But it was his plays with their pregnant pauses that earned him his reputation as a 20th century great.

In 2005 he won the Nobel prize for literature.

In recent years though he had stopped writing plays to concentrate on politics.

He was a vocal campaigner for human rights and nuclear disarmament and speaking out against Western foreign policy.

He likened the administration of George Bush to the Nazis and called Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, a "mass murderer".

Pinter's plays defined the "kitchen sink" drama and introduced a new word to
the English language - "Pinteresque", referring to painfully taut silences peppered with threats or half-stated meanings.

Critics dubbed Pinter's chilling masterpieces "the theatre of insecurity".

His second wife, Lady Antonia Fraser, told the Guardian newspaper he had been "a great".

"It was a privilege to live with him for over 33 years. He will never be forgotten," she said.