Page 1


By Samuel


Directed by Edward Sobel


JAN 17 - MAR 10


Characters and Setting...........................................................Page 2 The Playwright........................................................................Page 3 Production History.................................................................Page 3 Play Synopsis...........................................................................Page 4 Samuel Beckett: A Writer for the 20th Century...................Page 10 The Theatre of the Absurd......................................................Page 14 The Minimalism Movement...................................................Page 15 Selective Glossary of Terms....................................................Page 16 Discussion Questions..............................................................Page 19 Design & Production...............................................................Page 21 Who’s Who in the Cast............................................................Page 22 References..................................................................................Page 23

Study Guide Created by Laura Barati 1.

ENDGAME By Samuel Beckett

Directed by Edward Sobel on the Arcadia Stage January 17- March 10, 2013

CHARACTERS Hamm Clov Nagg Nell


Interior with two windows and two trashcans.



“Samuel Beckett’s work has extended the possibilities of drama and fiction in unprecedented ways, bringing to the theatre and the novel an acute awareness of the absurdity of human existence – our desperate search for meaning, our individual isolation, and the gulf between our desires and the language in which they find expression.”

From The Literary Encyclopedia

PRODUCTION HISTORY Fin de partie was first performed on April 3, 1957 at the Royal Court Theatre in London. It was directed by Roger Blin and designed by Jacques Noel. Hamm was played by Roger Blin, Clov by Jean Martin, Nagg by Georges Adet, and Nell by Christine Tsingos. Beckett translated the text into English in 1957, and the first English-language performance of Endgame was on January 28, 1958 at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York. Alan Schneider directed the production. The role of Hamm was played by Lester Rawlins, Clov by Alvin Epstein, Nagg by P.J. Kelly, and Nell by Nydia Westman.


PLAY SYNOPSIS PLAY SYNOPSIS (Warning: Spoilers!) The play begins in stillness: Hamm sits in his wheelchair while Clov stands watching him. After a moment, Clov begins to examine the two windows. He goes off stage and returns with a ladder, checks the windows again. As Clov’s ritual expands and continues, he removes a sheet covering two trashcans, checking and recovering first one trashcan and then the other. Clov finishes the ritual by removing the sheet covering a seemingly sleeping Hamm. Clov comments on the dwindling food supply and announces that he’ll wait in the kitchen until Hamm whistles for him, exiting with the ladder. Hamm stirs, and as he wakes begins a ritual; taking off his glasses, wiping his eyes, face, and glasses, adjusting his handkerchief. As he performs this ritual, Hamm begins a monologue on suffering, questioning whether anyone—his father, his mother, or his dog—is more miserable than he. Hamm whistles for Clov, and upon his reentrance commands Clov to put him to bed. Clov refuses, telling Hamm that he just got him up and has other things to do. Hamm then asks Clov about the world outside, finally asking Clov how he feels. When Clov responds that he feels normal, Hamm admits, “I feel a little strange.” Once they’ve settled that everything is the same as it always is, Hamm instructs Clov to get him ready. When Clov doesn’t move, Hamm threatens to reduce his food supply to make him hungry all the time. When Hamm asks Clov why he stays with him, Clov responds by asking Hamm why he keeps Clov. Hamm then accuses Clov of wanting to leave him, and Clov admits that he is trying to leave. When Hamm accuses Clov of not loving him, Clov replies that he loved Hamm once. Hamm asks Clov for his painkiller, and Clov responds that it isn’t time yet. As Hamm and Clov begin to argue over Clov’s rounds, Hamm’s father, Nagg, emerges from his trashbin and calls out for his “pap.” Hamm commands Clov to give Nagg his pap, but Clov informs them that there’s no more pap left. After telling Nagg he’ll never get his pap again, Hamm instructs Clov to give his father a biscuit and then recover Nagg’s trashbin. With Nagg returned to his trashbin, Hamm and Clov recount Hamm’s inability to stand and Clov’s inability to sit, agreeing, “Every man his specialty.” Hamm waxes poetic on nature before asking Clov whether it’s time for his painkiller again. Clov denies Hamm his painkiller and makes to leave for his kitchen, but Hamm stops him, asking what Clov does in his kitchen. When Clov answers that he looks at the wall, Hamm wonders “And what do you see on your wall? Mene, mene? Naked bodies?” referring to the Aramaic phrase “Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin,” which means: “numbered, numbered, weighted, divided.” The phrase comes from a story in the New Testament in which Daniel interprets this phrase inscribed on the wall of Belshazzar’s palace in Babylon to foretell the destruction of Belshazzar and his kingdom. Clov responds that he sees his light dying, and after first mocking Clov for this admission, Hamm asks for his forgiveness. As Hamm and Clov discuss Clov’s failed attempts at planting, Nagg reemerges from his trashbin. Exasperated, Clov exclaims “They’ll never sprout!” Hamm tries to soothe Clov, but then


suddenly cries out, “What’s happening, what’s happening?” Clov only responds, “Something is taking its course.” Following this exchange, Hamm sends Clov off to finish his work, leaning back in his chair once Clov has exited. In this silence, Nagg knocks on the second trashbin, prompting his wife, Nell, to emerge from her trashbin and join him. Nagg asks his wife to kiss him and the two struggle and fail to reach each other from their respective trashbins. Their attempted kiss, Nell observes, is the same farce day after day. As husband and wife check in with each other, they confirm that both have lost their sight, but their hearing has yet to fail them. The two reminisce over a biking trip they took together through northeastern France before conferring that Clov hasn’t replaced the sand in either of their trashbins. Nagg then offers Nell the half of his biscuit he’d saved for her. Hamm stirs and shushes his parents before musing about the state of his heart: “a heart, a heart in my head.” When Nagg mocks his son’s murmurings, Nell chastises her husband (though agreeing with him that “nothing is funnier than unhappiness”). Nagg soon notices that his wife had been trying to cry, and so tells his story about the tailor, a story he first told her the day before their engagement, to try to make her laugh. When Nagg begins to laugh at his own story, Hamm shushes his father and whistles for Clov, whom he instructs to cover his parents’ trashbins. When Clov approaches Nell, she whispers to him, advising Clov to go away into the desert. Once Clov has secured Nagg and Nell, Hamm asks him Nagg and Nell in the original 1957 Roger Blin production. again whether it is time for his painkiller. When Clov repeats that it is too soon for the painkiller, Hamm asks Clov to take him for a turn around their space instead. Clov pushes Hamm around the room and along the walls before returning him, as Hamm instructs, “right in the center.” Thus returned to his spot, Hamm asks Clov about the weather and instructs him to look at the earth with his glass (a telescope). Clov fetches the glass and ladder and begins by looking out at the audience: “I see…a multitude…in transports…of joy.” Clov then checks the other three directions, finding nothing but the “corpsed.” Hamm then commands Clov to look at the ocean. After grumbling that it’s all the same, Clov exclaims that he sees something he’s never seen before: the light has sunk and is all gone. Clov confirms for Hamm that there is nothing on the horizon; the waves are “lead” and the sun “zero.” Everything, Clov reports, is grey. Again Hamm asks Clov “What’s happening?” And again Clov responds, “Something is taking its course.” Hamm wonders whether he and Clov might “mean” something, ruing: “To think perhaps it won’t all have been for nothing!” But his musings are put on pause while Clov attends to a flea he has found on his person. With the flea exterminated, Hamm proposes that the two of them should build a raft and travel far away from this place. Hamm instructs Clov to start working on the raft but then stops him to ask whether it’s time for his painkiller. Clov responds that it isn’t and goes again for the exit before being stopped again by


Hamm. Hamm asks Clov whether he is still able to walk though his eyes and legs have gone bad. Clov confirms that he is able to come and go. Hamm warns Clov that soon he’ll become blind and unable to rise from his seat, like Hamm. Clov responds to Hamm’s prophesy with the reminder that he is unable to sit. Hamm explodes at Clov, saying that he wants Clov to leave them. When Clov says he’ll leave, Hamm tells him that he can’t and Clov says that he won’t leave, then. Hamm then asks Clov to kill the three of them, promising him the combination to the cupboard in return. After Clov responds that he can’t kill them, Hamm asks Clov whether he remembers his father or when he first arrived in Hamm’s service. Clov complains that Hamm always asks him these questions and that his answer is the same: he was so small when he arrived that he only remembers what Hamm has told him. Hamm reminds Clov that if it weren’t for him, Clov would have neither a father nor a home. Clov offers to leave Hamm, but Hamm pauses him, pointing out that perhaps there’s greenery beyond their territory. Clov responds that he can’t go very far and tries to leave Hamm again. Hamm stops Clov again, asking whether his dog is ready. Clov explains that he is still working on the dog, but Hamm insists that Clov fetch it for him. When Hamm complains that the dog is unfinished, Clov becomes frustrated with Hamm, reiterating that he still has work to complete on the dog. Clov tries to leave again, but is stopped when Hamm asks after Mother Pegg. Clov reports to Hamm that Mother Pegg has died. Hamm asks whether Clov buried her, Clov replies that he didn’t. When Hamm asks whether Clov will bury him, Clov states that he won’t. Hamm orders Clov to fetch his gaff, and Clov pauses to wonder why he never refuses Hamm’s orders. Hamm reminisces about a painter he once knew who had gone mad, thinking the world had turned to ashes and only he had been spared. Hamm asks Clov whether he thinks “this has gone on long enough,” and Clov agrees that it has. Hamm asks Clov how he will know when Clov has left him, pointing out that if Clov doesn’t respond to his whistle he may have just died in the kitchen. Clov comes up with a plan: he will set an alarm every day. If Clov doesn’t respond to Hamm’s whistle and the alarm rings, it means he has left; if the alarm doesn’t ring, it means that Clov has died. Hamm asks Clov about his painkiller again, and after being refused again he asks Clov if he wants to listen to Hamm’s story. When Clov declines, Hamm has him rouse Nagg to listen to the story. Nagg agrees to listen to Hamm only after offered a sugarplum in return. The deal struck, Clov exits and Hamm picks up his story of a poor man who came begging on a Christmans Eve years ago. The man came to Hamm to ask for food for his little boy whom he couldn’t afford to feed. Hamm refused the man, reasoning that any amount of food he gave the man would eventually run out, leaving the starving boy in the same predicament he was currently suffering. Instead, Hamm offered to take the man into his service. When the man asked Hamm if he would also take in his son, Hamm recounts, “It was the moment I was waiting for.” And so the story of the poor man and his starving son is revealed to be the story of how Clov came into Hamm’s service. “I’ll soon have finished with this story,” Hamm muses, before whistling for Clov.


Entering, Clov reports that there’s a rat in their kitchen. Hamm instructs Clov and Nagg to join him in a prayer, both of whom frustrate Hamm with their lack of enthusiasm (and, in Nagg’s case, repeated demands for his sugarplum). Hamm finally exclaims that there are no more sugar plums, prompting Nagg’s monologue on fatherhood. Nagg recalls how when Hamm was a tiny boy he used to call for his father at night to listen to him when he was frightened, hoping the day will come when Hamm will once again call for his father in need of someone to listen to him. Nagg knocks on Nell’s trashbin, and when she fails to appear he sinks back down into his trashbin. “Our revels now are ended,” remarks Hamm. Hamm starts groping for his dog, but once Clov hands it to him he throws it away. Clov begins picking up the scattered objects in the space, explaining to Hamm that he’s putting things in order: “I love order. It’s my dream. A world where all would be silent and still and each thing in its last place, under the last dust.” Hamm orders Clov to drop the items he’s picking up, and he obeys. Next Hamm asks Clov why his feet are making a racket, and Clov admits that he has put his boots on. When Clov asks Hamm why he should stay, Hamm replies: “for the dialogue.” Hamm then prods Clov into asking Hamm about his story, and the two begin a routine where Clov questions Hamm on the progress of his story. Hamm soon launches into the section he has just narrated to Nagg, but when he tells Clov that he offered the poor man “a job as a gardener,” Clov bursts out laughing. When asked why he’s laughing, Clov explains that it is the idea of having a job as a gardener. Hamm asks Clov whether the two of them could have “a good guffaw” together, but Clov responds that he couldn’t guffaw again today. Hamm returns to his story, and Clov joins him as they narrate how the poor man’s little boy would have climbed trees and done little odd jobs before he grew up. Hamm pauses, and though Clov urges him to continue, he only states, “That’s all. I stopped there.” Hamm tells Clov that his story will soon be at its end, and when Clov dismisses his fear, saying Hamm will soon start another, Hamm responds that he doubts he will: “I feel rather drained.” Hamm asks Clov to check and see whether Nell has died: she has. He asks Clov to check on Nagg, and Clov reports that he is not dead but crying in his trashbin. “Then he’s living,” Hamm observes. Hamm asks Clov to bring him under the window so he might feel the light on his face, reminiscing on how Clov used to struggle with maneuvering Hamm’s chair. “Ah great fun, we had, the two of us, great fun.” Once under the window, Hamm asks Clov whether there is any light and Clov finally admits that there is none. Frustrated by the lack of light, Hamm instructs Clov to open the window. Clov does and when no sound arises, Hamm asks whether the sea is very calm. This confirmed, Hamm comments that the calm must be due to the lack of navigators. After remarking on Clov’s lack of conversation, Hamm instructs him to close the window and return Hamm to his spot. Hamm begins to call for his father and when Nagg fails to respond, sends Clov to see if Nagg heard him. After some back and forth, Clov confirms that Nagg did hear one of Hamm’s calls. When asked for a report of his father’s activity, Clov informs Hamm that Nagg has stopped crying and is sucking on his biscuit. “Life goes on,” Hamm remarks. Hamm asks Clov to kiss him but Clov refuses, vowing never to kiss Hamm anywhere. When Hamm asks Clov to at least hold his hand, Clov declares that he’ll never touch Hamm. Hamm asks Clov for his dog but then changes his mind. Clov leaves Hamm, returning to the rat in the kitchen.


Alone again, Hamm is tormented by the memories of “all those I might have helped” and the events following the play’s unnamed catastrophe. Hamm bounces between thoughts of starting again with a new story or simply throwing himself on the floor and ending it now. Envisioning himself crawling across the floor while wondering “what can have brought it on and wondering what can have…why it was so long coming,” he imagines himself calling out first for his father, and then, “my son.” Hamm continues, “I’ll say to myself, He’ll come back…He couldn’t, he has gone too far,” but breaks off and berates himself for his babbling fantasies. “Ah let’s get it over!” he finally exclaims, and whistles for Clov. Clov returns with the alarm clock, reporting that the rat got away. Hamm asks Clov if it is time for his painkiller and Clov finally responds that it is. With joyous relief Hamm asks Clov to then be given his painkiller, but Clov tells him that there is no more painkiller. Shocked and horrified, Hamm despairs, “What’ll I do?” Hamm is shaken from his despondency by the sounds of Clov setting up the alarm clock. When asked by Hamm what he’s doing, Clov replies that he is “winding up.” Clov goes to the window, humming while he works, but Hamm commands him to stop singing. When Clov challenges Hamm, asserting that he wants to sing, Hamm concedes, “I can’t prevent you.” Clov starts to look for his ladder, berating himself for his forgetfulness. Looking out of the window, he exclaims, “Christ, she’s under water!” Clov is confused as to how this passed until he realizes that he’s been looking out of the wrong window. As Clov chides himself for his foolishness and continues his business with the windows, Hamm confides: “Do you know what it is? [...] I was never there.” Hamm starts to repeatedly ask Clov again whether he knows what’s happened, and a frustrated Clov finally retorts that Mother Pegg died of darkness because Hamm refused to give her oil for her lamp. With Clov’s condemnation hanging in the air, Hamm instructs Clov to fetch his glass. Before he leaves to get it, Clov asks Hamm to explain to him why he always obeys. Hamm suggests “a kind of great compassion.” As Clov searches for the glass, Hamm begins demanding for his dog until a frustrated Clov finally grabs the dog and strikes Hamm on the head. Endgame at the American Repertory Theater in 2009. Crying out that Hamm is driving him mad, Clov begs his master, “Let’s stop playing!” “Then let it end!” Hamm exclaims, announcing that he’s warming up for his final soliloquy. Clov, who has continued looking out of the windows, suddenly announces that he sees a small boy. When Clov goes to investigate Hamm stops him, saying that if the boy exists he’ll either die or come to them. When Clov asks Hamm if he thinks Clov has invented the boy, Hamm only responds that they have come to the end, announcing that he no longer needs Clov.


And so Clov prepares to exit, leaving Hamm his gaff and placing the alarm clock on top of Nagg’s bin. Before he leaves, Hamm asks Clov for a final favor: a few words for him to ponder in his heart. Clov refuses, maintaining that there’s nothing to say. When Hamm asks again for something from his heart, Clov begins a monologue on friendship, beauty, and what his servitude has been for him. He speaks of suffering and punishment, and the belief that it would never end. But suddenly, Clov recounts, everything changed, ended; and now “it’s easy going… When I fall I’ll weep for happiness.” Clov starts to exit again, but pauses when Hamm thanks him for his services. When Clov replies that it is he who is obliged to Hamm, his master corrects: “It’s we are obliged to each other.” BAM production of Endgame in 2008

Hamm starts for the door, pauses as Hamm calls out for one final favor, but exits before Hamm can make his request to be covered by the sheet. When he realizes that Clov has gone, Hamm tries to move his own chair with his gaff, soliloquizing, “Old endgame lost of old, play and lose and have done with losing.” Clov reenters silently, dressed in a hat and coat and carrying a suitcase. He halts by the door and stands there, impassive and motionless, his eyes fixed on Hamm until the end. Presently, Hamm has given up on moving himself and throws away his gaff. He starts to throw away his dog, but thinks better of it. Hamm begins a variation of his wake-up ritual, raising his hat and wiping his glasses as he continues his soliloquy. Hamm speaks of darkness, his child and fatherhood, before giving in and whistling for Clov. When Clov doesn’t respond, he calls out for his father. With no response from Nell, Hamm throws away his dog and whistle. Suddenly, Hamm stops and sniffs the air: “Clov!” When Clov doesn’t respond, Hamm concedes, “No? Good.” And so Hamm pulls out and unfolds his handkerchief, saying, “Since that’s the way we’re playing it…let’s play it that way…and speak no more about it.” Hamm covers his face with his handkerchief and sits back in his chair, motionless. End play.


SAMUEL BECKETT: A Writer for the Twentieth Century Early Life Samuel Beckett was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1906 to a fairly prosperous Protestant family. Beckett had a positive relationship with his father, Bill Beckett, and was deeply affected by his death in 1933. Beckett’s relationship with his mother, May, however, would best be described as tortured and would greatly affect his work both before and after her death in 1950. One of his lovers, Peggy Guggenheim, shared that Beckett “had retained a terrible memory of life in his mother’s womb. He was constantly suffering from this and had awful crises, when he felt he was suffocating.” Given his purported memories of the womb, it follows that Beckett’s work, as the Literary Encyclopedia notes, “bears traces of that unreconciled relationship of dependency, respect, and antagonism.” These traces are as present in the character relationships in Endgame as any of Beckett’s writings. Samuel Beckett Beckett studied French and Italian at Trinity College Dublin from 1923-1927 and considered entering academia, writing a notable dissertation on Proust during his postgraduate studies in Paris. While teaching French literature for a short period at Trinity College Dublin Beckett was introduced to author James Joyce, who became a mentor and key literary influence for Beckett. After returning to Trinity College Dublin as a lecturer, Beckett became disillusioned with academia. Deciding to solely dedicate his time to writing, Beckett spent the next few years traveling around Europe and doing exactly that.

The Three Ages of Beckett Beckett’s work is commonly divided into three periods: his Early Works, Middle Period, and Late Works.

Early Works Beckett’s early works period ends with World War II in 1945. During this period, Beckett wrote numerous essays and reviews, published his first short story collection More Pricks Than Kicks in 1933, his book of poetry Echoes’ Bones and Other Precipitates in 1935, as well as his first novel, Murphy in 1938. Particularly present in Beckett’s early works is the “overwhelming” influence (Beckett’s adjective) of his friend and mentor James Joyce, whom Beckett admired for their shared love of words: “their sounds, rhythms, shapes, etymologies, and histories” ( Following his father’s death in 1933, Beckett underwent a two year treatment for depression with psychoanalyst Dr. Wilfred Bion at the Tavistock Clinic. As part of his treatment, Beckett attended Carl Jung’s Tavistock lecture on the subject of the “never properly born,” a lecture which remained with Beckett throughout his life and aspects of which can be seen


in works such as Watt and Waiting for Godot. During a visit to Ireland in 1937, Beckett had a falling out with his mother and decided to settle permanently in Paris. He remained in his adopted home after the outbreak of World War II in 1939, preferring, as he said, “France at war to Ireland at peace.” Beckett became a fixture in the Left Bank cafés, where he joined his mentor Joyce and other artists such as Alberto Giacometti and Marcel Duchamp. It was during this period that Beckett transitioned into writing creatively in the French language. As James Knowlson explains, it was easier “Beckett maintained, to write in French ‘without style.’ He did not mean by this that his French had no style, but that, by adopting another language, he gained a greater simplicity and objectivity. French offered him the freedom to concentrate on a more direct expression of the search for ‘being’ and on an exploration of ignorance, impotence and indigence. Using French also enabled him to ‘cut away the excess, to strip away the colour,’ and to concentrate more on the music of the language, its sounds and its rhythms” (Knowlson 357). World War II had a resounding effect on Beckett. Though presumably neutral as an Irishman when the German occupation began, Beckett chose to join the resistance and became an active member of the localized intelligence network known as “Gloria.” Though Beckett dismissed his own contribution to the resistance as “boy scout stuff,” other members of “Gloria” were noted for their Beckett with his brother, Frank, and lover “extreme bravery” and contributions to the resistance. and future wife Suzanne (left to right). During this period in January 1938, Beckett attracted the attention of Suzanne Dechevaux-Dumesnil after an altercation with a pimp left him hospitalized with a stab wound. Though the wound nearly cost him his life, it did bring Beckett the woman who would become his partner until his death.

Middle Period Beckett’s middle period spans from 1945 until the early 1960s and contains many of his best-known works. After the Germans were defeated, Beckett travelled to Ireland to visit his mother and claimed to have had an artistic revelation while sitting in her room: “I became aware of my own folly. Only then did I begin to write the things I feel.” It was in the years following World War II that Beckett produced four of his most prolific plays: En attendant Godot/Waiting for Godot, (1952), Fin de partie/Endgame (1957), Krapp’s Last Tape (1958), and Happy Days (1961). Most scholars view these plays as crucial to the development of “The Theatre of the Absurd,” a term authored by critic Martin Esslin to describe the work of a number of playwrights writing in the 1950s and 1960s, such as Beckett, Arthur Adamov, Eugene Ionesco, Jean Genet, and Harold Pinter amongst others. The term comes from the 1942 essay “Myth of Sisyphus” by French philosopher Albert Camus, in which he first defines the human situation as basically meaningless and absurd. These absurdist plays embrace the ideology that man “is inhabiting a universe with which he is out of key. Its meaning is undecipherable and his place within it is without purpose. He is bewildered, troubled, and obscenely threatened” (Culík 2000). As in Beckett’s case, the rise of the Absurdist movement is seen as a reaction the to traumatic experience of the horrors of World War II, “which showed the total impermanence of any values, shook the validity of any conventions and highlighted the precariousness of human life and its fundamental meaninglessness and arbitrariness” (Culík 2000). The ever-lessening presence of religion in contemporary life also fed the Absurdist movement. In this meaningless and Godless world following World War II, Absurdist artists found no use for traditional 11.

art forms and so created a new theatre that openly rebelled against conventional theatre. As Dr. Culík explicates, this “surreal, illogical, conflictless, and plotless” Absurdist theatre could be considered an “anti-theatre:” One of the most important aspects of absurd drama was its distrust of language as a means of communication. Language had become a vehicle of conventionalized, stereotyped, meaningless exchanges. Words failed to express the essence of human experience, not being able to penetrate beyond its surface. The Theatre of the Absurd constituted first and foremost an onslaught on language, showing it as a very unreliable and insufficient tool of communication. Absurd drama uses conventionalized speech, clichés, slogans and technical jargon, which is distorts, parodies and breaks down. By ridiculing conventionalized and stereotyped speech patterns, the Theatre of the Absurd tries to make people aware of the possibility of going beyond everyday speech conventions and communicating more authentically. Conventionalized speech acts as a barrier between ourselves and what the world is really about: in order to come into direct contact with natural reality, it is necessary to discredit and discard the false crutches of conventionalized language. Objects are much more important than language in absurd theatre: what happens transcends what is being said about it. It is the hidden, implied meaning of words that assume primary importance in absurd theatre, over an above what is being actually said. The Theatre of the Absurd strove to communicate an undissolved totality of perception - hence it had to go beyond language. (Culík 2000) Given Beckett’s lifelong fascination with exploring every dimension of the spoken word-from meaning to sound to etymology-it follows that he would embrace a theatrical movement dedicated to testing, breaking, and reforming the boundaries of the spoken word in communication. With the critical success of Waiting for Godot and Endgame (it is commonly held that the opening nights of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Luigi Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author are the two most important events in western modern theatre), Beckett became both a household name and a prominent figure in the Paris, France, 1 June 1956: Jean Martin (L) and Albert Remy in the play ‘Waiting for Godot’ Photograph: Roger-Viollet/Rex international theatrical community. Features

However, this fame and dramatic notoriety was a bittersweet achievement for Beckett. When she found out that Beckett had been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1969, Suzanne called the award a “catastrophe,” knowing her husband’s intensely private nature. True to form, Beckett declined to attend the Nobel ceremony and donated his award money to charitable causes. Though Beckett rarely spoke about his work, journalists who did have the opportunity to speak with him found the playwright amiable and open about his writing process.

Late Period Beckett’s late period begins in the early 1960s and spans until Beckett’s death in 1989. Whereas Beckett’s middle period is associated with the Theatre of the Absurd, his work during the late period typically became shorter and his style more minimalist. The minimalist movement in various forms of art and design describes work that sets out to expose the essence or identity of a subject by eliminating all non-essential forms, features, or concepts. In other words, the goal of minimalism is to use the simplest and fewest elements to create the maximum effect. Other works associated with minimalism include Phillip Glass’ compositions, Robert Bresson’s films, and Raymond Carver’s short stories.


Beckett’s search for dramatic minimalism produced an ever-shortening, distilled style of plays and prose that often amounted to only a few pages text or less. Beckett entitled these types of minimalist plays and prose writings as “dramaticules” and “micronarratives,” respectively. Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape, written in 1958 during his middle period, is a shorter one-act in which Krapp speaks half of the text and the other half is a played recording of Krapp’s tape-diary from his youth and can be seen as a predecessor of the dramaticules that populate his late period. Beckett’s dramaticules also show an escalation of his obsessive exploration on the theme of human encasement. Though Beckett’s dramatic practice of consigning human figures to both familiar and unfamiliar containers appears as early as Nagg and Nell pop out of their ashbins in Endgame in 1957, Beckett’s investigation of this theme increases in his later years with characters buried in the sand in Happy Days (1961), trapped in urns in Play (1963), as well as in pots and windowless cylindrical chambers. Some of Beckett’s more popular dramaticules include Act Without Words I and II (1957 and 1959), in which two performers, A and B, begin the 10-minute play inside two large sacks. Also Come and Go (1965), in which three old women reminisce about their school days using 121 words and numerous cryptic pauses. Later dramaticules of note include Not (1974), Footfalls (1975), and That Time (1976).

Billie Whitelaw in the premiere production of Footfalls.

Though it became difficult for Beckett to write in his final years, he did manage to produce three short novels during 1980s: Company (1980), Ill Seen Ill Said (1982), and Worstward Ho (1984). Beckett died on December 22, 1989 in a nursing home, following Suzanne who had died on July 17 of the same year. Beckett had been suffering from emphysema and possibly Parkinson’s disease at the time of his death. He and Suzanne are buried together in the Cimetière du Montparnasse in Paris and share a simple granite gravestone, following Beckett’s request that it should be “any color, so long as it’s grey.”

“You were saying something nice about me, I can feel it.” –Eleuthéria (1947)

Beckett’s Legacy In his 60 year career, Beckett wrote numerous essays, reviews, poetry, prose, and plays; played a key role in both the absurdist and minimalist movements; and left an indelible mark as one of the most significant western writers and thinkers of the 20th century. His work has been intensely studied, critiqued, and produced internationally to this day. Both Beckett himself and others have described his work as an art of impoverishment, “an art of failure” ( Though his work continues to polarize audiences, critics, and artists, it did not fail to prove that compelling theatre could be created from breaking, not following, commonly accepted laws of dramatic incident, structure, and characterization.


The Theatre of the Absurd

Drama using the abandonment of conventional dramatic form to portray the futility of human struggle in a senseless world. A 1965 production of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi directed by Michael Meschke with stage design and puppetry by Franciszka Themerson. Alfred Jarry is commonly considered the father of absurdism. His play follows Pere Ubu, a murdereous tyrant who is both disgustingly despical and charmingly comical.

A scene from the original production of Rhinoceros by Eugene Ionesco directed by Jean-Louis Barrault at Odeon-Theatre de France in Paris, 1960. This play concerns a village whose inhabitants, one by one, turn into rhinoceroses. As in several others of his plays, Ionesco in Rhinoceros portryas the ovservable infectiousness of national ideologies on the insecure mind.

The Living Theatre’s 1965 production of Jean Genet’s The Maids. The play follows sister housemaids Solange and Claire as they construct elaborate sado-masochistic rituals while their Madame is away, mainly revolving around murdering their mistress. Though written female, Solange and Claire are often cast male, as in this produciton.


A Glance at Minimalism In the 1970s, minimalist artist Donald Judd moved to Marfa, Texas, where he created giant works of art that bask beneath vast desert skies. In the years since, Marfa has emerged as a hot spot for art tourism.

From the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, Frank Stella created a large body of work entitled “The Pequod meets the Bachelor,” from which this piece hails, that was a response to Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

John McKraken’s “Song,” 2008. Made of polyester resin, fiberglass and plywood.


Selective Glossary of Terms Ardennes: The Ardennes is a beautiful region within the Ardennes Mountain Range made up of extensive forests, rolling hills and ridges which span most of the Belgian provinces of Luxembourg, Namur, Liège, and the Champage-Ardenne region of north-eastern France. Ballockses: From the British slang “Ballocks,” meaning “to make a mess of, or to mess up.” Biscuit: A British term for a cookie. Bon-bon: A bon-bon is a type of sweet, typically a candy covered in chocolate. Bonny: A British term meaning “beautiful, merry, good.” Crablouse: A Crablouse is an insect similar to head and body lice, but typically found in pubic hair. They feed exclusively on blood. Crumpets: A crumpet is a small, round, unsweetened traditional British bread that is cooked on a griddle. Doggo: British slang meaning “to lie quietly on concealment, in hiding, out of sight.” From Clov’s line “Unless he’s laying doggo.” Engender: To beget (offspring); to produce. “Flora! Pomona! Ceres!”: Hamm’s line refers to the three Roman Goddesses of flowers, fruit trees, and agriculture. Ceres was also goddess of fertility and motherly relationships. Fontanelles: Fontanelles are soft spots on an infant’s head which, during birth, permit the bony plates of the skull to flex and allows the infant’s head to pass through the birth canal. Of note, one of the more serious problems that can affect canines is known as an “open fontanelle,” which occurs when the skill bones at the top of the head fail to close. Gaff: 1) a stick with a hook, or a barbed spear, for landing large fish; 2) rough treatment or criticism. Glass: A telescope. Heliometer: A Heliometer is an astronomical telescope often used to measure the diameter


of the sun. It is also used for measuring angles between celestial bodies or between points on the moon. The Herring Fleet: Herringfleet is a small village on the River Waveney between Somerleyton and St. Olaves in Suffolk. Gilbert Munger’s 1879 engraving entitled “The Herring Fleet” depicts the ships on the River Waveney. Hygrometer: A hygrometer is an instrument used for measuring the moisture content in the environment. Lake Como: A glacial lake just north of Milan and Italy’s most popular vacation lake. Lumbago: Lumbago is a painful condition of the lumbar region (the lower back and buttocks), often the result of muscle strain or a slipped disk. Meerschaum: Meerschaum is a soft, white mineral often used to create smoking pipes as it’s a perfect material for providing a cool, dry, and flavorful smoke. “Mene, mene”: Hamm’s line “And what do you see on your wall? Mene, mene? Naked bodies?” is a reference to the Aramaic phrase “Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin,” meaning “Numbered, numbered, weighted, divided.” In the New Testament, Daniel interprets this mysterious inscription, written on the plaster wall of Belshazzar’s palace in Babylon, to foretell the destruction of Belshazzar and his Kingdom. “Our revels now are ended”: Hamm’s is a reference to Prospero’s famous speech from Act 4, Scene 1 of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest: Our revels now are ended. These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits and Are melted into air, into thin air: And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff As dreams are made on, and our little life


Is rounded with a sleep. Progenitor: A person or thing from which a person, animal, or plant is descended or originates; an ancestor or parent. Pap: 1) a teat or nipple; an item which resembles a nipple; 2) a soft or semi-liquid food, often used in reference to feeding infants; 3) a material lacking real value or substance. Sedan: Sedan is a village in France’s Ardennes region which is best known for its Castle, reputed to be the largest fortified medieval castle in Europe. Shanks: A bicycle part. Spratt’s Medium: Spratt’s was the world’s first large-scale manufacturer of dog biscuits. In the original French, Beckett uses the phrase “biscuit classique,” which translates simply as a classic biscuit. The translator’s decision to use the phrase “Spratt’s Medium” seems to be a continuation of the canine theme present in Endgame. Stancher: an item used to stanch, or stop the flow of blood from a wound. Sugar-plum: A sugar plum is a piece of dragée candy that is made of dried fruits and shaped in a small round or oval shape. Tandem: A tandem bicycle is a bicycle built for two riders. Tonic: A medicinal substance taken to give a feeling of vigor or well-being. Toque: A toque is a hat with either a narrow brim or none at all that was popular from the 13th16th century in Europe and particularly France. Toques are now known primarily as the traditional headgear for professional chefs. Turkish Delight: A Turkish Delight is a type of candy made from a gel of sugar and starch, often rose or lemon flavored and sometimes including chopped up dates, pistachios, or walnuts. Whelped: To give birth to whelps or a whelp; or, a young offspring of a mammal such as a dog or wolf.


Discussion Questions

1. How does Beckett create, manipulate, and deconstruct rituals in Endgame? What are the different types of rituals present in the play and what purpose do they serve for the characters and the greater play? How does the Arden’s production utilize ritual? 2. Playwright Harold Pinter said, “I suggest there can be no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, not between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both truth and false.” During the 20th century, playwrights such as Pinter and Beckett began exploring truth as a dramatic tool. In other words, modern and contemporary western drama brought with it an onslaught of characters that lie, characters using language, what is said and unsaid, what is true and untrue as tactics. How does Beckett play with what is both true and false in Endgame? How do the characters manipulate truth and false to achieve their goals? 3. In the Theatre of the Absurd, explains Dr. Jan Culìk, “Objects are much more important than language in absurd theatre: what happens transcends what is being said about it. It is the hidden, implied meaning of words that assume primary importance in absurd theatre, over an above what is being actually said.” Following this assertion, how do the playwright and characters in Endgame implement objects? How does Beckett deconstruct language past its conventional meaning? Consider how Beckett uses the sounds, rhythms, shapes, etymologies, and histories of words in his language. How do Beckett’s use of objects and language overlap, intersect, or contrast one another? 4. Beckett sets Endgame in an undetermined place after an undetermined event in an undetermined time. That said, Beckett’s play includes references to many historical periods: Hamm’s toque is a hat that was popular in 13th-16th century Europe; Nagg and Nell reference the town of Sedan, which is known for having the oldest surviving medieval castle; Nagg is given Spratt’s Medium dog biscuits, a company that dates from 1860 and also manufactured biscuits for troops during World War I. How do Beckett’s references to various wars and social structures such as medieval feudalism shape Endgame and the world of its characters? 5.

How does Beckett depict fatherhood and the roles of fathers and sons in Endgame?


How does Beckett explore the master-servant relationship in Endgame?


7. Endgame is full of canine imagery. How does Beckett implement this theme and how does it connect with the play’s other themes? 8. How does Beckett use humor in the play? How do Endgame’s characters implement humor as a tactic? 9. Why has Beckett chosen to make Hamm unable to stand and Clov unable to sit? Why choose to have the characters lose their sight and hearing? 10. Why are Nagg and Nell in trashcans? How does their constant presence on stage affect the play? 11. The fear of loneliness and solitude pervades Endgame. Are any of the characters alone? How does this fear motivate and affect their choices throughout the play? 12. How are the characters in Endgame motivated by love? Do you see the play and its characters as full of love, or wanting love? 13. What does Hamm want from Clov, and does he get it by the end of the play? What does Clov want from Hamm, and does he get it by the end of the play? 14. Why does Hamm need to work on his “chronicle” every day? How does Hamm’s story affect the various characters in Endgame? 15.

Does Clov leave Hamm at the end of the play?

16. How do the Arden’s design choices shape the production? How does the play resonate in a contemporary setting? If you were going to direct a production of Endgame, what design and production choices might you make?


Scenic Designer

Costume Designer



Lighting Designer

Sound Designer



Stage Manager

Assistant Director



Endgame set model and costume sketches by Scenic Designer Kevin Depinet and Costume Designer Millie Hibel


Our Production



Who’s Who NANCY BOYKIN (Nell) was last seen at the Arden as Lady Boyle in Superior Donuts. It is a pleasure to be collaborating again with Ed Sobel and James Ijames, not to mention the added good fortune of sitting in a trashcan beside Dan Kern, my husband. Other Philadelphia credits include The Dead and Twelfth Night at the Arden, the Wilma, Interact, Act II Playhouse, Temple Repertory Theater. She has performed elsewhere with the Interact Theater in Los Angeles (LA Drama Critics Circle Award), Arena Stage, Long Wharf, Cincinnati Playhouse, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival to name a few. Ms. Boykin is dedicated to the development of new plays and teaches acting at Temple University and Villanova. SCOTT GREER (Hamm) is thrilled to be back for such an exciting project. Of his 26 (counting this one) shows at the Arden, here are some favorites: Death of a Salesman, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Red Herring, Baby Case, Assassins, and Wittenberg. Scott has lived in Philadelphia for the last 20 years and worked at the Walnut, 1812 Productions, Wilma, Peoples Light and many more. Regionally, he has worked for Actors Theatre of Louisville, Round House, and the Pearl Theatre in New York. He has won four Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre including the prestigious F. Otto Haas Award for an Emerging Theatre Artist. Love always to Jen and Lily. JAMES IJAMES (Clov) is thrilled to be back at the Arden in this production of Endgame! Some of his credits include: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Gossamer, Shipwrecked (PLTC), An Empty Plate in the Cafe du Grand Boeuf, Romeo and Juliet, Superior Donuts, and The Whipping Man (Arden Theatre), Grey Gardens, Ruined (PTC), The Threshing Floor (Mauckingbird Theatre Company), and Ponies(Gloucester Stage Company) James has received two Barrymore Awards for Supporting Actor in a Play for Superior Donuts with the Arden Theatre Company and Angels in America at the Wilma Theater. He is the 2011 recipient of the F. Otto Haas Emerging Artist Award. Many thanks to Ed and the Arden Family. DAN KERN (Nagg) is delighted to be making his Arden debut alongside his wife, Nancy. Locally he has played leading roles in The Tempest, Long Day’s Journey into Night, The Last of the Boys, and God’s Man in Texas. Other roles of note include Leontes in A Winter’s Tale (Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for “Outstanding Performance”), Volpone in Volpone at A Noise Within, Zhorzh in The Wood Demon at the Mark Taper Forum, Salieri in Amadeus at South Coast Rep and Eben in Desire Under the Elms at The American Conservatory Theatre. Film and TV appearances include – The Lovely Bones, Me and the Big Guy, Frasier, Star Trek, Melrose Place and others. Dan is a member of the theater faculty at Temple University.


References Works Cited Culík, Jan. “The Theatre of the Absurd.” The Theatre of the Absurd. Dr. Jan Culík, 2000. Web. 17 Jan. 2013. Dolph, James. “A Beginning Glossary of Words, Allusions, and Some Possible Interpretations for Samuel Beckett’s Endgame.” A Beginning Glossary of Words, Allusions, and Some Possible Interpretations for Samuel Beckett’s Endgame. UCO: College of Liberal Arts, n.d. Web. 17 Jan. 2013. Esslin, Martin. “Bohemian Ink : Samuel Beckett.” Bohemian Ink : Samuel Beckett. Grolier Incorporated, 1993. Web. 17 Jan. 2013. “Literary Encyclopedia: Beckett, Samuel.” Literary Encyclopedia: Beckett, Samuel. Ed. Dr. Robert Clark. Literary Encyclopedia, 2012. Web. 17 Jan. 2013. Knowlson, James. Samuel Beckett: Damned to Fame, London: Routledge, 1996. “Minimalism.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 17 Jan. 2013. Web. 17 Jan. 2013. “Samuel Beckett: Apmonia.” Ed. Allen B. Ruch. The Modern World, 2009. Web. 17 Jan. 2013. “Samuel Beckett: Quotations (2).” Samuel Beckett: Quotations (2). Ricorso, n.d. Web. 17 Jan. 2013. “Samuel Beckett.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 16 Jan. 2013. Web. 17 Jan. 2013.

Images Cited ART Production of Endgame. Digital image. The Phoenix. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2013. <http://thephoenix. com/boston/arts/77158-endgame/>. BAM Production of Endgame. Digital image. Arts Beat. The New York Times, 2008. Web. 21 Jan. 2013. <>. Beckett with Frank and Suzanne. Digital image. Emory College. Emory College, 2012. Web. 21 Jan. 2013. <>. Donald Judd. Digital image. NPR. NPR, 2012. Web. 21 Jan. 2013. Eugene Ionesco’s Rhinoceros. Digital image. Emory College. Emory College, n.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2013. Footfalls. Digital image. Beckett Foundation. Beckett Foundation, n.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2013. <http://www.beck23.>.

References, cont. Frank Stella Sculpture. Digital image. Michael Arnold Art. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2013. <>. John McKraken’s “Songs” Digital image. Bunny BISOUS., 2008. Web. 21 Jan. 2013. The Living Theatre’s Production of The Maids. Digital image. The Living Theatre. N.p., 2006. Web. 21 Jan. 2013. <>. Nagg and Nell from Roger Blin’s Endgame. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2013. <>. Ubu Roi. Digital image. Blogspot. Blogspot, n.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2013. <>. Waiting for Godot. Digital image. The Guardian. The Guardian, 2009. Web. 21 Jan. 2013. <>.


Endgame Study Guide  

Supplemental information for parents and teachers to use with the Arden Theatre Company's production of Endgame by Samuel Beckett.

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