Hamm is the protagonist of the play, though his unlikable demeanor at times makes him the antagonist to his servant, Clov. Blind, immobilized by old age in his wheeled chair, Hamm believes no one suffers more than he does. To him, there is no cure for being on earth, especially not in the dank hole where he also rules over his father, Nagg, and mother, Nell.

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Clov is the other protagonist of the play, the servant to Hamm despite his own infirmity. He was taken in by Hamm as a child, and the play's tension pits Clov's desire to leave against his obligation to stay with Hamm (an obligation he questions many times). He performs various tasks for his master, such as wheeling him around and reporting on the landscape outside the windows.

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Nagg is Nell's husband and Hamm's father. Contained in an ashbin next to his similarly trapped wife, he emerges now and then to cry for food or to try unsuccessfully to kiss Nell and tell her the same story he always tells. At times he is childlike, barely verbal, but he can be profound and articulate.


Nell is Nagg's husband and Hamm's mother. She seems most resigned to their lives of routine, calling the daily attempt to kiss Nagg a "farce." Though her part is minimal, she seems to be the one reason Nagg keeps living and stands as the sole example of healthy love in the play.