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Themes

That there is not a whole lot of compassion and forgiveness in Endgame. For the most part, the characters are extremely cruel to one another. Hamm bosses Clov around constantly and curses his father for giving birth to him. Clov, when he does not actually leave Hamm, makes up for it by being insubordinate in all sorts of sly ways. There is one openly compassionate relationship in the play – that of Nagg and Nell. All the cruelty in the play raises the question of where the good has gone and why the characters are behaving in this way.

Questions About Compassion and Forgiveness

  1. Where are the moments of compassion in the play? Who is the most compassionate figure?
  2. Why might the characters behave so cruelly to each other? What is their cruelty hiding? Are they unable to be kind to one another or do they choose not to be?
  3. Do Nagg and Nell show compassion toward each other? Why doesn't Nell ever do anything to help Nagg? In what ways does Nagg shield Nell from the cruelty of the other characters?
  4. Do Clov and Hamm move toward forgiveness in the end of the play? Who should be forgiving whom and for what? Why doesn't Clov leave Hamm?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

There is no real compassion in Beckett's play. The moments where the characters seem to be acting kindly toward one another can always be traced back to personal, ulterior motives.

There is a great deal of compassion in Endgame. Though the characters often speak cruelly to one another, their actions suggest that their cruelty masks their vulnerability and they actually long for real human relationships.

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