The Birthday Party


  • Petey, a man in his sixties
  • Meg, a woman in her sixties
  • Stanley, a man in his late thirties
  • Lulu, a girl in her twenties
  • Goldberg, a man in his fifties
  • McCann, a man of thirty

(The Birthday Party [Grove Press ed.] 8)

Meg and Petey Boles

While on tour with L. du Garde's A Horse! A Horse!, Pinter found himself in Eastbourne without a place to stay. He met a stranger in a pub who said "I can take you to some digs but I wouldn't recommend them exactly," and then led Pinter to the house where he stayed. Pinter told his official biographer, Michael Billington,

I went to these digs and found, in short, a very big woman who was the landlady and a little man, the landlord. There was no one else there, apart from a solitary lodger, and the digs were really quite filthy ... I slept in the attic with this man I'd met in the pub ... we shared the attic and there was a sofa over my bed ... propped up so I was looking at this sofa from which hairs and dust fell continuously. And I said to the man, "What are you doing here?" And he said, "Oh well I used to be...I'm a pianist. I used to play in the concert-party here and I gave that up." ... The woman was really quite a voracious character, always tousled his head and tickled him and goosed him and wouldn't leave him alone at all. And when I asked him why he stayed, he said, "There's nowhere else to go."[19]

According to Billington, "The lonely lodger, the ravenous landlady, the quiescent husband: these figures, eventually to become Stanley, Meg, and Petey, sound like figures in a Donald McGill seaside postcard" (Harold Pinter 76).

Goldberg and McCann

Goldberg and McCann "represent not only the West's most autocratic religions, but its two most persecuted races" (Billington, Harold Pinter 80). Goldberg goes by many names sometimes Nat but when talking about his past he mentions that he was called by the names "Simey" and also "Benny". He seems to idolise his Uncle Barney as he mentions him many times during the play. Goldberg is portrayed as a Jewish man which is reinforced by his typically Jewish name and his appropriate use of Yiddish words. McCann is an unfrocked priest and has two names. Petey refers to him as Dermot but Goldberg calls him Seamus. The sarcasm in the following exchange evokes some distance in their relationship:

McCANN: You've always been a true Christian

GOLDBERG: In a way.

Stanley Webber

Stanley Webber is "a palpably Jewish name, incidentally—is a man who shores up his precarious sense of self through fantasy, bluff, violence and his own manipulative form of power-play. His treatment of Meg initially is rough, playful, teasing, ... but once she makes the fateful, mood-changing revelation —'I've got to get things ready for the two gentlemen'—he's as dangerous as a cornered animal" (Billington, Harold Pinter 78).


Lulu is a woman in her twenties "whom Stanley tries vainly to rape" (Billington, Harold Pinter 112) during the birthday party in Act II.

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