The Caretaker
The Caretaker

The Caretaker (1959)

The Caretaker

Harold Pinter

Play script


The Caretaker takes place in a house in west London during the 1950s and examines the relationship between a tramp, Davies, and two brothers, Mick and Aston. The play opens as Aston saves Davies from a fight and invites him home. Davies, initially grateful, reveals himself to be a master manipulator. When Aston offers Davies the job of caretaker for the building he accepts but is then quick to turn his allegiance to Aston’s brother, Mick. In contrast to the mild-mannered Aston (who, we learn, has previously been sectioned and subjected to electric shock therapy), Mick is aggressive and self-assured, baiting Davies, catching him off balance and deliberately confusing him. Throughout the play, each member of the trio struggles to assert their authority, culminating in the expulsion of Davies who has gone too far in his attempts to disrupt the disparate existence of the two brothers.

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Date of Composition: December 1959   Confidence Level  

Linked Works

The Caretaker [film screenplay]

The film of The Caretaker (released as The Guest in the US) was released in 1963.

Linked Places

373 Chiswick Road, London (Type of place: Place of composition)

373 Chiswick Road, London

Pinter moved here with his wife and newborn son in 1958. They lived here until 1960.

373 Chiswick Road, London (Type of place: Place of inspiration)

373 Chiswick Road, London

Pinter moved here with his wife and newborn son in 1958. They lived here until 1960.

Pinter was living here with his first wife in 1959 in a first floor flat. The owner was in the building trade, and his brother lived in the house. The brother had suffered ECT treatment in a mental hospital. This latter invited a homeless person to stay with him for three or four weeks. Pinter recalled this as inspiration for The Caretaker (1960).

The Great West Road (Type of place: Location (within the fiction))

The Great West Road, Brentford, London

The first of many references to London locations made by Davies in The Caretaker. He often speaks of places or roads that place him at the periphery of or beyond the city.

Shepherd's Bush (Type of place: Location (within the fiction))

Shepherd's Bush

Davies in The Caretaker refers to having a friend in Shepherd's Bush who recommended visiting monks near Luton for a pair of shoes. After his reference to the Great West Road, this would seem to locate him as a West London down and out.

Acton (Type of place: Location (within the fiction))


Further confirming his migration around West London, Davies in The Caretaker mentions knowing a bootmaker in Acton.

Luton (Type of place: Location (within the fiction))


In The Caretaker, Davies claims to have visited a monastery 'just the other side of Luton'. No functioning monastery of the early 20th century easily fits this description, but Dunstable Priory, a former monastery and extant place of worship, is perhaps the closest match. Of course, it is just as likely that Davies is spinning a yarn than referring to any real event or location.

  Confidence Level  
Watford (Type of place: Location (within the fiction))


Davies in The Caretaker speaks of getting a pair of shoes in Watford, after a failed mission to do so beyond Luton.

The North Circular Road, past Hendon (Type of place: Location (within the fiction))

The North Circular Road

Davies in The Caretaker speaks of getting 'on the North Circular, just past Hendon', adding to the list of places on the periphery of Greater London that he mentions.

Sidcup (Type of place: Location (within the fiction))


In The Caretaker, Pinter has the character of Davies claim he needs to travel to Sidcup to collect his 'papers'. This would have been a good distance from the West or North London location it might be assumed the play takes place. Sidcup would have indicated a certain degree of middle-class respectability. Sidcup was also the location of the Royal Artillery after the war, and 1960 audiences might have inferred that Davies's papers suggested a military history, and his evasiveness in relation to them might even indicate a dishonourable ending to that history or, more sympathetically, a source of inner-conflict and mental illness.

Wembley (Type of place: Location (within the fiction))


Davies in The Caretaker talks of possibly seeking a job in a café in Wembley.

Shoreditch (Type of place: Location (within the fiction))


Mick in The Caretaker delivers a bewildering speech to Davies that starts with a claim that the tramp reminds him of a man he knows in Shoreditch, before then listing multiple locations in London: Aldgate, Camden Town, Putney, Fulham, the Caledonian Road, Angel, Essex Road, Dalston Junction, Upper Street, Highbury Corner, St. Pauls' Church. The bus routes he recounts are historically accurate examples of the sorts of journeys between some of these landmarks, and recall the buses home to Hackney that Pinter himself would have used in his youth.

Guildford bypass (Type of place: Location (within the fiction))

Guildford bypass

Mick in The Caretaker claims that Davies reminds him of a 'bloke I bumped into once, just the other side of the Guildford by-pass'.

Goldhawk Road (Type of place: Location (within the fiction))

Goldhawk Road, Hammersmith

Aston in The Caretaker says he plans to visit a man on Goldhawk Road to buy a saw bench.

Maudsley Hospital, London (Type of place: Place of inspiration)

Maudsley Hospital, Camberwell, London

As an unemployed actor and in need of any income, Pinter volunteered as a 'guinea pig' for a psychiatric experiment which took place at this hospital. He was paid around ten shillings. He was subjected to loud noises through a set of earphones. The experience informed a scene in his 1958 play The Hothouse, extracted and adapted for a sketch entitled Applicant (1959). It no doubt also forms a context for Aston's recollections of EST treatment.


Encore on (May 1960)   Confidence Level  

Methuen on (21 July 1960)

Sold for 3s 6d, the paperback edition was released first on 21/7/60, with a hardback edition 26/8/60 at 10s 6d. Second edition published in 1962.

Methuen on (1967)

Reset and reprinted. Reprinted twice in 1968 and again in 1970.

Methuen on (7 December 1982)

Methuen Student Editions. With a commentary and notes by Patricia Hern.

Faber and Faber Ltd on (1 February 1991)

Reprinted on 7/10/93, 31/3/99, 17/4/00, 25/9/00, 32/11/00.

Faber and Faber Ltd on (21 January 1993)

Faber Educational Edition. With an introduction by Margaret Rose. Reprinted 2/12/97, 6/4/99.


Davies (Age: old, Male)

Described as 'an old man'

Aston (Age: early thirties, Male)

Mick's brother

Mick (Age: late twenties, Male)

Aston's brother


Full text on Drama Online (URL)

Type: Script

External Link:

Subscription required

Vimeo: Aston's monologue (The Monologue Project, 2019) (URL)

Type: Video

External Link:


Stage Agent Website


The summary of the play is taken and adapted from the Stage Agent website, a resource for theatre artists.

William Baker and John C. Ross' Harold Pinter: A Bibliographical History

William Baker and John C. Ross, Harold Pinter: A Bibliographical History (London and Delaware: The British Library and Oak Knoll Books, 2005)


This bibliographical history aims to provide as comprehensive and complete an account of the published writings, and other texts, wholly or partly authored by Harold Pinter from 1947 to October 2004.