Mary Beth Smith
4/23/2013 1:13 PM
Endgame. The move before the checkmate in chess. A common term used when discussing what the final out come will be. The title of one of Samuel Beckett’s most prolific works.
The title of a play can be almost as important as the play itself as is the case with Beckett’s Endgame. We meet Hamm, Clov, Nagg, and Nell on the precipice of death in what many describe as a post-apocalyptic world. But the setting is not what is important in this play, it can truly be set in any time and any place. The focus however, should be on the reality of each character’s life. The lead character, Hamm, is a tyrannical figure that essentially holds the other three hostage. Clov is his servant, Nagg and Nell his parents. Each rely on Hamm for shelter and food, while in turn Hamm relies on them for company and care. What the title suggests, the end of things, is clear in Hamm’s dealings with the other characters. It is not so much about dying as it is the anticipation of death itself. Hamm’s fear of dying alone becomes increasingly evident each time a new element of torture, both physical and emotional, is enacted.
While there are moments of comic relief between the two main characters the reality of the end of their lives together comes into sharp focus at the end of the play. Its gut wrenching end leaves the audience examining their own lives and imminent deaths in new and unsettling ways. Beckett’s play encapsulates common human fears of isolation, sickness, and death in a beautifully poignant way that will continue to be relevant for decades to come.
4/23/2013 1:03 AM
In a nebulous place between farcicality and reality, Samuel Beckett’s Endgame is a patent embodiment of the Theatre of the Absurd. The play follows the daily routines of Hamm and Clov, a haggardly old man and his tired slave. There are two worlds within this play: the world within, the space to which these characters are confined and in which they exist, and the world without, the hellish space outside the windows of their confinement. Hamm and Clov spend the entirety of the play suffering through pain and reflecting on the meaninglessness of existence. In their world, pain is an undeniable part of human existence, and like existence, pain simply subsists; it simply is. Hamm and Clov recognize that they are born merely to exist and nothing else, and are thus resistant to leaving their confined space.
While the condition of these characters is apparently tragic, there is an inherent humor behind this absurdist play. Beyond the illogical nature of the text, the repetition of the mundane, and the overall irrationality of the play’s actions, elements that are all masterfully and quintessentially absurd, Beckett offers a grim, satirical commentary on the nature of human existence.