“Everything’s over,” the characters say in the opening scene of the play. Which, in a way, is true. The beginning of Pinter’s heart-wrenching play is set in his characters’ present day, and each scene leads us back into time, further into the origins of the doomed love triangle made up of the play’s three characters: gallery owner Emma, her husband Robert, and his best friend (and Emma’s lover) Jerry. Chronological quirks aside, Betrayal is about the multiple deceptions of the three, and the various ways they betray each other.
Emma: Have you ever been unfaithful?
Jerry: To whom?
Emma: To me.
What is betrayal? What does it mean to be betrayed? Happily, Pinter declines to moralize on the matter, and instead leaves us with the knotty situation as a fragment of social truth, which we are left to resolve for ourselves. Betrayal is, perhaps, in the eye of the beholder.
The language in the play is really interesting - the dialogue builds upon itself, so that comments that seem casual at first grow in meaning until readers/viewers grasp the hidden significance of the characters’ words.
So... did anyone see that Seinfeld where they did a parody/homage to this play? The scenes went back in time, and there was a character named Pinter. Oh, such cleverness. At least now I feel like I'm in on the joke. (Because it's really important to be in on Seinfeld jokes from 10 years ago. I know.)