The Real Inspector Hound

The Real Inspector Hound Literary Elements


Theatre of the Absurd (Comic Play)



Setting and Context

On- and off-stage in a London theatre - featuring both a murder mystery on-stage, and critics in the play's audience

Narrator and Point of View

The stage directions are written from an omniscient point of view. No narrator.

Tone and Mood

The tone is both comic and dramatic, consistent with the Absurdist genre. The critics Birdboot and Moon are undergoing existential crises concerning their reputations and identities as critics. The play on stage is a rote murder mystery, heavy on exposition and 'whodunit' tropes. The play-within-a-play merges with the reality of the critics, and both critics become swept up in the murder mystery they are reviewing - and both are really killed.

Protagonist and Antagonist

Moon and Birdboot are the protagonists. It is revealed that Puckeridge, the third-string critic, is the murderer.

Major Conflict

Moon and Birdboot are undergoing internal struggles. Moon wishes he could advance among the ranks of critics and become as renowned as the first-string critic Higgs. He feels he does not exist when Higgs is present. Birdboot, though of high esteem in the theatre world, is suffering rumors of infidelity with numerous young actresses. In the play-within-a-play, the main conflict is between the guests at Muldoon Manor and the madman on the loose.


As both plots converge, and Birdboot becomes a part of the play-within-a-play, he confronts his wife while pursuing an actress. He is shot by the play's madman and actually dies. Moon then jumps on stage, and the murderer is revealed - Puckeridge, the third-string critic next in line behind Moon.


The police reports are clever critiques of the heavy exposition used by murder mysteries, and comically foreshadow the twists and turns and appearance of Inspector Hound.




Several allusions to artists like Van Gogh and other playwrights, in dialogue between the critics.


The fog at Muldoon Manor as a symbol of confusion; multiple stage directions that subvert the play-going experience; the comic image of Inspector Hound as a joke on his authority.







Use of Dramatic Devices

Dialogue from the play-with-a-play often syncs up with the soliloquies of Birdboot and Moon, and Birdboot ironically assumes the role of Simon Gascoyne, a playboy who has seduces Felicity and Cynthia - as Birdboot has seduced and aims to seduce the women playing those roles, respectively.