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Alone, Hamm takes out his handkerchief and spreads it before him. He speaks about weeping so as not to laugh, and about grieving. He folds the handkerchief and pockets it. He thinks about all the people he might have saved, but then remembers that there is no cure for being on earth. He angrily thinks about humans, then about his current situation, devoid of even a real dog. He considers finishing his story and starting another, or throwing himself on the floor, but he isn't able to push himself off his seat. He thinks about how "It will be the end" and he'll have wondered what provoked it and why it took so long. He'll be alone in his silent and still shelter. He'll have called his father and his son. He ruminates more on his eventual death, then whistles.
Clov enters with the alarm clock. Hamm is surprised he's not gone or done, though Clov says he has gone, in spirit. He reports that the rat got away from him. Clov says it's time for Hamm's painkiller, which relieves him until Clov reveals there's none left. Clov puts the alarm clock down, and hums, though Hamm tells him to stop and to look at the earth. Clov looks out the window with the ladder, and sees water everywhere. Confused, since it hasn't rained, he realizes he's been looking at the sea window. Hamm keeps asking if Clov knows what's happened, but Clov doesn't understand the question, and then says it doesn't matter. Clov reminds him that after Mother Pegg asked Hamm for oil for her lamp, and he refused her, Hamm knew what was happening—and that she died of darkness. Hamm feebly says he didn't have enough, but Clov refutes this. Clov wonders why he obeys Hamm, and Hamm answers that perhaps it's compassion.
Clov looks for the telescope and moves Hamm's chair in the process, which frightens Hamm, who wants to be returned to the center. Clov gets the telescope, but Hamm asks for his dog. Clov retrieves it and hits Hamm with it. Hamm says that if Clov must hit him, he should use an axe or the gaff. Clov hands the dog to him. Hamm asks to be put in his coffin, but Clov says there are none left. Clov takes the telescope and goes up the stepladder. Hamm says a few things, and when Clov asks if he's talking to him, Hamm retorts that it was an aside and he's warming up for his last soliloquy. Clov sees a small boy out the window. He says he'll investigate with the gaff, presumably to kill off the "potential procreator," but Hamm says the boy will either die outside or come inside, if he exists at all. He tells Clov that they've come to the end and he doesn't need him anymore, and asks him to leave him the gaff. Before Clov leaves, Hamm asks him to say something "from your heart." Clov repeats a few things "They said to me," such as "That's love" and "That's friendship." He says he'd decided to suffer the pains of life, but one day "it ends," and now he'll "weep for happiness" when he dies.
Hamm stops him before he leaves and thanks him for his services. Clov thanks him, and Hamm says they are obliged to each other. He asks him for a last favor, to cover him with the sheet, but Clov has already left. He tries to move the chair with the gaff. Clov enters, outfitted for his journey. Hamm doesn't know he's there, and throws away the useless gaff. He cleans his glasses, and recites some poetry (the opening quatrain of Charles Baudelaire's sonnet, "Recueillement"). He resumes telling his story about the man and his child, repeating how the man wanted his child with him. Hamm recalls it was the moment he was waiting for; he asked the man if he didn't want to abandon his son and prevent him from blooming while the man dies. He also addresses the child, and says that his father knows only death. Hamm twice calls out "Father" and, not hearing anything, says, "We're coming." He discards his dog and his whistle. He calls out for Clov, but hears nothing. He takes out his handkerchief, unfolds it, and says "You
remain." He covers his face with the handkerchief and sits motionless.
The ending is the beginning; Clov has not left after all, Hamm is again covered with the handkerchief, and they are doomed to repeat the same day over again. Beckett teases us by briefly resolving the tension over Clov's departure, but he returns, and neither death nor a willful escape will ever arrive in his cyclical existence. The child who appears outside is a figure of resurrection and recreation that Hamm and Clov fear, as his ability to procreate confirms their fears that life is, indeed, cyclical.
But it is their fault alone that life is cyclical; Clov chooses to return, and Hamm is reluctant to end the game, and even to end his final story, to which he keeps adding. But his attachment to life is hardly positive, and if he can't enjoy it, then he tries his best to make sure others can't, either. With the knowledge of his heinous refusal to give Mother Pegg the light she needed to live, alongside his stinginess with food in his story about the man and child, Clov's cruel deprivation of Hamm's pain-killer and other amenities makes sense. The irony is also apparent; blind Hamm wants to keep others in the dark as well, and his cleaning his glasses is a poignant, futile act. Clov, too, ends pessimistically; his dour list of the things "They said" are, according to a journal of Beckett's, the five dispensers of life's consolations (in Clov's order): love, friendship, nature, science, and mercy. He is a believer in none of these things, all having betrayed him (the first three are obvious; science proves no cure to their problems, and no one has mercy on them, nor do they have mercy on anyone else).
The play also finishes on a self-conscious note designed to make the audience more aware of its status as a play; just as neither Hamm nor Clov can escape, neither should the audience be allowed to escape into the fantasy of the theater. Hamm makes references to his aside, his final soliloquy, and an "underplot," and his replacing the handkerchief creates a final image of a theater curtain closing—one that will only open again tomorrow.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Endgame!