The stage opens on a bare room in gray light. In the left and right rear of the stage, there are two small windows with curtains drawn. There is a door front right, with a small picture hanging beside it. To the left are two ashbins covered with sheets. In center stage, Hamm (the main character) is seated in an armchair with a sheet on top of him. Standing motionless by the door is Clov (Hamm's servant), with his eyes fixed on Hamm and his face very red.
Okay – patience with this part, it's tough to describe stage directions. Clov walks stiffly to the left window, where he stands for a moment. He looks up at the window, and then turns and looks at the right window. He goes and stands under the right window, looks up at it, and then turns and looks back at the left window.
Clov goes out, and comes back with a step-ladder, which he carries and sets down under the left window. He gets up on it and draws back the curtain. He gets off the ladder, and goes to the right window, realizes he has forgotten the ladder, goes back for it, and sets it under the right window. He gets on the ladder and draws back the curtain.
Clov gets down, goes to the left window, realizes he has forgotten the ladder, goes back for it, and sets it under the left window. He mounts it, looks out the window, and laughs. He gets down, starts to go to the right window, goes back and gets the ladder, carries it and sets it under the right window. He mounts it, looks out the window, and laughs.
Clov gets down, picks up the ladder, and starts to walk toward the ashbins. He stops, goes back and sets the ladder under the right window, then goes to the ashbins, removes the sheet covering them, and folds it over his arm. He raises a lid, stoops, looks into the bin, and laughs. He closes the lid and repeats the action with the other bin.
Clov goes to Hamm, removes the sheet covering him, and folds it over his arm. Hamm sits in a dressing gown with a stiff toque (a small, close-fitting brimless hat) on his head and a large bloodstained handkerchief on his face. There is a whistle hanging from his neck, a rug over his knees, and thick socks on his feet. He seems to be asleep. Clov looks him over and laughs.
Clov starts for the door, halts, and then turns toward the audience.
Clov speaks in a toneless voice, gazing fixedly into the audience. He says that things are finished, or nearly finished – they must be nearly finished. Clov pauses and says that things stack up, grain upon grain, and then suddenly (even though it seems impossible) there is a little heap. He pauses and claims that he can't be punished any more.
After another pause, Clov declares that he will now go to the kitchen, which is ten feet by ten feet by ten feet, and then he will wait for Hamm to whistle for him. He stops and observes that the kitchen has "nice dimensions, nice proportions" (1.1). He says that he will lean on the table, and he will look at the wall, and he will wait for Hamm to whistle for him.
Clov stands motionless for a moment, and then goes out. Immediately, he comes back in and goes to the right window, takes the ladder, and goes out with it.
After a pause, Hamm stirs and yawns under his handkerchief. He removes the handkerchief to reveal a very red face and black glasses.
Hamm starts to say something, but then yawns. He says that he will play, and then holds the handkerchief out before him. He says affectionately: "Old stancher!" (1.2)
He then takes off his glasses and wipes his eyes and face, as well as the glasses. He puts the glasses back on, folds the handkerchief and returns it neatly to the breast pocket of his dressing gown. Hamm clears his throat and makes a steeple of his fingers.
Hamm startles and yawns again. He asks if there can be any misery loftier than his. He does not doubt that there used to be, but he wonders about now. He pauses before wondering if his father suffered more, and then halts again before wondering if his mother suffered more. He waits a moment and wonders if perhaps his dog suffered more.
Hamm believes that dogs suffer as much as such creatures can possibly suffer, but wonders if their suffering is equal to his own. He does not doubt it.
He pauses, and starts (but yawns again), and says that all is absolute. Then, he says proudly that the bigger a man is the fuller he is. Hamm halts and becomes gloomy as he acknowledges that the man is also emptier.
Hamm sniffs and calls for Clov. He pauses, and acknowledges that he is alone. He stops briefly and then wonders at what wild dreams he had – something about forests. It's enough, Hamm muses, and decides that it's time things ended even in the shelter.
Hamm pauses, and then says that, despite the fact that things are finished, he hesitates to end. He yawns twice, and acknowledges that he is tired and that he had better go to bed.
Hamm whistles for Clov, who enters immediately and then halts beside Hamm's chair. He tells Clov that he pollutes the air, and then pauses before telling Clov to get him ready for bed.
Clov retorts that he has just gotten Hamm up, but Hamm asks what Clov's point is.
Clov says that he can't be just getting Hamm up and then putting him back to bed every five minutes – he has other things to do!
Hamm asks if Clov has ever seen his eyes Clov says that he hasn't.
Hamm demands to know if, out of curiosity, Clov ever took off Hamm's glasses while he was sleeping so that he could see Hamm's eyes. Clov inquires if Hamm means that Clov would pull back his eyelids (while Hamm was sleeping) so as to see his eyes. Clov waits a beat before saying that he hasn't.
Hamm tells him that, one of these days, he'll show them to Clov. He then pauses and says that they've gone all white, and waits a moment again before asking what time it is.
Clov tells him that it's the same time as usual. Hamm gestures toward the right window and asks if Clov has looked out of it. Clov says that he has, and Hamm asks what he saw. Clov says "zero" (1.15).
Hamm says that it would need to rain (for there to be anything out the window), and Clov says it won't rain. He pauses. Hamm asks, apart from that (the fact that there's nothing out the window, which is generally pretty darn depressing), how Clov feels? Clov says that he can't complain.
Hamm asks if he feels normal, and Clov gets irritated and replies that he told Hamm he couldn't complain. Hamm says that he himself feels "a little queer" (1.22).
Hamm pauses and then calls Clov, who answers him. Hamm asks Clov if he has had enough. Without a moment's hesitation, Clov exclaims, "Yes!" (1.25). Then Clov stops and asks what he is supposed to have enough of.
Hamm says that he is referring to this… thing. Clov says he has always had enough, and then pauses and asks if it is not the same for Hamm.
Hamm gets gloomy and replies that then there is no reason for things to change. Clov says that things may end, and then points out that, all one's life, one has the same questions and one gets the same answers.
Hamm tells Clov to get him ready for bed. Clov doesn't move. Hamm demands that Clov get the sheet. Clov doesn't move. Hamm shouts his name, and Clov says yes. Hamm says that he won't give Clov anything more to eat, and Clov says that if he doesn't, then they will both die.
Hamm retorts that he will give Clov just enough to keep him from dying, and then he will be hungry all the time. Clov acknowledges that then they wouldn't die. Clov pauses and goes to get the sheet.
Hamm shouts No! Clov halts, and Hamm tells him that he will give Clov one biscuit per day; he pauses and ups the ante to one and a half. Hamm stops and asks why Clov stays with him. Clov responds by asking why Hamm keeps him. Hamm responds that there is no one else. Clov acknowledges that there is nowhere else.
Hamm says that Clov is leaving him, all the same, and Clov acknowledges that he is trying. Hamm accuses that Clov doesn't love him, and Clov acknowledges that this is true. Hamm says that Clov loved him once, and Clov exclaims, "Once!" (1.45).
Hamm acknowledges that he has made Clov suffer too much, and then pauses and asks if it is true.
Clov acknowledges that suffering is not the reason he doesn't love Hamm. Hamm is shocked and asks if he hasn't made Clov suffer too much; Clov exclaims, "Yes!" (1.49)
Hamm is relieved, and he says that Clov had him in a fright. He then pauses, and says coldly that Clov should forgive him. He repeats louder that Clov should forgive him (it's an order, not a request).
Clov says that he heard Hamm the first time, and then pauses before asking if Hamm has bled. Hamm says that he has bled less, and then stops in turn before asking if it is time for his painkiller. Clov says that it is not.
Hamm asks how Clov's eyes are doing, and Clov says badly. Hamm asks how Clov's legs are doing, and he says bad. Hamm asks if Clov can move, and Clov says yes. With violence, Hamm tells Clov to move. Clov goes to the back wall and leans against it with his forehead and his hands. Hamm asks where Clov is.
Clov says, "Here" (1.61). Hamm tells him to come back, so Clov returns to his place beside the chair. Hamm asks where he is, and Clov says, "Here." Hamm asks why he doesn't kill him. Clov says that he doesn't know the combination of the cupboard.
Hamm instructs Clov to go and get two bicycle wheels. Clov says that there aren't any more bicycle wheels. Hamm asks what he has done with his bicycle, and Clov replies that he never had a bicycle. Hamm asserts that this is impossible.
Clov tells him that, when there were bicycles, he would have wept to have one. At the time, he clawed at Hamm's feet, and Hamm told him to go to hell, and now, there are no bicycles.
Hamm asks about his rounds, when Clov used to inspect Hamm's paupers (as if Hamm were a king, and Clov used to go around and inspect his subjects). Hamm asks if he always did this on foot, and Clov says that he would sometimes do it on horseback.
A bin lid opens, and Nagg's hands appear. He grips the rim of the bin. His head emerges, clad in a nightcap. His face is very white. Nagg yawns, and listens to the conversation between Clov and Hamm.
Clov says that he will leave Hamm because he has things to do. Hamm asks if the "things to do" are in Clov's kitchen. Clov says that they are.
Hamm says that outside of where they are, it is death. He then pauses and tells Clov to be off. Clov exits, and Hamm acknowledges that they are getting on.
Nagg calls out "Me pap!" (1.77) (Pap, by the way, is a softened food used for invalids, like bread soaked in milk. Yum!) Hamm retorts. "Accursed progenitor!" (1.78). FYI: A progenitor is one who prolongs the species, usually considered a good thing, but definitely not here. Nagg again calls for his pap.
Hamm says that the old folks are at home, and they have no decency left. All they think of is guzzling things down. Hamm whistles for Clov, who enters and stands beside his chair. Hamm says that he thought Clov was leaving him.
Clov replies that he has not left Hamm just yet. Nagg calls once more for his pap, and Hamm tells Clov to give his pap to Nagg. Clov informs Hamm that there is no more pap.
Hamm asks Nagg if he heard. He rubs the lack of pap in Nagg's face, telling him that it's all gone, and that Nagg will never have his pap again. Nagg yells yet again that he wants his pap.
Hamm tells Clov to give Nagg a biscuit. Clov exits, and Hamm yells "accursed fornicator" at Nagg (1.87). He then asks how Nagg's stumps are doing. Nagg tells Hamm not to mind his stumps.
Clov enters with a biscuit, and says as much. He gives the biscuit to Nagg, who fingers it and sniffs it. Nagg asks what it is.
Clov tells him that it is "Spratt's medium" (a type of dog biscuit, Google tells us). Nagg complains that it is hard and he can't eat it. Hamm shouts for Clov to bottle him, and Clov pushes Nagg back in his bin and closes the lid.
Clov returns to his place beside Hamm's chair and exclaims, "If age but knew!" (1.94). Hamm tells Clov to sit on Nagg, and Clov notes that he can't sit. Hamm acknowledges that this is true, and notes that he himself cannot stand. Clov responds that this is how things are.
Hamm proclaims that every man has his specialty, and then pauses before asking if there were any phone calls. There is a pause, and Hamm asks why they don't laugh.
Clov reflects and says that he doesn't feel like it. Hamm considers and remarks that he doesn't either. Hamm calls for Clov, who answers him.
Hamm says that nature has forgotten them. Clov responds that there is no more nature, and Hamm says that he exaggerates. Clov says that there is no more nature "In the vicinity" (1.105). Hamm says that they still breathe and change. They lose their hair and their teeth. They lose their bloom and their ideals. Clov acknowledges that she (Nature) hasn't forgotten them. Hamm retorts that Clov had said there was no more Nature.
Clov says sadly "No one that ever lived ever thought so crooked as we" (1.110). Hamm says that they do what they can, and Clov says that they shouldn't.
Hamm asks if Clov is at least a bit of all right. Clov acknowledges that he is – "a smithereens" (1.114). There is a pause. Hamm says that this is slow work, and then pauses and asks if it is time for his painkiller.
Clov says that it is not, and then pauses. He says that he will leave Hamm because he has things to do. Hamm asks once more if the things to do are in Clov's kitchen, and Clov says, also again, that they are. Hamm says he would like to know what Clov has to do. Clov says that he looks at the wall. Hamm asks what he sees on the wall. He asks if he sees mene (a disk-shaped moonfish) or if he sees naked bodies. Clov says that he sees his light dying.
Hamm exclaims, "Your light dying!" (1.123). He says that Clov's light can die, just as well. Hamm tells Clov to come take a look at Hamm and then come back and tell him what Clov thinks of his own light. Hamm pauses.
Clov says that Hamm shouldn't speak to him like that. Hamm says coldly that Clov should forgive him, and then repeats himself.
Clov says that he heard him the first time. Again, the lid of Nagg's bin lifts. He appears with a biscuit in his mouth and listens.
Hamm asks Clov if his seeds came up, and he says that they did not. He asks if Clov scratched around them to see if they sprouted, and Clov repeats that they have not sprouted. Hamm wonders if it is still too early, but Clov insists that if they were going to sprout, then they would have sprouted already. He violently exclaims: "They'll never sprout!" (1.133).
There is a pause, and Nagg takes the biscuit from his mouth into his hand.
Hamm comments that they are not having much fun (understatement, what with the apocalypse and all). There is a pause, and he acknowledges that that is how it always is at the end of the day, and looks to Clov for confirmation. Clov agrees that is how it always is. So Hamm goes on to ask if the end of this day is just like any other day, and Clov agrees. There is a pause.
In anguish, Hamm asks what is happening. He asks again.
Clov responds that something is taking its course. Hamm tells him to be off, and then leans back in his chair and remains motionless. Clov does not move, but heaves a sigh. Hamm sits up, and says that he thought he told Hamm to be off.
Clov says that he is trying. He goes to the door and halts. He says that he has been trying (to be off) ever since he was born. He exits.
Hamm says that they are getting on. Hamm leans back and sits motionless. Nagg knocks on the lid of the other bin. After a pause and another knock, the lid lifts and Nell's hands appear, gripping the rim. Her head emerges, wearing a lace cap, her face very white.