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Endgame

Samuel Beckett

Nagg's appearance–chair ride

Beginning–Nagg's appearance

Chair Ride–Nagg Wakes Up

Summary

From one of the ashbins, Nagg emerges in a nightcap. Clov exits to his kitchen. Nagg repeats "Me pap!" over and over. Hamm whistles Clov in and commands him to give Nagg his pap. There's no more left, so Hamm orders a biscuit, and Clov departs and brings one back to Nagg. Nagg complains, and Hamm directs Clov to close the lid on him and then sit on it. Clov reminds him he can't sit, and Hamm reflects on how he can't stand. Clov says there's no more nature, and Hamm refutes this, arguing that their bodies and minds change. After some more debate, Hamm asks him what he does in his kitchen. Clov says he looks at the wall and sees his light dying. Hamm mocks this, and then apologizes when Clov reprimands him. Nagg emerges from his bin, biscuit in mouth, and listens. Hamm asks Clov if his seeds have sprouted yet. They haven't, Clov responds, and never will. Hamm reflects that the end of the day is always depressing and like all others. Hamm tells Clov to leave, which Clov says he's "trying" to do, then does.

Nagg knocks on the other bin, and Nell emerges. Nagg asks her to kiss, but she says they can't. They try but cannot reach, and Nell asks why they go through the "farce" every day. Their sight (and Nell's hearing) failing, they both can hardly see each other. They laugh over a series of memories, though with less vigor on each remembrance. They're both cold, and Nagg suggests they go in, but neither does for fear of being alone. Nell asks if "he" has changed Nagg's sawdust. Nagg corrects her; it's sand, though it was once sawdust. Neither his nor Nagg's has been changed. Nagg offers her the remainder of his biscuit, but she doesn't take it. Hamm tells them to quiet down, and thinks about what he would dream of could he sleep. He blurts out "a heart, in my head," and Nagg laughs at this, out of earshot. Nell rebukes him for laughing at misery. Even though "Nothing is funnier than unhappiness," she says that after a while one stops laughing at it, as if it were a once-funny anecdote that has lost its punch. Nell wants to leave, while Nagg wants her to scratch his back, as she did yesterday, but she can't. Nagg wants to tell her a story about a tailor that has often made her laugh, especially the first time he told it to the day after they'd gotten engaged. Nell attributes her laughter to her happiness that day, but Nagg believes it was solely due to his story. He tells the story, switching between the voices of a narrator, tailor, and customer: a tailor keeps botching and delaying the customer's orders for a pair of trousers until the customer explodes and points out that God created the world in six days, while he has taken three months for the trousers. The tailor tells him, with disgust, to "look at the world," and then, lovingly, to "look at my TROUSERS." Nell is motionless, and Nagg lets out two forced laughs until Hamm calls for silence.

Nagg disappears, and Hamm whistles for Clov and tells him to throw the bins into the sea. Nell says a few things that Clov takes for nonsense as he approaches her. He checks her pulse and says she has none. Hamm tells him to screw down the lids, but before Clov can leave to perform the task, Hamm says "Time enough." Hamm says he'd like to pee, but before Clov can get the catheter, he again says "Time enough." They discuss Hamm's painkiller medicine and Hamm's deceased former doctor. Hamm asks Clov to move him around on his chair and, as he can't see for himself, to hug the walls. He tells him to stop, and then twice strikes the hollow wall, beyond which is the "other hell." Hamm directs Clov to return him back to his spot in the exact center. After Clov makes several adjustments of the chair, he declares that if he could kill Hamm, he'd die happy.

Analysis

Hamm's unyielding misery stems from his contradictory impulses towards humans and change. He claims he wants others, especially Clov, to leave him alone or be silent, but he's always worried he's alone or that Clov can't hear him. Just as he has said he "hesitate[s]" to end life, he hesitates to drive out others and live in solitude, as when he says "Time enough" to Clov. He wants to believe that their minds and bodies are changing, but he fears any change and has a compulsive need to be in the exact center of the room. He is much like the King in chess; the most powerful piece on the board, he is also the most vulnerable, with limited mobility. The analogy works for the other characters. Clov might be considered the Queen, as he is Hamm's constant companion, but a more precise position for him is the Knight. His movement is irregular (he even travels vertically up the stairs), and Hamm virtually rides him when Clov pushes his chair around, as a horse would exert effort to transport a rider. Nagg and Nell are the Pawns, able to emerge from their bins only at the King's bidding.

Hamm also resembles a hammer, one of his name's several allusions. He drives the action from a distance while the others, like nails, move in and out of their positions. His striking the wall clarifies this image (repeating Nagg's double strike of Nell's ashbin), as do his instructions for Clov to screw down the lids to the ashbin. Another meaning behind his name is that of a "ham" actor (an aggressive, attention-getting actor). When Nagg tells his story and switches between three voices, it is a reminder that Hamm is the foremost actor, a virtual narrator who directs the three characters around him. Just as Hamm's life is one of delays and hatred for the world around him, Nagg's story is about delays and disappointment over natural creation.

Beckett also provides a good definition of his brand of absurd comedy when Nell says, "Nothing is funnier than unhappiness." Mining laughter from misery is Beckett's theatrical goal. He does this not to alleviate the misery, but to expose the absurdity of man's condition. Another staple of Beckett's work are his frequent pauses, which speak volumes about his characters' alienation and their gradual, silent approach to death.

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