webber Quotes in The Birthday Party

The The Birthday Party quotes below are all either spoken by Stanley Webber or refer to Stanley Webber. 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

MEG. […] I’m going to call that boy.

PETEY. Didn’t you take him up his cup of tea?

MEG. I always take him up his cup of tea. But that was a long time ago.

PETEY. Did he drink it?

MEG. I made him. I stood there till he did. I’m going to call him.

Related Characters: Meg Boles (speaker), Petey Boles (speaker), Stanley Webber
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

MEG. What are the cornflakes like, Stan?

STANLEY. Horrible.

MEG. Those flakes? Those lovely flakes? You’re a liar, a little liar. They’re refreshing. It says so. For people when they get up late.

STANLEY. The milk’s off.

MEG. It’s not. Petey ate his, didn’t you, Petey?

PETEY. That’s right.

MEG. There you are then.

STANLEY. (Pushes away his plate.) All right, I’ll go on to the second course.

MEG. He hasn’t finished the first course and he wants to go on to the second course!

Related Characters: Stanley Webber (speaker), Meg Boles (speaker), Petey Boles (speaker)
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

STANLEY. Who gave you the right to take away my tea?

MEG. You wouldn’t drink it.

STANLEY. (He stares at her. Quietly.) Who do you think you’re talking to?

MEG. (Uncertainly.) What?

[…]

STANLEY. […] Tell me, Mrs. Boles, when you address yourself to me, do you ever ask yourself who exactly you are talking to? Eh? (Silence. He groans, his trunk falls forward, his head falls into his hands on the table.)

MEG. (In a small voice.) Didn’t you enjoy your breakfast, Stan?

Related Characters: Stanley Webber (speaker), Meg Boles (speaker)
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

MEG. Have you played the piano in those places before?

STANLEY. Played the piano? I’ve played the piano all over the world. All over the country. (Pause.) I once gave a concert.

MEG. A concert?

STANLEY. (Reflectively.) Yes. It was a good one, too. They were all there that night. Every single one of them. It was a great success. Yes. A concert. At Lower Edmonton.

Related Characters: Stanley Webber (speaker), Meg Boles (speaker)
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

STANLEY. (To himself.) I had a unique touch. Absolutely unique. They came up to me. They came up to me and said they were grateful. Champagne we had that night, the lot. (Pause.) My father nearly came down to hear me. Well, I dropped him a card anyway. But I don’t think he could make it. No, I—I lost the address, that was it. (Pause.) Yes. Lower Edmonton. Then after that, you know what they did? They carved me up. Carved me up. It was all arranged, it was all worked out. My next concert. Somewhere else it was. In winter. I went down there to play. Then, when I got there, the hall was closed, the place was shuttered up, not even a caretaker. They’d locked it up. (Takes off his glasses and wipes them on his pyjama jacket.) A fast one. They pulled a fast one. I’d like to know who was responsible for that. […] All right, Jack, I can take a tip. They want me to crawl down on my bended knees. Well I can take a tip…any day of the week. (He replaces his glasses, then looks at MEG.) Look at her. You’re just an old piece of rock cake, aren’t you? (He crosses to her and looks down at her.) That’s what you are, aren’t you?

Related Characters: Stanley Webber (speaker), Meg Boles
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

STANLEY. (Abruptly.) How would you like to go away with me?

LULU. Where?

STANLEY. Nowhere. Still, we could go.

LULU. But where could we go?

STANLEY. Nowhere. There’s nowhere to go. So we could just go. It wouldn’t matter.

LULU. We might as well stay here.

STANLEY. No. It’s no good here.

LULU. Well, where else is there?

STANLEY. Nowhere.

LULU. Well, that’s a charming proposal. (Pause.) Do you have to wear those glasses?

STANLEY. Yes.

LULU. So you’re not coming out for a walk?

STANLEY. I can’t at the moment.

LULU. You’re a bit of a washout, aren’t you?

Related Characters: Stanley Webber (speaker), Lulu (speaker)
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

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

STANLEY. You’re here on a short stay?

MCCANN. That’s right.

STANLEY. You’ll find it very bracing.

MCCANN. Do you find it bracing?

STANLEY. Me? No. But you will. […] I like it here, but I’ll be moving soon. Back home. I’ll stay there too, this time. No place like home. (He laughs.) I wouldn’t have left, but business calls. Business called, and I had to leave for a bit. You know how it is.

MCCANN. You in business?

STANLEY. No. I think I’ll give it up. I’ve got a small private income, you see. I think I’ll give it up. Don’t like being away from home. I used to live very quietly—play records, that’s about all. Everything delivered to the door. Then I started a little private business, in a small way, and it compelled me to come down here—kept me longer than I expected. You never get used to living in someone else’s house. Don’t you agree? I lived so quietly. You can only appreciate what you’ve had when things change. That’s what they say, isn’t it?

Related Characters: Stanley Webber (speaker), McCann (speaker)
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

You know what? To look at me, I bet you wouldn’t think I’d led such a quiet life. The lines on my face, eh? It’s the drink. Been drinking a bit down here. But what I mean is…you know how it is…away from your own…all wrong, of course…I’ll be all right when I get back…but what I mean is, the way some people look at me you’d think I was a different person. I suppose I have changed, but I’m still the same man that I always was. I mean, you wouldn’t think, to look at me, really…I mean, not really, that I was the sort of bloke to—to cause any trouble, would you? (MCCANN looks at him.) Do you know what I mean?

Related Characters: Stanley Webber (speaker), McCann
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:

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:
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Stanley Webber Character Timeline in The Birthday Party

The timeline below shows where the character Stanley Webber appears in The Birthday Party. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act One
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“Is Stanley up yet?” Meg asks, and Petey says that he doesn’t know. “I haven’t seen him... (full context)
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...Meg tells him that she already has a room ready. She then decides to wake Stanley, and Petey asks if she already took him his cup of tea. “I always take... (full context)
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Calling out, Meg warns Stanley that she’s coming to get him, and then she goes upstairs and the audience hears... (full context)
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Meg tells Stanley she isn’t going to give him the second course, but he threatens to “go down... (full context)
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Stanley laughs at Meg for claiming that she keeps a “clean” house. “Yes!” she insists. “And... (full context)
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After several moments of dusting the sideboard and table, Meg turns to Stanley and asks, “Am I really succulent?” In turn, Stanley assures her that he’d rather have... (full context)
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“Are you going out?” Meg asks. “Not with you,” Stanley says, and then she says she’s going shopping and that he’ll be lonely by himself.... (full context)
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Having decided that the two new guests won’t come, Stanley says, “Forget all about it. It’s a false alarm. A false alarm.” He then asks... (full context)
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...to like watching you play the piano. When are you going to play it again?” Stanley then points out that he can’t play the piano because the boarding house doesn’t have... (full context)
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Again, Meg asks how long Stanley would be away for if he accepted the job, but he doesn’t pay attention, instead... (full context)
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Elaborating, Stanley tells the story of the piano concert he gave, all the while using a tone... (full context)
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Stanley insists that the people who wanted him to play a second concert hoodwinked him. “They... (full context)
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Telling Meg about these mysterious people with the wheelbarrow, Stanley says, “And when the van stops they wheel it out, and they wheel it up... (full context)
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Lulu remarks that the boarding house is “stuffy” and suggests that Stanley should get some air, but he insists that he went outside at “half past six.”... (full context)
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“There’s nowhere to go,” Stanley continues. “So we could just go. It wouldn’t matter.” In response, Lulu says that they... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...Petey does for work and then asking her about the sole boarder, inquiring how long Stanley has been staying in the house and what he does for work. “He once gave... (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. “His birthday?” Goldberg asks. “Yes,” she... (full context)
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After showing Goldberg and McCann their room, Meg comes downstairs again and speaks to Stanley in the living room. “Who are they?” he asks, pressing for details. He asks how... (full context)
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Meg hands Stanley the parcel that Lulu brought to the house. When he opens it, he sees that... (full context)
Act Two
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...a newspaper into “five equal strips” while Goldberg and Petey’s voices drift in from outside. Stanley enters the living room and greets McCann. “Were you going out?” McCann asks, and Stanley... (full context)
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“Excuse me,” Stanley says, moving to leave. However, McCann doesn’t let him pass, saying, “Why don’t you stay... (full context)
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Stanley reiterates to McCann that he intends to return home, saying that he “used to live... (full context)
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Stanley becomes visibly shaken by the fact that Goldberg and Petey are lurking outside. “You want... (full context)
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Recognizing that McCann is Irish, Stanley invites him to a nearby pub that serves Guinness, but Petey and Goldberg enter and... (full context)
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Goldberg ignores Stanley’s assertion that the boarding house can’t accommodate new guests, instead approaching him and saying, “I... (full context)
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Stanley refuses to sit, so Goldberg tells McCann to force him to do so. When Stanley... (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.... (full context)
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“You betrayed the organization,” McCann says. “I know him!” In response, Stanley shouts that McCann doesn’t know him, but McCann plucks his glasses off his face. When... (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 repeats it, saying, “Do you recognise an external... (full context)
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Finally, Goldberg and McCann ask Stanley to answer whether the chicken or the egg came first, and Stanley screams at this.... (full context)
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...lifts their glasses for a toast, Goldberg urges Meg to deliver a few words about Stanley, who stands silently to the side. “Switch out the light and put on your torch,”... (full context)
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...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... (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 been so touched to... (full context)
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...with one another. As each pair converses, their sentences overlap in a strange cacophony, and Stanley simply sits in silence. Lulu tells Goldberg that she admired his speech, and he says... (full context)
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Walking blindfolded through the 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... (full context)
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Just as Goldberg and McCann get Stanley to let go of Meg, the lights suddenly go out, leaving everyone in total darkness.... (full context)
Act Three
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...“like a log” the night before. “Oh, look,” Meg says at one point, picking up Stanley’s drum. “The drum’s broken. Why is it broken?” Hitting it with her hand, she says,... (full context)
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Meg asks Petey if he’s seen Stanley yet, and when he says he hasn’t, she says, “Nor have I. That boy should... (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 to tell Stanley that she “won’t... (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 happen in many different... (full context)
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...then asks if people can recover from nervous breakdowns, and Goldberg admits it’s “conceivable” that Stanley might already have gotten over it. Nonetheless, Petey says he’ll call a doctor if Stanley... (full context)
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...pushes him, he says, “I’m not going up there again.” This, he explains, is because Stanley has gone quiet. “He stopped all that…talking a while ago,” he says, telling Goldberg that... (full context)
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...Meg returns. Accepting this, Petey goes to check on his garden as they wait for Stanley to come downstairs. Alone in the living room, Goldberg and McCann prepare to leave. As... (full context)
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After Lulu leaves, McCann goes upstairs and fetches Stanley, who arrives dressed in “striped trousers, black jacket, and white collar” with a bowler hat... (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 …... (full context)
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...car” for him, but Petey remains rooted where he stands. As Goldberg and McCann take Stanley out the door, Petey screams, “Stan, don’t let them tell you what to do!” Listening... (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 have already left, and Petey... (full context)