From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Betrayal is a play written by
2005 Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter in
1978. Critically regarded as one of the English playwright's major
dramatic works, it features his
characteristically economical dialogue, characters' hidden emotions
and veiled motivations, and their self-absorbed competitive
one-upmanship, face-saving, dishonesty, and (self-)deceptions.
Inspired by Pinter's clandestine extramarital affair with BBC Television presenter Joan Bakewell, which occurred for seven
years, from 1962 to 1969,
the plot of Betrayal exposes different permutations of
betrayal and kinds of betrayals occurring over a period of nine
years, relating to a seven-year affair involving a married couple,
Emma and Robert, and Robert's "close friend" Jerry, who is also
married, to a woman named Judith. For five years Jerry and Emma
carry on their affair without Robert's knowledge, both cuckolding Robert and betraying Judith,
until Emma, without telling Jerry she has done so, admits her
infidelity to Robert (in effect, betraying Jerry), although she
continues their affair. In 1977, four years after exposing the
affair (in 1973) and two years after their subsequent break up (in
1975), Emma meets with Jerry to tell him that her marriage to
Robert is over and only then reveals that Robert has known about
the affair for the past four years.
Pinter's particular usage of reverse chronology in structuring
the plot is innovative: the first scene takes place after the
affair has ended, in 1977; the final scene ends when the affair
begins, in 1968; and, in between 1977 and 1968, scenes in two
pivotal years (1977 and 1973) move forward chronologically.
As Roger Ebert
observes, in his review of the 1983 film, based on Pinter's own screenplay, "The
'Betrayal' structure strips away all artifice. It shows,
heartlessly, that the very capacity for love itself is sometimes
based on betraying not only other loved ones, but even
London and Venice, from 1968 to 1977 (in reverse
The years between 1968 and 1977 occur in reverse order; scenes
within years 1977 and 1973 move forward.
- Scene One: Pub. 1977. Spring.
- Emma and Jerry meet in a pub for a drink. She tells Jerry that,
the night before, she has told her husband, Robert, about their
affair, which subsequent scenes reveal occurred from 1968 to 1975.
They reminisce about past memories and exchange news of their
families, particularly Emma and Robert's daughter Charlotte, with
Emma remembering "that time . . . oh god it was . . . when you
picked her up and threw her up and caught her" (19) though they
disagree about where it happened, in whose "kitchen" it occurred
(20). She admits that, after their affair, she has had an affair
with the writer Casey, a client of Jerry's, whose novels have been
published by Robert, but that she has just learned "last night"
that Robert had "betrayed her for years" and expects that they will
"separate" (23–25). Regarding both her affair with Jerry and her
marriage to Robert, she says, "It's all all over" (30).
- 1977: Later.
- Scene Two: Jerry's House. Study. 1977.
- Jerry apologises to Robert. Robert reveals that he has known
about the affair "for years" and points out that it was "a long
time ago" that Emma had "confirmed . . . the facts" (not merely two
nights before, as she has told Jerry). Robert observes that whilst
the two men have "seen each other . . . a great deal . . . over the
last four years," having "had lunch", they "Never played squash
though" (38). Ironically protesting, "I was your best friend," to
which Robert agrees—"Well, yes, sure" (39), Jerry indicates how
"upset" he is when he "holds his head in his hands" and
conveys the impression that he feels betrayed, "why didn't you tell
me? Pause […] That you knew. You bastard" (39–40), to
which Robert retorts, "Oh, don't call me a bastard, Jerry" (41). He
admits that he has "hit Emma once or twice" because he "just felt
like giving her a good bashing. The old itch . . . you understand"
(41). When Jerry asks, "But you betrayed her for years, didn't
you?" Robert replies, "Oh yes"; but when Jerry adds, "And she never
knew about it. Did she?" Robert counters: "Didn't she?" Jerry says,
"I didn't," to which Robert retorts, "No, you didn't know very much
about anything, really, did you?" (42). After going back and forth
about the "seven years" that Jerry lived with Robert's wife "In the
afternoons," Robert acknowledges that Jerry "certainly knew all
there was to know about that. About the seven years of afternoons.
I didn't know anything about that," adding, after a pause, "I hope
she looked after you all right" (43). A silence leads to Jerry's
focus on how the two men "used to like each other," to Robert's
saying "We still do," to Robert's boasting of his squash games with
"old Casey," and to apparently routine friendly associations about
their mutual client (43–45). When Robert inquires, "Have you read
any good books lately?" Jerry replies hat he has been "reading
Yeats" and reminds Robert that Robert had "read Yeats
on Torcello alone once
(45); at first surprised that Jerry knew that, Robert recalls "So I
did. I told you that, yes" (46). The scene ends in apparent
friendliness, with Robert inquiring "Where" Jerry planned to take
his family "for the summer" and Jerry's response: "The Lake District"
- Scene Three: Flat. 1975. Winter.
- Jerry and Emma decide to give up the flat they have rented for
their afternoon assignations, thereby ending the affair; their
passion appears to have fizzled out (49–57).
- Scene Four: Robert and Emma's House. Living room. 1974.
- While the three characters are having drinks, Robert invites
Jerry to play squash, purposefully excluding his wife, with
strategic undercurrents of aggression: "Well, to be brutally
honest, we wouldn't actually want a woman around, would we Jerry?
[…] What do you think, Jerry?" (69–70).
- Scene Five: Hotel Room. 1973. Summer.
- Emma is lying on the bed reading a book, while Robert is at the
window, looking out. They discuss their upcoming trip to the island
of Torcello and the book
that Emma is reading, by a man named "Spinks" (75–76), whom Robert
(a book publisher) says Jerry "discovered" (76). Robert says that
the "subject" of the book is "Betrayal"; yet Emma denies that ("No,
it isn't.") and then, when asked "What is it then?" demures, "I
haven't finished it yet. I'll let you know" (78). Robert confronts
Emma with a letter addressed to her and delivered to the American
Express office in Venice, where Robert discovered it when he
picked up their mail that afternoon (79). She admits that it is
from Jerry ("Yes, I recognised the handwriting," Robert says) and,
after Robert probes, that Jerry and she have been lovers for the
previous five years (86). The couple's conversation reveals that
Jerry was "best man" at their wedding and that he is still one of
Robert's "close friends" (83). Hiding his emotional distress,
Robert retaliates by telling Emma, "I've always liked Jerry. To be
honest, I've always liked him rather more than I've liked you.
Maybe I should have had an affair with him myself" and then, after
a silence, coming full circle, asks her if she is "looking forward"
to their "trip to Torcello" (87).
- 1973: Later
- Scene Six: Flat. 1973. Summer.
- Before they make love, Jerry asks Emma about her trip to Venice
(92). He asks explicitly, "Did you go to Torcello" (92), and,
although she says, "No," she deflects his question "Why not?" by
inventing an explanation about a "speedboat strike" (93). Emma says "I got your
letter," but, even though Jerry tells her about close calls in
which he feared that his wife, Judith, may have discovered Emma's
letter or that he was not with a writer named Spinks as he said
when he was actually with Emma (99–100), she still does not tell
Jerry that Robert has discovered Jerry's letter or that she has
already confessed the affair to her husband (93). After Jerry
remembers picking up Charlotte in Emma and Robert's kitchen, Emma
says, "It was your kitchen, actually," recalling (the foreshadowing
of) their disagreement in Scene One, and adds, "Why shouldn't you
throw her up?" as if nothing were wrong (100–101).
- 1973: Later
- Scene Seven: Restaurant. 1973. Summer.
- Robert lunches with Jerry in an Italian restaurant in London.
While Robert sips on "white wine" (105), Jerry drinks "Scotch on the rocks", which
Robert observes that Jerry does not generally do at lunch
(105–106). Jerry says that the Scotch is to help him get over a
"bug" (106). Robert observes that they "haven't played" squash for
years, while Jerry notes that they are both "thirty-six" and
observes that the game is a "Bit violent" (107). Robert tells Jerry
about his trip to Venice and particularly about going to Torcello, rapidly, via
"whoomp" (112). Jerry inquires what whoomp signifies, and
when Robert answers, "Speedboat" Jerry starts to interrupt, "Ah. I
thought –" harkening back to Emma's telling him that the speedboats
were "on strike" (93), then adding to cover his tracks at Robert's
surprise ("What?"): "It's so long ago, I'm obviously wrong. I
thought one went to Torcello by gondola" (112). Robert observes that that would
"take hours" and reveals that he went to Torcello "alone"; he
focuses on how much he enjoyed reading "Yeats
on Torcello" (113) instead of telling Jerry either then or later in
their lunch conversation that on that very day he had actually
discovered the affair between his wife and Jerry (113–18). Much
comic business relating to the identity of the Italian waiter and
the serving of the food and drinks occurs, as Jerry observes that
Robert has become "pissed" (116). They also discuss
other writers whom Jerry (a literary agent) represents and whom
Robert publishes, mentioning particularly "Casey" (117), whom Jerry
"discovered" (118) and with whom, Scene One has already revealed,
Emma began having an affair after she and Jerry broke up (23–24).
Robert invites Jerry to "come and have a drink sometime" as Emma
would "love to see you" (118).
- Scene Eight: Flat. 1971. Summer.
- Emma reveals that, having lunch at "Fortnum and Mason's" (123–24), she
has unexpectedly encountered Jerry's wife, Judith, who is a doctor
and works in a hospital (127). Emma wonders if Judith knows about
their affair and also whether or not she may be having an affair of
her own (125–26), leading Jerry to acknowledge his wife's
friendship with "Another doctor" who "takes her for drinks" but to
dismiss the idea, while still admitting, "I don't know exactly
what's going on" (127). After asking, more pointedly: "Oh, why
shouldn't she have an admirer? I have an admirer," whom Jerry fails
to identify as himself, Emma goes on to ask him still more
specifically if he ever considered "changing his life"—implying,
that is, leaving Judith—but Jerry calls that "impossible" (126–28).
After her inquiries about whether or not he thinks his wife is
"being unfaithful" to him—"when" he was "in America"—result in
Jerry's equivocating, "No. I don't know. […] No." (128), Emma
focuses on whether or not Jerry has ever been "unfaithful" to
herself (128), leading him to declare that he does "adore" Emma,
while she maneuvres him towards her further ironic revelation,
punctuated by pauses: she herself is "pregnant"; it was while Jerry
was "in America" that she conceived; and "It wasn't anyone else. It
was my husband"—to all of which Jerry gives his final
socially-acceptable but emotionally-dubious response: "Yes. Yes, of
course. Pause. I'm very happy for you" (129–30).
- Scene Nine: Robert and Emma's House. Bedroom. 1968.
- While alone at a party, Jerry drunkenly declares his feelings
for Emma. She tells Robert, "Your best friend is drunk" (137). He
agrees good-naturedly and "leaves the room" (138). Emma
tries to follow, but Jerry "grasps her arm" and "She
stops still." The play ends as "They stand still, looking
at each other" (138).
In 1977 Emma is 38, Jerry and Robert are 40. (n. pag. )
Betrayal was first produced by the National Theatre in
London on November 15, 1978.
The original cast featured Penelope Wilton as Emma, Michael Gambon as
Jerry, Daniel Massey as Robert, and
Artro Morris as the waiter. It was designed by John Bury and
directed by Peter Hall.
In 2007, Roger
Michell staged a revival of Betrayal at the Donmar
Warehouse theatre starring Toby Stephens as Jerry, Samuel West as Robert,
Kirwan as Emma. Pinter reportedly lunched with the actors,
attended an early "readthrough" and provided some advice, which,
according to Stephens, included ignoring some of Pinter's famous
pauses (Lawson). The play was also revived in the Lyttelton at the
National Theatre in November
1998, directed by Trevor
Nunn and starring Douglas Hodge, Imogen Stubbs, and Anthony Calf.
The play had its American premiere on Broadway on
January 5, 1980 at the Trafalgar Theatre
where it ran for 170 performances to close on 31 May 1980. It
opened on on with Raul Julia as Jerry, Blythe Danner as
Emma, and Roy
Scheider as Robert.
A 2000 Broadway revival was staged at the American Airlines Theatre
Schreiber, and John Slattery.
Berthold directed a production of Betrayal, designed
by Peter England, at the Sydney Theatre Company, from 10
March through 17 April 1999; it starred Paul
Goddard, Robert Menzies, and Angie
Pinter adapted Betrayal as a screenplay for the 1983
film directed by David Jones,
Irons (Jerry), Ben
Kingsley (Robert), and Patricia Hodge (Emma).
Betrayal was inspired by Pinter's seven-year affair with television presenter Joan Bakewell, who
was married to the producer and director Michael
Bakewell, while Pinter was married to actress Vivien
The affair was known in some circles; when Betrayal
premiered on stage in 1978, Lord Longford (father
Fraser), who was in the audience, commented that Emma appeared
to be based on Joan Bakewell; but the
affair only became public knowledge after it was confirmed by
Pinter in Billington's 1996 authorised biography,
which was further confirmed in Joan Bakewell's later memoir The
Centre of the Bed.
A program note about the author accompanying productions of the
play, stating that he "has lived [with] Antonia Fraser" for "five years, when
the play was first produced and published in 1978, led some to
assume that the play was based on their relationship; thus, the
biographical context for the play was (mis)attributed to Pinter's
affair with Lady Antonia Fraser, which occurred from 1975 to 1980,
while he was still married to Vivien Merchant. Pinter married Antonia
Fraser in 1980, after the Frasers' divorce (1977) and the Pinters'
divorce (1980) became final (Billington 253–54).
In the mid 1990s, Pinter explained to his official authorised
biographer Michael Billington that,
although he wrote the play while "otherwise engaged" with Fraser,
he actually based some details of the play on the clandestine
affair which he conducted from 1962 to 1969 with BBC Television presenter Joan Bakewell, who
was married to producer and director Michael Bakewell at that time
(1997), episode 8 of the 9th (final) season of the NBC Television series Seinfeld (Sony Pictures), alludes overtly
to Pinter's play and film Betrayal, which appears to have
inspired it. Jerry Seinfeld's debt to Pinter's play appears in his
episode's title, "The Betrayal", in his use of reverse chronology,
which mimicks the plot structure of Pinter's play, and in his
choice for the first name of the groom, Pinter Ranawat, whose
wedding Jerry and his friends travel to India to attend, and in the
variations of the motif of betrayals relating to romantic affairs
- ^ Billington
257–67; cf. performance review by
Bryden 204–06 and review essay by Merritt 192–99; see also film
reviews by Canby and Ebert.
- ^ Billington
257–58, 264–67; cf. the memoir by Bakewell, which
includes two chapters on her relationship and affair with
- ^ a
For an analysis of the plot structure, see Quigley 230–31.
Pinter specifies the location in the stage directions describing
each scene, as given in the plot summary. According to his
initialed note on the same page, "Betrayal can be
performed without an interval, or with an interval after Scene
Four" (n. pag. ).
- ^ "Betrayal: Sydney Theatre
Company, Australia, 10 March - 17 April 1999",
HaroldPinter.org, Harold Pinter, 2000–. Web. 7 Feb.
- ^ a
Harold Pinter, rev. and expanded ed. (1996; London: Faber and
Faber, 2007) 264–67.
- ^ a
The Centre of the Bed (London: Hodder
& Stoughton, 2003). ISBN 0-34082310-0. (Two chapters deal
with the relationship and affair with Pinter.)
An affair to remember,
Telegraph, 07 Oct 2003
Episode Guide for Seinfeld. Sony Pictures, 2009.
Web. 11 Mar. 2009. (Includes a video clip.)
Joan. The Centre of the Bed. London: Hodder
& Stoughton, 2003. ISBN 0340823100 (10). ISBN 9780340823101
Harold Pinter. Rev. and expanded ed. 1996. London: Faber and
Faber, 2007. Print.
Bryden, Mary. Rev. of Betrayal (One from the Heart at
Camberley Theatre, February 2002). 204–06 in "The
Caretaker and Betrayal. The Pinter Review:
Collected Essays 2003 and 2004. Ed. Francis Gillen and Steven
H. Gale. Tampa: U of Tampa P, 2004. 202–06. ISBN 1879852179 (10).
ISBN 9781879852174 (13). Print.
Vincent. "Movie Review:
Betrayal (1983): Pinter's 'Betrayal,' Directed by
David Jones". New York Times, Movies. New York Times Company, 20
Feb. 1983. Web. 11 Mar. 2009.
Ebert, Roger. "Movies:
'Betrayal' ". Chicago Sun-Times 18 Mar. 1983.
RogerEbert.com, 2009. Web. 11 Mar. 2009.
Lawson, Mark. "Prodigal Son". Guardian.co.uk. Guardian
Media Group, 31 May 2007. Web. 11 Mar. 2009.
Merritt, Susan Hollis. "Betrayal in Denver" (Denver
Center Theatre Company, Denver Center for the
Performing Arts, Denver,
CO. 29 May 2002). The Pinter Review: Collected Essays 2003 and
2004. Ed. Francis Gillen and Steven H. Gale. Tampa: U of Tampa
P, 2004. 187–201. ISBN 1879852179 (10). ISBN 9781879852174 (13).
Harold. Betrayal. 1978. New York: Grove Press, 1979. ISBN
0394505255 (10). ISBN 9780394505251 (13). ISBN 0394170849 (10).
ISBN 9780394170848 (13). Print. (Parenthetical references in the
text are to this edition, ISBN 0394170849. Pinter indicates pauses
by three spaced dots of ellipsis; editorial ellipses herein are
unspaced and within brackets.)
Austin E.. "Pinter: Betrayal". Chapter 11 of The
Modern Stage and Other Worlds. New York: Methuen,
1985. 221–52. ISBN 0416393209 (10). ISBN 9780416393200 (13). Print.
Chapter 11: "Pinter:
Betrayal" in Limited preview at Google Books (omits
some pages). Web. 11 Mar. 2009.