Description

This typescript draft of Betrayal by Harold Pinter has the working title ‘A White Wedding’ (f. 23r). Produced circa 1978 and labelled ‘2nd draft’, this complete script reveals Pinter’s progression from the earlier handwritten notes and draft pages of dialogue found in the folder labelled ‘Torcello notes’.

What do these draft pages reveal?

These draft pages are close to the final published text of Betrayal. Pinter’s handwritten changes show how he refines the dialogue, adding or changing small details. In this draft Pinter has settled on the names ‘Jerry’ and ‘Robert’ for his male protagonists, but is still experimenting with the other characters’ names.

Betrayal

Betrayal recounts a seven-year affair between Emma and literary agent, Jerry, who is the best friend of her husband, Robert – a publisher. The play is largely structured in reverse chronology, and the excerpt shown here is taken from Scene 1 in which Emma and Jerry meet two years after their affair has ended. Emma, whom Pinter initially called ‘Lucy’ in this draft, but crossed out and replaced with a letter ‘E’, has found out that her husband Robert has been unfaithful to her for years (f. 36r):

E Lucy – You xxx know what I found out .. last night ?
He’s betrayed me for years. He’s had .. other women for years.
Jerry – No ? Good Lord.
pause
But we betrayed him for years.
E Lucy – And he betrayed me for years.
Jerry – Well, I never knew that.
E Lucy – Nor did I.

Director Peter Hall thought that the play was about more than a story of middle-class adultery. He said ‘… if you start with self-betrayal, it gradually infects everything like a dreadful, destructive virus’.[1] The characters’ self-betrayal is evident in this scene where their deceitfulness and egotism is laid bare.

What is the significance of the first scene?

The opening scene poignantly captures a sense of longing, regret and guilt as the two ex-lovers reflect on the past. A key motif of the play is introduced, the recurring image of Jerry throwing Emma and Robert’s daughter, Charlotte, up in the air and catching her. The image evokes a time in the past when everything was ideal. Jerry’s recollection of the detail of this incident highlights another theme in the play, the fallibility of memory (f. 33r):

Jerry – Yes, everyone was there that day, standing around, your husband, my wife, all
the kids, I remember.
E Lucy – What day?
Jerry – When I threw her up. It was in your kitchen.
E Lucy – It was in your kitchen.
Silence.

While Emma is hurt by her husband’s infidelity, Jerry seems even more shocked and upset to hear about his friend’s affairs: ‘I never suspected there was anyone else… in his life but you. Never’ (f. 37r). The layers of betrayal start to build as Emma claims that she only told Robert the previous evening about her affair with Jerry (f. 39r):

Jerry – You told him everything?
E Lucy – I had to.
Jerry – You told him everything … about me us ?
E Lucy – I had to.

In Scene 2 Jerry will discover that Robert has known about the affair between him and Emma for years (see Add MS 88880/1/5, f. 19r).

The opening scene in the play also introduces the character of Casey, the writer for whom Robert is publisher and Jerry is literary agent (f. 34r). A second-rate though commercially lucrative writer, Casey represents one of the most powerful betrayals in the play. While they were students, Robert and Jerry shared a passion for literature. Now middle-aged, they have betrayed the literary ideals of their youth and succumbed to the compromises of everyday life.


[1] Michael Billington, Harold Pinter (London: Faber and Faber, 1996), p. 259.

Transcript