"Nothing is funnier than unhappiness, I grant you that"
The characters in Endgame are victims of their situation, yet the origin of their current condition is never revealed. Still, we enter their lives at a critical moment, the beginning of the end of a long and torturous existence. From the very beginning, we are introduced to the resting figure of Hamm, confined to an armchair on casters since he has lost the use of his legs. His face is covered by a bloodied handkerchief; his sight has been lost. Yet still he lives, and so does his subordinate companion, Clov. The two have an antagonistic relationship, and Hamm is dependent on Clov, whose legs are still working yet he cannot sit. Nagg and Nell are Hamm’s parents and they live in dustbins. When they reveal themselves, they reminisce over times long past, and complain about the sawdust in their meagre shelters. Neither can see clearly, and Nell’s hearing is failing. The two are still fond of each other, although Nell has become weary and distant.
Endgame, like Beckett’s other works, is celebrated for its abstracted settings and characters, taken from reality yet still holding on to specific aspects of the mundane. The magic of the script is not in plot development so much as it is in the rise and fall of character relations. What’s more, the very nature of its abstraction calls for varied interpretations of the script. Beckett captures the contradiction of linearity and repetition with an analogy to the final, entirely predictable stage in a game of chess. His work situates the audience in a critical perspective towards his characters, rather than an empathetic one. Still, he allows for dark comedic retrospection as the ridiculousness of the situation is elongated through extended dialogue and playful irony.
Truly a thought provoking piece, past productions have commented on the possibility that some of Beckett’s own personality traits are displayed in the characters he creates, particularly that of Hamm. He toys playfully with these monologues in such a way that could only have been done through self-reflection – an invitation for viewers to explore the deepest and most bizarre crevices of our own minds.