Places: Endgame

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: Fin de partie, 1957 (English translation, 1958)

First produced: 1957, at the Royal Court Theatre, London

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Absurdist

Time of work: Indeterminate

Places DiscussedShelter

Shelter. EndgameUnnamed place which is apparently the last refuge of humankind on Earth. In addition to providing the characters with protection from the outside world and sustaining them in the last moments of their lives, the shelter serves as both a prison and a tomb. High up on the left and right sides of the back wall are two small windows with curtains drawn. These windows look out on the other world, nature. All that is visible are an ashen gray sea, sky, and sun in the ever-fading light that represents the winding down of time and the extinction of life. Covered by a sheet in the center of the room is Hamm, the blind master of the house. Confined to a chair on castors because he cannot walk, Hamm must be awakened every morning with stimulants and painkillers, fed, and then “put to bed” in the evening. Clov, Hamm’s servant, provides these functions, without which Hamm would die. The shelter contains two other characters, both legless, Nagg and Nell, the remnants of Hamm’s parents, who are confined to ash cans located at the front of the stage. This confinement suggests their status as “garbage” to Hamm, who refers to them as “accursed progenitors.” Periodically, they poke their heads out of their covered cans and speak to each other or ask for sustenance.

Outside world

Outside world. Although dying, the world outside the shelter appears to be more desirable than the world within, which is a psychological hell and a prison almost devoid of provisions. Three of the four characters are physically unable to leave, and the fourth, Clov, who seems to be preparing to leave, is tied psychologically to Hamm. Hamm, a sadistic master, “father figure,” and adult child enjoys tormenting his dependents. However, at the end of the play, Clov, suitcase in hand, waits at the door, apparently ready to leave.

BibliographyChevigny, Bell Gale, ed. Twentieth Century Interpretations of “Endgame.” Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1969. Contains illuminating contributions by director Alan Schneider, critics Ross Chambers and Hugh Kenner, and others. Also contains an excerpt from Martin Esslin’s landmark book The Theatre of the Absurd.Cohn, Ruby. Just Play: Beckett’s Theater. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1980. This volume by a “lifelong” student and critic of Beckett contains a useful comparison/ contrast of French and English texts of Endgame.Kalb, Jonathan. Beckett in Performance. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989. An exhaustive and perceptive production study of Beckett’s plays, primarily in Western Europe. Good on productions of Endgame.Kennedy, Andrew K. Samuel Beckett. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989. Published shortly before Beckett’s death, Kennedy’s study provides a balanced view of all of his work. Particularly stimulating analysis of Beckett’s plays in general and Endgame in particular.McMillan, Dougald, and Martha Fehsenfeld. From “Waiting for Godot” to “Krapp’s Last Tape.” Vol. 1 in Beckett in the Theatre. London: Calder, 1988. Complements Kalb’s study of Beckett in Performance. Useful production notes and history on Endgame.
Categories: Places