The Birthday Party

by

Harold Pinter

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Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Samuel French edition of The Birthday Party published in 2011.
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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:

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:
No matches.