Study Guide

Endgame Language and Communication

By Samuel Beckett

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 b****ed. (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?