Study Guide

Endgame Quotes

  • Language and Communication

    HAMM
    Nature has forgotten us.
    CLOV
    There's no more nature.
    HAMM
    No more nature! You exaggerate.
    CLOV
    In the vicinity. (1.103-106)

    Throughout the play, characters slightly exaggerate the horrible nature of their situation. What is it that makes people given to making such sweeping statements? What do these characters have to gain from increased accuracy?

    NAGG
    "Dreadfully sorry, come back in a fortnight, I've made a balls of the fly." Good, at a pinch, a smart fly is a stiff proposition.
    (Pause. Normal voice.)
    I never told it worse.
    (Pause. Gloomy.)
    I tell this story worse and worse. (1.228)

    Why is Nagg so concerned with the manner that he tells the story? What does he have to gain from telling it well? Does his self-commentary contaminate the joke or make it even funnier?

    HAMM
    All is what?
    CLOV
    What all is? In a word? Is what you want to know? Just a moment.
    (He turns the telescope on the without, look, lowers the telescope, turns toward Hamm.)
    Corpsed.
    (Pause.)
    Well? Content? (1.303-304)

    Why would Hamm want him to sum everything all up in a word? Don't they have all the time in the world? What is gained from a one-word description versus one that goes on and on? Why might Clov choose the word "corpsed?" What are some other words he might have chosen?

    HAMM
    Did you get him?
    CLOV
    Looks like it.
    (He drops the tin and adjust his trousers.)
    Unless he's laying doggo.
    HAMM
    Laying! Lying you mean. Unless he's lying doggo.
    CLOV
    Ah? One says lying? One doesn't say laying?
    HAMM
    Use your head, can't you. If he was laying we'd be bitched. (1.355-359)

    What is the difference in the word choice here? What particular meaning of "laying" is it that so concerns Hamm? Does Clov using the wrong word actually effect their situation? Are there other points where linguistic accuracy is key to their going on?

    CLOV

    I oiled them yesterday.

    HAMM

    Yesterday! What does that mean? Yesterday!

    CLOV(violently)
    That means the bloody awful day, long ago, before this bloody awful day. I use the words you taught me. If they don't mean anything any more, teach me others. Or let me be silent. (1.464-466)

    What do you make of Clov's highly subjective definition? Why and how would the meaning of particular words change in their situation? Does the fact that Hamm taught Clov words mean that Hamm is more responsible for the words than Clov is?

    HAMM
    One! Silence!
    (Pause.)
    Where was I?
    (Pause. Gloomily.)
    It's finished, we're finished.
    (Pause.)
    Nearly finished.
    (Pause.)
    There'll be no more speech. (1.537)

    How does Hamm equate the end of speech with defeat? How about with death? Why does he feel the need to go on speaking constantly? Is giving up talking admitting defeat?

    CLOV
    I'll leave you.
    HAMM
    No!
    CLOV
    What is there to keep me here?
    HAMM
    The dialogue. (1.580-582)

    How does this line create a meta-theatrical moment? What other connotations does it take on because this is a play being performed in a theater? What would there be to keep Clov going if he was alone and there was no dialogue?

    CLOV
    Keep going, can't you, keep going!
    HAMM
    That's all. I stopped there.
    (Pause.)
    CLOV
    Do you see how it goes on.
    HAMM
    More or less.
    CLOV
    Will it soon be the end?
    HAMM
    I'm afraid it will. (1.615-620)

    How does Hamm's storytelling give way to the present moment? How is the present moment relate to his story? Is narrating the story an act of power? Is giving up narration an admission of defeat?

    HAMM
    Then babble, babble, words, like a solitary child who turns himself into children, two, three, so as to be together, and whisper together, in the dark. (1.688)

    How do words keep Hamm company? Being blind, in what ways is Hamm more dependent on words than the people around him? To what extent do words make up the world that Hamm lives in?

    HAMM
    Before you go…
    (Clov halts near door.)
    …say something.
    CLOV
    There is nothing to say.
    HAMM
    A few words…to ponder…in my heart.
    CLOV
    Your heart!
    HAMM
    Yes. (1.781-785)

    When was there not nothing to say? Why does Hamm want Clov to make a theatrical exit, to part with words? What do you make of this repeated phrase: "in my heart"? Why do other characters act so indignant when Hamm uses it?

  • Compassion and Forgiveness

    HAMM
    What have you done with your bicycle-wheels?
    CLOV
    I never had a bicycle.
    HAMM
    The thing is impossible.
    CLOV
    When there were still bicycles, I wept to have one. I crawled at your feet. You told me to go to hell. Now there are none. (1.67-71)

    Can you detect any bitterness in Clov's tone? Is he so used to Hamm's cruelty to him that he is simply reporting the facts or is there a sign that he still holds out hope that Hamm can be sympathetic?

    CLOV
    There's no more pap.
    HAMM (to Nagg)
    Do you hear that? There's no more pap. You'll never get any more pap.
    NAGG
    I want me pap! (1.85)

    Why is Hamm treating his father like a child? Why is his father acting like a child? What has allowed the two to reverse roles, as they do here?

    CLOV
    You shouldn't speak to me like that.
    (Pause.)
    HAMM (coldly)
    Forgive me.
    (Pause. Louder.)
    I said, Forgive me.
    CLOV
    I heard you. (1.124-126)

    Hamm reveals that he is demanding forgiveness, not requesting it. If he does not give Clov a choice, why does he still feel the need to ask for forgiveness?

    NAGG
    Kiss me.
    NELL
    We can't.
    NAGG
    Try.
    (Their heads strain towards each other, fail to meet, fall apart again.) (1.145-147)

    This scene must have happened countless times before. Why does Nagg still want to try? Is their failure to kiss still better than not having tried at all? Does it seem demoralizing for them or heartening?

    HAMM (exasperated)
    Have you not finished? Will you never finish?
    (With sudden fury.)
    Will this never finish?
    (Nagg disappears into his bin, closes the lid behind him. Nell does not move. Frenziedly.)
    My kingdom for a nightman!
    (He whistles. Enter Clov.)
    Clear away this muck! Chuck it in the sea!
    (Clov goes to bins, halts.)
    NELL
    So white.
    HAMM
    What? What's she blathering about? (1.231-233)

    Why is Hamm never directly cruel to his mother? He often engages his father and insults him to his face, but his mother he only criticizes through Clov or generally. Does this betray sympathy for her? What might have come between them?

    HAMM
    Yes, one day you'll know what it is, you'll be like me, except that you won't have anyone with you, because you won't have had pity on anyone and because there won't be anyone left to have pity on. (1.379)

    Does Hamm really think that he has shown Clov pity? Is his desire for Clov to go blind and to get stuck sitting down really a sign of sympathy or is he just wishing his ill will upon those around him? Does Hamm's narcissism leave any room at all for genuine sympathy?

    HAMM
    Scoundrel! Why did you engender me?
    NAGG
    I didn't know.
    HAMM
    What? What didn't you know?
    NAGG
    That it'd be you. (1.525-528)

    Several times, Hamm yells at his father for giving life to him. Is this the source of Hamm's cruelty to his father? Does he hate his life so much that he could hate his creator? Does such an attitude leave any room for sympathy?

    NAGG
    I hope the day will come when you'll really need to have me listen to you, and need to hear my voice, any voice.
    (Pause.)
    Yes, I hope I'll live till then, to hear you calling me like when you were a tiny boy, and were frightened, in the dark, and I was your only hope. (1.561)

    What is Nagg admitting by saying this? Is his desire to be needed a desire to regain a relationship with his son or does he just want to be back in power?

    CLOV
    There's one thing I'll never understand.
    (He gets down.)
    Why I always obey you. Can you explain it to me?
    HAMM
    No…Perhaps it's compassion.
    (Pause.)
    A kind of great compassion.
    (Pause.)
    Oh you won't find it easy, you won't find it easy. (1.745)

    What are some alternate explanations for why Clov stays with Hamm? What does Hamm have to gain by suggesting that it is compassion rather than something else? Is he trying to get Clov to feel benevolent? If so, why?

    HAMM
    I'm obliged to you, Clov. For your services.
    CLOV (turning, sharply)
    Ah, pardon, it's I am obliged to you.
    HAMM
    It's we are obliged to each other. (1.797-799)

    Is this a sort of reconciliation between Hamm and Clov? What are the two actually obliged to each other for? Are they just being polite or is there genuine feeling behind it? What do you make of the word choice: "obliged"?

  • Isolation

    HAMM
    Me—
    (he yawns)
    —to play.
    (He holds the handkerchief spread out before him.)
    Old stancher! (1.2)

    Why does Hamm have this particular fondness for his handkerchief throughout the play (it comes back at the end)? How has the handkerchief becomes like a companion for him? What do these first words mean? Why is it "me" and not "us"? What does this say about how self-reliant Hamm is?

    HAMM
    Why do you stay with me?
    CLOV
    Why do you keep me?
    HAMM
    There's no one else.
    CLOV
    There's nowhere else.
    HAMM
    You're leaving me all the same.
    CLOV
    I'm trying. (1.36-41)

    Is this companionship based on the lack of possibilities even more isolating than solitude? What is more lonely – being trapped with someone that you want to leave or being left alone because there is no one that you want to be with?

    HAMM
    In your kitchen?
    CLOV
    Yes.
    HAMM
    Outside of here it's death. (1.74-76)

    How does the physical space play a role in their isolation? If they want things to end, then is death such a bad thing? Is the fact that staying in the house is part of their failure to end that makes them act so miserably toward each other? What do the characters fear more: death or isolation?

    NELL
    Can you see me?
    NAGG
    Hardly.
    NELL
    So much the better, so much the better.
    NAGG
    Don't say that. (1.156-159)

    In what ways are failed senses linked to peoples feelings of isolation in the play? Why is everyone blind and handicapped? How much more weight on words to keep one from being isolated when one's sight fails?

    HAMM
    Don't stay there,
    (i.e. behind the chair)
    you give me the shivers.
    (Clov returns to his place beside the chair.)
    CLOV
    If I could kill him I'd die happy. (1.281-282)

    Why would Clov's physical position frighten Hamm? Why is it that having someone beside him makes him feel like he has a companion, but having someone behind him seems like a threat? Is Clov's feeling sincere?

    HAMM (with ardour)
    Let's go from here, the two of us! South! You can make a raft and the currents will carry us away, far away, to other…mammals!
    CLOV
    God forbid!
    HAMM
    Alone, I'll embark alone! Get working on that raft immediately. Tomorrow I'll be gone for ever.
    CLOV(hastening towards door)
    I'll start straight away. (1.363-366)

    Moments like these seem funny from the audience. Do you think that they are slightly funny for the characters as well? If not now, do you think they were at one time? Is there anything but stubbornness that makes Hamm say that he will brave solitude? Is there anything but fear that keeps him from doing it?

    HAMM
    Infinite emptiness will be all around you, all the resurrected dead of all the ages wouldn't fill it, and there you'll be like a little bit of grit in the middle of the steppe.
    (Pause.)
    Yes, one day you'll know what it is, you'll be like me, except that you won't have anyone with you, because you won't have had pity on anyone and because there won't be anyone left to have pity on. (1.379)

    Does Hamm really think that he has taken pity on Clov or is it just a figure of speech? Is he speaking more of Clov or of his own fears? If you think it might be the latter, to what extent do you think Hamm realizes this?

    HAMM
    If you leave me how shall I know?
    CLOV (briskly)
    Well you simply whistle me and if I don't come running it means I've left you.
    (Pause.)
    HAMM
    You won't come and kiss me goodbye? (1.483-485)

    Why is it important to Hamm that Clov have some sentiment for him? What does he honestly expect this sentiment to be based on? What difference does it make to him if Clov is just dead in the kitchen or gone? How is this tied in with the first two questions?

    NAGG
    Whom did you call when you were a tiny boy, and were frightened, in the dark? Your mother? No. Me. We let you cry. Then we moved you out of earshot so that we might sleep in peace.
    (Pause.)
    I was asleep, as happy as a king, and you woke me up to have me listen to you. It wasn't indispensable, you didn't really need to have me listen to you.
    (Pause.)
    I hope the day will come when you'll really need to have me listen to you, and need to hear my voice, any voice.
    (Pause.)
    Yes, I hope I'll live till then, to hear you calling me like when you were a tiny boy, and were frightened, in the dark, and I was your only hope. (1.561)

    Compare this with Hamm's threat to Clov earlier. Is Nagg's feeling more genuine? How does it reveal Hamm's earlier threat as largely a result of Hamm's own fears? What does this threat say about Nagg's own feelings of isolation?

    HAMM
    There I'll be, in the old shelter, alone against the silence and…
    (he hesitates)
    …the stillness. If I can hold my peace, and sit quiet, it will be all over with sound, and motion, all over and done with.
    (Pause.)
    I'll have called my father and I'll have called my…
    (he hesitates)
    …my son. And even twice, or three times, in case they shouldn't have heard me, the first time, or the second. (1.688)

    There's a key word here: "son." What does this word choice say about how Hamm views Clov? If he really thinks of him as a son, why does he treat him this way? There's another key word here: "against." Why does he think of himself as being against the silence rather than a part of it?

  • Defeat

    CLOV (fixed gaze, tonelessly)
    Finished, it's finished, nearly finished, it must be nearly finished.
    (Pause.)
    Grain upon grain, one by one, suddenly there's a heap, a little heap, the impossible heap.
    (Pause.)
    I can't be punished any more. (1.1)

    Why does Clov begin by saying that things are "finishes" and then qualify by saying that things are "nearly finished" and then qualify again by saying that things "must be nearly finished"? How much more uncertainty is there at the end of this sentence than at the beginning? Is there any hope in the play after these first few lines?

    HAMM
    Enough, it's time it ended, in the shelter too.
    (Pause.)
    And yet I hesitate to…to end. Yes, there it is, it's time it ended and yet I hesitate to—
    (He yawns.)
    —to end. (1.2)

    How is Hamm's hesitation to end in a way an admission of defeat? How is the failure to accept defeat that runs throughout the play itself an even greater defeat? Why do you think that Hamm hesitates?

    NAGG
    Could you not?
    (Pause.)
    Would you like me to scratch you?
    (Pause.)
    Are you crying again?
    NELL
    I was trying. (1.209-210)

    Why might Nell still be trying to cry? Do you think that she would be crying for herself or for other people? How does she still show sympathy for Nagg even though she refuses to scratch him? Is the fact that she cannot cry in some way a hint that her death is imminent?

    HAMM
    I'll give you nothing more to eat.
    CLOV
    Then I'll die.
    HAMM
    I'll give you just enough to keep you from dying. You'll be hungry all the time.
    CLOV
    Then we won't die. (1.32-35)

    How do these lines capture the entire dilemma in the play? How does Clov's simple repetition of Hamm's words suggest that a sort of inner mental defeat has already taken place?

    CLOV
    I can't sit.
    HAMM
    True. And I can't stand.
    CLOV
    So it is.
    HAMM
    Every man his specialty.
    (Pause.)
    No phone calls?
    (Pause.)
    Don't we laugh?
    CLOV(after reflection)
    I don't feel like it.
    HAMM(after reflection)
    Nor I. (1.96-101)

    How is the inability to laugh linked with the inability to cry? How is the failure to laugh a sign of defeat? Why is it that they laugh at Hamm's pointless question rather than his more deliberate joke?

    CLOV
    I look at the wall
    HAMM
    The wall! And what do you see on your well? Mene, mene? Naked bodies?
    CLOV
    I see my light dying.
    HAMM
    Your light dying! Listen to that! Well, it can die just as well here, your light. Take a look at me and then come back and tell me what you think of your light.
    (Pause.)
    CLOV
    You shouldn't speak to me like that. (1.120-124)

    What does it say about Clov that even in his fantasies he imagines that he sees his "light dying"? Once again, notice how Hamm tries to one-up Clov by pointing out that Hamm suffers more than he does.

    HAMM
    All right, be off.
    (He leans back in his chair, remains motionless. Clov does not move, heaves a great groaning sigh. Hamm sits up.)
    I thought I told you to be off.
    CLOV
    I'm trying
    (He goes to door, halts.)
    Ever since I was whelped. (1.139-140)

    How can Clov choose not to leave and yet also be tormented by that choice? When Hamm takes pride in how much he makes Clov suffer, what is there to keep him there?

    HAMM
    And the horizon? Nothing on the horizon?
    CLOV(lowering the telescope, turning towards Hamm, exasperated)
    What in God's name could there be on the horizon?
    (Pause.)
    HAMM
    The waves, how are the waves?
    CLOV
    The waves?
    (He turns the telescope on the waves.)
    Lead.
    HAMM
    And the sun?
    CLOV(looking)
    Zero. (1.319-324)

    What do you make of the fact that Clov is the one who has to report on the desolation? Why does Hamm repeatedly make him go to the windows do survey the landscape? Can Hamm not accept their defeat because he can't see it with his own eyes?

    HAMM
    Why don't you finish us?
    (Pause.)
    I'll tell you the combination of the cupboard if you promise to finish me.
    CLOV
    I couldn't finish you.
    HAMM
    Then you won't finish me. (1.389-391)

    Is Hamm actually more defiant in the face of defeat than Clov is or is he just not in a position of power to end their situation? Do you think Hamm would finish himself if he could?

    HAMM
    Since that's the way we're playing it…
    (he unfolds handkerchief)
    …let's play it that way…
    (he unfolds)
    …and speak no more about it…
    (he finishes unfolding)
    …speak no more. (1.799)

    Is Hamm actually accepting defeat here? Does he actually believe that he has been abandoned? What do you make of the fact that he still uses the word "playing"? Even if he absolutely did believe that he had been abandoned do you think he would use a different word?

  • Suffering

    HAMM
    Can there be misery—
    (he yawns)
    —loftier than mine? No doubt. Formerly. But now?
    (Pause.)
    My father?
    (Pause.)
    My mother?
    (Pause.)
    My…dog?
    (Pause.)
    Oh I am willing to believe they suffer as much as such creatures can suffer. But does that mean their sufferings equal mine? No doubt. (1.2)

    What do you make of Hamm's word choice: "loftier"? Is there any dignity in his suffering? Does he take pride in it? Why is he competing to see if the others might be suffering more than he does?

    HAMM
    I've made you suffer too much.
    (Pause.)
    Haven't I?
    CLOV
    It's not that
    HAMM(shocked)
    I haven't made you suffer too much?
    CLOV
    Yes!
    HAMM(relieved)
    Ah you gave me a fright! (1.46-50)

    Why is Hamm concerned about how much he has made Clov suffer? What might be the reason that Clov wants to leave Hamm if it is not that he has made him suffer? Does Hamm seem to think that suffering is somehow ennobling?

    NAGG
    Are you crying again?
    NELL
    I was trying. (1.210-211)

    How does this moment foreshadow Nell's death? Consider the moment later in the play when Nagg stops crying after Nell's death. Is this a lack of compassion or a sign that he too will die before too long?

    HAMM
    Something dripping in my head, ever since the fontanelles.
    (Stifled hilarity of Nagg.)
    Splash, splash, always on the same spot.
    (Pause.)
    Perhaps it's a little vein.
    (Pause.)
    A little artery.

    What does this thing dripping in Hamm's head have to do with his suffering? Might it be his inability to stop thinking? When one is in situations of extreme pain, how is the inability to cease thinking a form of torment?

    NAGG
    Whom did you call when you were a tiny boy, and were frightened, in the dark? Your mother? No. Me. We let you cry. Then we moved you out of earshot, so that we might sleep in peace.
    (Pause.)
    I was asleep, as happy as a king, and you woke me up to have me listen to you. It wasn't indispensable, you didn't really need to have me listen to you. (1.561)

    How can you explain Nagg and Nell's cruelty to Hamm? In what ways does it account for and justify his current behavior? Did it, in a way, help to prepare him for a life of suffering?

    HAMM(letting go his toque)
    What's he doing?
    (Clov raises lid of Nagg's bin, stoops, looks into it. Pause.)
    CLOV
    He's crying.
    (He closes the lid, straightens up.
    HAMM
    Then he's living. (1.629-630)

    What do you make of the fact that Hamm measures life by one's ability to cry? How is the ability to suffer linked with the ability to live? Contrast this with the fact Nell was incapable of crying shortly before he died.

    HAMM
    Did you ever have an instant of happiness?
    CLOV
    Not to my knowledge. (1.630-631)

    Is unhappiness the same as suffering? Do we think that Clov is being honest or simply extrapolating from the present back into the past? Can present experience change whether or not you were happy in the past?

    HAMM
    Is it not time for my painkiller?
    CLOV
    Yes.
    HAMM
    Ah! At last! Give it to me! Quick!
    (Pause.)
    CLOV
    There's no more pain-killer.
    (Pause.)
    HAMM (appalled)
    Good…!
    (Pause.)
    No more pain-killers!
    CLOV
    No more pain-killer. You'll never get any more pain-killer. (1.698-703)

    Why didn't Clov tell Hamm this earlier? Though Hamm is proud of his suffering, how is Clov responsible for it? In what ways is Clov also a tyrant? How can Hamm ask for painkiller when he thinks that his suffering is so exalted?

    CLOV(as before)
    I say to myself—sometimes, Clov, you must learn to suffer better than that if you want them to weary of punishing you—one day. I say to myself—sometimes, Clov, you must be there better than that if you want them to let you go—one day. But I feel too old, and too far, to form new habits. Good, it'll never end, I'll never go. (1.794)

    Who is the "they" that Clov is speaking of? Why does he think that he must "suffer better" in order to be set free? Is the fact that he speaks in generalities another sign of his inability to come to terms with his immediate situation?

    HAMM
    You don't want to abandon him? You want him to bloom while you are withering? Be there to solace your last million last moments?
    (Pause.)
    He doesn't realize, all he knows is hunger, and cold, and death to crown it all. But you! You ought to know what the earth is like, nowadays. Oh I put him before his responsibilities! (1.799)

    If existence is suffering then is bringing a child into the world an act of tyranny? What does Hamm suggest the father knows that his young son would not? Why might Clov's father still have brought him to Hamm? Would it have been better if he did not?

  • Perseverance

    HAMM
    And yet I hesitate, I hesitate to…to end. Yes, there it is, it's time it ended and yes I hesitate to—
    (he yawns)
    —to end. (1.2)

    Is this a sign of strength or weakness? How can "hesitation" amount to perseverance? Can one persevere without succeeding, simply by enduring long enough in the face of certain failure?

    HAMM
    I'll give you nothing more to eat.
    CLOV
    Then we'll die.
    HAMM
    I'll give you just enough to keep you from dying. You'll be hungry all the time. (1.32-34)

    Does Clov have the ability to endure separate from Hamm? Are these lines a great admission of defeat or a determination to endure? Is it really endurance if someone else is forcing you to do it?

    HAMM
    We do what we can.
    CLOV
    We shouldn't. (1.111-112)

    Are these positions that the two characters hold throughout the entire play? Does the fact that Hamm seems to not yet be ready to end whereas Clov does mean that Hamm's behavior is a sign of perseverance whereas Clov's is a sign of defeat?

    CLOV
    Why this farce, day after day?
    HAMM
    Routine. One never knows. (1.334-335)

    Is Hamm here admitting that there is nothing driving them forward except inertia? Are there any points where he contradicts this viewpoint?

    HAMM
    And without going so far as that, we ourselves…
    (with emotion)
    …we ourselves…at certain moments…
    (Vehemently.)
    To think perhaps it won't all have been for nothing! (1.345)

    Is Hamm's willingness to consider such possibilities in order to sustain himself a sign of strength or a sign of weakness? Are these the thoughts that keep Hamm going or is there something else? Is Hamm motivated by fear or hope?

    HAMM
    But beyond the hills? Eh? Perhaps it's still green. Eh? (1.405)

    Is this really what motivates Hamm? Is there a greater form of endurance that considers in pushing forward while accepting complete uncertainty? Is endurance in the absence of hope still endurance?

    HAMM
    Do you not think this has gone on long enough?
    CLOV
    Yes!
    (Pause.)
    What?
    HAMM
    This…this…thing.
    CLOV
    I've always thought so. (1.475-478)

    If Hamm and Clov do not what this thing is that has happened then how can they endure it? Do you have to understand something to be able to endure it? Is attempting to understand a form of endurance?

    CLOV
    You've got on with, I hope.
    HAMM(modestly)
    Oh not very far, not very far.
    (He sighs.)
    There are days like that, one isn't inspired.
    (Pause.)
    Nothing you can do about it, just wait for it to come.
    (Pause.)
    No forcing, no forcing, it's fatal.
    (Pause.)
    I've got on with it a little all the same. (1.590)

    If you just have to wait for it come, then how can Hamm say that he has got along with his story just the same? Is this actually a sign of endurance or a sign of inertia? Is Hamm a mouth-piece or an actual speaker?

    CLOV
    Will it not soon be the end?
    HAMM
    I'm afraid it will.
    CLOV
    Pah! You'll make up another. (1.619-621)

    How is storytelling equated with an act of endurance? Is it actually endurance or just an attempt to escape from the current situation? When there is no reason to hope, is endurance itself a sort of escape?

    HAMM
    Perhaps I could throw myself on the floor.
    (He pushes himself painfully off his seat, falls back again.)
    Dig my nails into the cracks and drag myself forward with my fingers.
    (Pause.)
    It will be the end and there I'll be, wondering what can have brought it on and wondering what can have…
    (he hesitates)
    …why it was so long coming. (1.687)

    Why would the end arrive more suddenly if Hamm were to throw himself on the floor? Why does he imagine digging his nails into the cracks and not just lying there? Why does the end have to come with effort? Why is it something to be achieved?

  • Pride

    HAMM
    And your rounds? When you inspected my paupers. Always on foot? (1.72)

    What evidence is there in the play to think that Hamm was actually a monarch? What evidence is there to suggest that his power, in the old world, was largely imagined? How does the vanity obtained from his previous position keep him from adapting to his new one?

    NAGG
    You were in such fits that we capsized. By rights we should have been drowned.
    NELL
    It was because I was happy.
    NAGG(indignant)
    It was not, it was not, it was my story and nothing else. Happy! Don't you laugh at it still? Every time I tell it. Happy? (1.224-225)

    How is Nagg acting like a child here? Is Nell's answer really so incompatible with Nagg's retort? Exactly what sort of credit does Nagg want for making Nell laugh? Is this a sign of love or just straight possessiveness?

    HAMM
    Am I right in the center?
    CLOV
    I'll measure it.
    HAMM
    More or less! More or less!
    CLOV(moving chair slightly)
    There!
    HAMM
    I'm more or less in the center?
    CLOV
    I'd say so.
    HAMM
    You'd say so. Put me right in the center!
    CLOV
    I'll go and get the tape.
    HAMM
    Roughly! Roughly
    (Clov moves chair slightly.)
    Bang in the center! (1.271-279)

    What does it say about the fact that Hamm wants Clov to put him right in the center without using a measuring tape? Does this mean he wants to be the center of things according to Clov's judgment, the center of Clov's world?

    HAMM
    My house a home for you.
    CLOV
    Yes.
    (He looks at Hamm fixedly.)
    This was that for me.
    HAMM(proudly)
    But for me,
    (gesture towards himself)
    no father. But for Hamm,
    (gesture toward his surroundings)
    no home. (1.399-401)

    Why does Hamm take pride in how alone he is? How is this undermined by his fear of Clov leaving him? How does Clov not realize this? How does speaking of himself in the third person attempt to give more authenticity to his struggles?

    HAMM(his hand on the dog's head)
    Is he gazing at me?
    CLOV
    Yes.
    HAMM(proudly)
    As if he were asking me to take him for a walk?
    CLOV
    If you like.
    HAMM(as before)
    Or as if he were begging me for a bone.
    (He withdraws his hand.)
    Leave him like, standing there imploring me. (1.431-435)

    Does this moment of absurd vanity make Hamm a more sympathetic character? How is his attitude toward the dog a reflection of his attitude toward Clov? What does it say about their relationship?

    HAMM
    Ask my father if he wants to listen to my story.
    (Clov goes to bins, raises the lid of Nagg's, stoops, looks into it. Pause. He straightens up.)
    CLOV
    He's asleep.
    HAMM
    Wake him.
    (Clov stoops, wakes Nagg with the alarm. Unintelligible words. Clov straightens up.)
    CLOV
    He doesn't want to listen to your story.
    HAMM
    I'll give him a bon bon. (1.515-519)

    Why does Hamm's narcissism here come across not as vanity but as neediness? How can one be both proud and pathetic at the same time? In Endgame, is it possible not to be?

    NAGG
    I hope the day will come when you'll really need to have me listen to you, and need to hear my voice, any voice. (1.561)

    Is this a sign of vanity on Hamm's part or just the desperation of a father that has been ignored? How does being in a position of power increase one's vanity and decrease their sympathy? How does being out of power do the reverse?

    CLOV
    Pah! You'll make up another.
    HAMM
    I don't know.
    (Pause.)
    I feel rather drained.
    (Pause.)
    The prolonged creative effort. (1.621-622)

    Is there any sign here that Hamm is being tongue in cheek or does he have no sense of the ridiculous nature of his own vanity? Why does Hamm need Clov there to witness his vanity? Does vanity always require a witness?

    HAMM
    Open the window.
    CLOV
    What for?
    HAMM
    I want to hear the sea.
    CLOV
    You wouldn't hear it.
    HAMM Even if you opened the window?
    CLOV
    No.
    HAMM
    Then it's not worth opening it?
    CLOV
    No.
    HAMM(violently)
    Then open it! (1.646-654)

    Why does Clov's implicit refusal to open the window make Hamm that much more determined to have him open it? What vulnerability is Hamm hiding and how does Clov tap into it by pointing out that there is no point to opening the window?

    CLOV
    There's your dog for you!
    (The dog falls to the ground. Pause.)
    HAMM
    He hit me!
    CLOV
    You drive me mad, I'm mad!
    HAMM
    If you must hit me, hit me with the axe.
    (Pause.)
    Or with the gaff, hit me with the gaff. Not with the dog. With the gaff. Or the axe. (1.756)

    How does being hit with a toy dog offend Hamm's pride more than being hit with an axe? We know from the first lines that Ham is not ready for things to end so what does he get out of asking Clov to kill him?

  • Philosophical Viewpoints: The Absurd

    Clov goes and stands under window left. Stiff, staggering walk. He looks up at window left. He turns and looks at window right. He goes and stands under window right. He looks up at window right. He turns and looks at window left. He goes out, comes back immediately with a small step-ladder, carries it over and sets it down under window left, gets up on it, draws back curtain. He gets down, takes six steps (for example) towards window right, goes back for ladder, carries it over and sets it down under window right, goes back for ladder, gets up on it, draws back curtain. He gets down, takes three steps towards window left, goes back for ladder, carries it over and sets it down under window left, gets up on it, looks out of window. Brief laugh. He gets down, takes one step towards window right, goes back for ladder, carries it over and sets it down under window right, gets up on it, looks out of window. Brief laugh. (1.Opening Stage Directions)

    How does this comic opening affect your attitude toward the play? What do you make of the predictable nature of Clov's forgetfulness? Why does Clov laugh?

    NAGG
    Me pap!
    HAMM
    Accursed progenitor!
    NAGG
    Me pap! (1.77-79)

    Why is this line funny? Is it Hamm's choice of words or the general sentiment? In what ways does absurdity mask honesty? In what ways is there no way to understand honesty except as absurdity?

    CLOV(sadly)
    No one that ever lived ever thought so crooked as we. (1.110)

    Is there something about the post-apocalyptic situation that makes Clov and Hamm's absurd behavior more understandable? How does their behavior show how much their thought has been perverted? What things that seem absurd to us might seem perfectly sane to them?

    NELL(without lowering her voice)
    Nothing is funnier than unhappiness, I grant you that. But—
    NAGG(shocked)
    Oh!
    NELL
    Yes, yes, it's the most comical thing in the world. And we laugh, we laugh, with a will, in the beginning. But it's always the same thing. Yes, it's like a funny story we have heard too often, we still find it funny, but we don't laugh any more. (1.194-196)

    What is funny about unhappiness? Who has a right to laugh at the unhappy? Do you need to understand what they are going through in order to laugh at them? What happens when the characters are too exhausted to laugh but the audience still does?


    CLOV
    Things are livening up.
    (He gets up on ladder, raises the telescope, lets it fall.)
    I did it on purpose.
    (He gets down, picks up the telescope, turns it on auditorium.)
    I see…a multitude…in transports…of joy.
    (Pause.)
    That's what I call a magnifier. (1.298)

    How does Clov's joke suggest that the audience is somehow implicit in their situation? Imagine yourself as an audience member: how does it make you feel to have Clov judging your general attitude?

    CLOV(anguished, scratching himself)
    I have a flea!
    HAMM
    A flea! Are there still fleas?
    CLOV
    On me there's one.
    (Scratching.)
    Unless it's a crablouse.
    HAMM(very perturbed)
    But humanity might start from there all over again! Catch him, for the love of God! I'll go and get the powder.
    (Exit Clov.)
    HAMM
    A flea! This is awful. What a day!
    (Enter Clov with sprinkling-tin.)
    CLOV
    I'm back again, with the insecticide.
    HAMM
    Let him have it.
    (Clov loosens the top of his trousers, pulls it forward and shakes powder into the aperture. He stoops, looks, waits, starts, frenziedly shakes more powder, stoops, looks, waits.) (1.346-353)

    This is pretty much the most action we get in the entire play. Do Hamm and Clov seem happier here than at almost any other point in the play? As an audience member, is it easier to sympathize with the two of them here or when they are complaining about how miserable their situation is?

    CLOV
    What about a pee?
    HAMM
    I'm having it.
    CLOV
    Ah that's the spirit, that's the spirit. (1.360-362)

    In what ways do bodily functions become a source of hope and entertainment in the play? Is Clov being sincere when he cheers Hamm on or does it seem as if he is half-joking?

    HAMM(gloomily)
    Then it's a day like any other day.
    CLOV
    As long as it lasts.
    (Pause.)
    All life long the same inanities. (1.479-480)

    Do Hamm and Clov choose to suffer the same inanities or do they not have a choice? Is there a different way that they could view their situation or not? Is there a possibility of change?

    HAMM
    Crawling on his belly, whining for bread for his brat. He's offered a job as gardener. Before—
    (Clov bursts out laughing.)
    What is there so funny about that?
    CLOV
    A job as a gardener!
    HAMM
    Is that what tickles you?
    CLOV
    It must be that.
    HAMM
    It wouldn't be the bread?
    CLOV
    Or the brat.
    (Pause.)
    HAMM
    The whole thing is comical, I grant you that. What about having a good guffaw the two of us together?
    CLOV(after reflection)
    I couldn't guffaw today. (1.600-607)

    How does this scene reveal that Clov has a better sense of humor than Hamm? What is it about absurdity that Hamm just doesn't get? Could this be part of the reason Hamm keeps Clov around – that Clov reminds him how to lighten up?

    CLOV
    Christ, she's under water!
    (He looks.)
    How can that be?
    (He pokes forward his head, his hand above his eyes.)
    It hasn't rained.
    (He wipes the pane, looks. Pause.)
    Ah what a fool I am! I'm on the wrong side! (1.719)

    In what ways does Clov's foolishness create a moment of escape for him? Why is this one of the more genuine moments in the play? Is there any surprise left in this world that does not come from foolishness and irony?

  • Life, Consciousness, Existence

    CLOV
    All life long the same questions, the same answers. (1.29)

    What are some of the questions that Clov might be referring to? Is he right? Does this mean that life is static? Where can we gain knowledge and where can we only accumulate questions like grains of sand?

    HAMM
    But we breath, we change! We lose our hair, our teeth! Our bloom! Our ideals! (1.107)

    Notice how Hamm measures growth by decay, by what is lost. Is this a general commentary on the way that human beings change or is it peculiar to Hamm and Clov's situation?

    HAMM
    In the morning they brace you up and in the evening they calm you down. Unless it's the other way round.
    (Pause.)
    That old doctor, he's dead naturally? (1.250)

    What do you make of the fact that Hamm begins by making a sweepingly general statement about life and then moves to thinking about a particular doctor? What is the relationship between the universal and the particular in the play?

    HAMM
    What's happening?
    CLOV
    Something is taking its course. (1.339-340)

    Clov repeats these lines several times in the play. Does this view of life leave any room for individual agency or control? Is it a completely fatalistic view? Is it a philosophy of Clov's or is it simply borne of his despair?

    HAMM
    We're not beginning to…to…mean something?
    CLOV
    Mean something! You and I, mean something!
    (Brief laugh.)
    Ah that's a good one!
    HAMM
    I wonder.
    (Pause.)
    Imagine if a rational being came back to earth, wouldn't he be liable to get ideas into his head if he observed us long enough. (1.343-345)

    Do you think that Hamm is hoping that they mean something or is this some sort of odd threat? What view of life would it take for someone to wish that his or her life had no meaning? What state would the world have to be in?

    CLOV
    You've asked me these questions millions of times.
    HAMM
    I love the old questions.
    (With fervour.)
    Ah the old questions, the old answers, there's nothing like them! (1.396-397)

    Compare this Clov's bemoaning the fact that one gets the same questions and the same answers all one's life long. In what way does a love of these questions or a hatred of them determine the way that one sees the world? In what way does an appetite for questions versus an appetite for answers constitute a philosophy of life?

    HAMM
    I once knew a madman who thought the end of the world had come. He was a painter—and engraver. I had a great fondness for him. I used to go and see him, in the asylum. I'd take him by the hand drag him to the window. Look! There! All that rising corn! And there! Look! The sails of the herring fleet! All that loveliness!
    (Pause.)
    He'd snatch away his hand and go back to his corner. Appalled. All he had seen was ashes.
    (Pause.)
    He alone had been spared.
    (Pause.)
    Forgotten.
    (Pause.)
    It appears the case is…was not so…so unusual. (1.467)

    What does Hamm mean that the madman was spared? Once hope is lost, does memory of a time when one had hope increase one's suffering that much more? Does Hamm see a certain hope in the madman – that perhaps Hamm is simply imagining his situation?

    HAMM
    Use your head, can't you, use your head, you're on earth, there's no cure for that! (1.537)

    Why would the ability to use one's head be something that would need to be cured? What view of the world would one have to have for thought to seem like a disease?

    CLOV(straightening up)
    I love order. It's my dream. A world where all would be silent and still and each thing in its last place, under the last dust. (1.569)

    In what ways have the characters maintained order in spite of their situation? In what ways have they fallen into chaos? What is the ultimate order that Clov imagines? Is longing for order linked with longing for death?

    HAMM
    The end is in the beginning and yet you go on. (1.688)

    How is the end implicit in the beginning? Why would people still go on? Is it possible to imagine something that does not have an ending? How would one assign meaning to one's life and one's actions if they would not, some day, end?