Study Guide

Endgame Compassion and Forgiveness

By Samuel Beckett

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"?