Endgame | Critical Review by Tom F. Driver

This literature criticism consists of approximately 3 pages of analysis & critique of Endgame.
This section contains 604 words
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Critical Review by Tom F. Driver

Two years ago, Samuel Beckett's theatrical parable Waiting for Godot came to the attention of American audiences and moved many of us to wild enthusiasm. (The fact that many others were put off entirely by it only added to the fun.) Whatever Mr. Beckett may have intended in that play, actually he had written an enigma which teased one with the question whether it was worth it to wait for the appearance of an absolute that seemed perpetually slow in coming. The play was open-ended, somewhat like Frank Stockton's story "The Lady or the Tiger?" It left at least the possibility that the attitude of waiting is a part of salvation.

It was too much to hope that Mr. Beckett's next play would be as good. Any such hope is now disappointed with the arrival of Endgame, which, however, is not without its points.

Samuel Beckett's plays have no plot. Little or nothing happens in them. To write plays about a world in which there is no action is a neat trick, and surely the playwright deserves some sort of award for pulling if off at all. In Waiting for Godot the situation was partly relieved by the expectation that something might happen. The symbols Beckett used in that play were closely associated with Christian symbols, and therefore of themselves (not to mention the dialogue and form of the play) they engendered the notion that action might at any moment break into the thoroughly inactive situation.

In Endgame, on the other hand, there is no such possibility. The set is in a filthy courtyard, bricked in on every side. All the characters are on stage at the beginning: nobody comes and nobody goes. One of them speaks of going and even gets packed to leave; but it is impossible to imagine him anywhere else, and so he stays. The principal character is blind and sits in a wheelchair; he cannot stand. His menial is afflicted in the legs and cannot sit. The parents of the blind man have lost their legs and are kept in a couple of ash cans. Their son feeds them on dog biscuits.

Theatrically, the remarkable part of it is how such a play, if not dull, could turn out to be anything but horrifying. At the deepest level it is horrifying; but the playwright manages to keep the surface of it interesting, comic, and even sentimental. It will be hard for me to erase the memory of the sweet old couple, popping up from under their galvanized lids and reminiscing about the day their boat capsized in Lake Como. It made us children laugh and cry.

Beckett writes plays of the spirit, plays of man's relation to his hopes and to his neighbor. The form of Endgame and its tone suggest that the game is up. Mr. Beckett is tolling a little tinkly bell for the end of the world. Man has made such ugly use of his neighbor that the two are now inextricably bound together by iron chains of exploitation. They suffer their mutual captivity by learning to find moments of love.

At times Mr. Beckett's anger at this condition flares out. Once, the blind man rolls his chair to the edge of the stage and cries to the audience: "Get out of here and love one another!" Yet the audience I was in made no stir. The playwright's irony is that even though we may begin to see the nature of our sickness it is too far advanced for cure.

Tom F. Driver, "Out in Left Field," in The Christian Century, Vol. LXXV, March 5, 1958, pp. 282-83.

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This section contains 604 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Tom F. Driver
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