Study Guide

Endgame by Samuel Beckett in Structuralism

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Endgame by Samuel Beckett

Endgame is considered by many to be Samuel Beckett's greatest play. It has four main characters: Hamm, who is blind and can't stand up; Clov, who can stand all he wants but can't sit; and Nagg and Nell, who can't move at all because they have no legs and live in trashcans—yep, they're in great company. Anyway, this cheery crew is stuck in some sort of a small house that they never leave. Outside there's a gray landscape. Everything is dead. It's quite possible that there's been some kind of an apocalypse, and these happy few are the last survivors. Nothing much happens in the play. It's composed of a series of interactions between Hamm, Clov, Nell and Nagg.

The play is a tragedy. It's also a comedy. It is, in other words, a tragicomedy. Beckett sticks a lot of his characters in hopeless situations but gives them really funny conversations, which makes his work tragicomic. Like in his famous play Waiting for Godot, where the characters are waiting for someone (Godot? God? A dog?) who never shows up. In Endgame, they are living their lives in a dead world, where nothing changes, and no meaning can be found, whether you're stalking around the room or chilling in a trashcan.

So what's the deal with a play that's bleak, but also funny? Even though most plays have a few more characters who can walk and have names that are more than one syllable, this play can tell you something about the structure of all plays.

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