Study Guide

Endgame Pride

By Samuel Beckett

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?