Endgame" is written in the unique style associated with Samuel Beckett's works- a minimalist, distressing piece of work about isolation, death, and language
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546692 EN1021, Reading Literature "Endgame" is written in the unique style associated with Samuel Beckett's works- a minimalist, distressing piece of work about isolation, death, and language. The play is an absurdist drama and has also been described as a comedy, despite the disturbing themes presented in the opening passage, such as the circular and repetitive nature of life and the meaninglessness of human existence. Beckett uses many different devises to make the play extremely effective in a performance such as a simple, bare setting; frequent silences and dark lighting. The plot of "Endgame" is continuous, unbroken by separate scenes or acts showing that the character's lives consist of a long pattern of ceaselessly repeating events. One of the major themes is that life is a circular existence without a definite beginning or ending, and so Beckett creates a repetitive, meaningless existence for his characters. The play's title refers to the final stage in a game of chess, the moves that lead to one player defeating the other, and Clov's blunt statement which opens the play, suggests that some sort of end or defeat is near, "finished, it's finished, nearly finished." His lack of emotion as he dwells on this "end" and his "fixed gaze" clearly shows the character's fragile states of mind. Clov has lost his passion for living and is acknowledging the "finish" as an escape from his tedious existence.
Hamm uses the imperative form to command Clov "Get me ready, I'm going to 546692 EN1021, Reading Literature bed." The idea of dominant-submissive couples can also be found in Vladimir and Estragon in "Waiting for Godot" and Winnie and Willie in "Happy Days." One of the unspoken themes in the play is that having a companion helps lessen the pain of loneliness and despair. Beckett has compared Hamm and Clov's tense co-dependency to his own marriage; both expressed a desire to leave the other, but were too afraid to. The setting of Endgame is characteristic of a Beckett play, "bare interior." The naked and empty stage serves to represent the loneliness of the characters. The set forms a skull, with the two windows as eyes, the two ashbins as nostrils, and Hamm's central position as the mouth. "Left and right, high up, two small windows...front left...two ashbins. Center...Covered with an old sheet, Hamm." Before the play has started there is an eerie and sinister atmosphere created by the visual reminder of death. The continuous silences also add to the tense atmosphere. Pauses between speeches were unusual at the time for the French style of acting, however, the frequent pauses in the play, during the character's soliloquies, add to the feeling of emptiness represented by the bare and hostile set. "Can there be misery- (he yawns) - loftier than mine? No doubt. Formerly. But now?"(pause) my mother? (pause) my father? (pause)"
Similarly the characters never exit the stage and so in the final scenes, the play does not achieve a sense of closure. The two acts end on a freeze frame and this achieves the desired effect of unnerving the audience, particularly in the very first performance of the play in the 1950's when the audience were left in silence, unsure how to act or respond. 546692 EN1021, Reading Literature As is often the case in literature, light represents life and darkness symbolises death. The lighting directions in "Endgame" instruct a "Grey light", and the "two small windows" on stage, show that the light reaching the characters is restricted and so an oppressive and sinister atmosphere is created. In this medium shade, the characters hope for life while living under death's gloom, "He takes off his glasses, wipes his eyes, his face, his glasses, puts them on again." Hamm is blind and so his glasses are no use to him, however, by continuing to wear them Hamm shows a vain hope for the future. Hamm can only see darkness and the bleak and dim atmosphere on stage shows that Hamm is alienated from the world; it is unknown and remote to him. In conclusion, the opening to "Endgame" is powerful and dramatic as the thought- provoking, key themes which will dominate the rest of the play are established along with the pitiful situation of the characters. Beckett also creates the atmosphere and tone for the rest of the play through the dull lighting, bare set and repetitive, broken language.
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