Study Guide

Happy Days Act II

By Samuel Beckett

Act II

  • Okay Shmoopers, dust yourself off and buckle back in. Here comes Act II….
  • We find the stage as we left it, only there must have be some massive sandstorm while we were outside getting our half-time snacks because Winnie is buried up to her neck. Luckily, she's managed to keep the hat on her head, but y'know, things have gotten a tad worse.
  • Throughout the rest of the play, Winnie won't be able to turn or lift her head, so you're going to get a lot of important "looks" (moving her eyes is about the best she can do).
  • Her essentials, funnily enough, don't seem to have been buried with her: bag, umbrella, and most interestingly, gun are all spread out around her (but obviously out of reach).
  • After a long pause, that shrill-sounding bell from Act I rings loudly once again. (Little tip: compare the times you hear the bell ring in Act II with Act I.) Winnie opens her eyes and looks out toward the audience.
  • Winnie, after another long pause, begins the second act by saying, "Hail, holy light" which is also a direct quote from Milton's Paradise Lost.
  • After another long pause, Winnie's eyes shut, only for the bell to ring louder than before. Winnie opens her eyes and looks toward the audience.
  • All the while Winnie is still conscious that "someone is looking at me still" (2.1) (Beckett sure did love his metatheatricality.)
  • A long smile comes on, then turns off and is followed by a long pause. It seems like silence is playing a bigger role in the second act.
  • She tries to remember a line she'd like to quote but it seems like her memory is getting worse.
  • Several pauses later, Winnie moves her eyes right and calls for Willie.
  • A pause later her eyes turn to us as she asks, "May one still speak of time?" (2.1).
  • Winnie realizes that she hasn't seen Willie is some time and says, "Say it is a long time now, Willie, since I saw you" (2.1). We actually haven't seen Willie either, we wonder where he could be.
  • Throughout a few pause she smiles and wonders where Willie is and whether it's possible to talk alone. Suddenly her smile turns off.
  • After several pauses, she smiles again, and this time, it gets broader... oh no, wait... She turns it off again after she believes that Willie has gone off into the ether just "like the others" (2.1). No matter, at least the bag is still there. It's now out of reach, but still there nonetheless.
  • It turns out that Willie gave Winnie the bag so she could "go to the market. That day" (2.1).
  • A pause later, her eyes switch back toward the audience us as she remembers that she used to pray (the key words here, dear Shmoopers are, "used to") and at this thought she smiles a smile that gets broader all the time. The smile turns off and two pauses later Winnie remarks, "To have been always what I am—and so changed from what I was" (2.1).
  • Winnie begins to explore the limits of communication and truth. She says, "There is so little one can say, one says it all. All one can. And no truth in it anywhere" (2.1).
  • Winnie then remembers that she had a torso and husband at some point. She says, "What arms? What breasts? What Willie?" (2.1).
  • Suddenly she screams, "My Willie!" She looks to the right, calling her husband again and again and again (louder this time) and again but Willie doesn't answer.
  • However, instead of despairing, Winnie says, "Ah well, not to know, not to know for sure, great mercy, all I ask" (2.1). There really is bliss in ignorance, huh, Winnie?
  • Her gaze returns to us as she reminisces on a kiss she shared with a certain Charlie near an area that was "beechen green" (2.1).
  • After a long pause, Winnie closes her eyes, the bell rings loudly, and Winnie opens her eyes again (this is like some nightmare alarm clock).
  • Another pair of pauses later she begins to think about "eyes float up that seem to close in peace" (2.1). Could she be referring to the sleep from which no one wakes? She says that it's not for yet, not now and breaks out into a smile (it gets bigger) but then off.
  • A smile which then turns off and a long pause later Winnie asks Willie if he believes that "the earth has lost its atmosphere" (2.1).
  • Winnie's thoughts seem to be getting more and more fragmented and random because in the course of a few lines she fleets between thoughts about her husband, death, the earth, loss of memory, and more death.
  • Finally, we get another big broad smile from Winnie when she realizes that death and loss of memory isn't going to get her just yet.
  • But just as suddenly as her smile is on, it turns off (surprise, surprise) and another long pause starts.
  • Winnie begins once again to talk about the "eternal cold" and "everlasting perishing cold" amid several pauses (2.1).
  • And then, Winnie squints and looks down her face. She looks at her nose, and her pouted lips. She sticks her tongue out, remembering how much someone (the person is referred to as "you," who could Winnie be thinking about?) admired it, "the tongue of course…you so admired…" (2.1).
  • Her eyes travel north as she examines the state of her eyebrows. Her eyes then go left and then right. A puff of the cheeks later, her eyes travel left, and she puffs out her cheeks again. Her eyes turn to the audience as she says, "that is all" (2.1).
  • A pause later and her eyes go left as she realizes that the bag is still there, "the bag of course" (2.1). Then she looks forward and reminisces on the past but it seems like she is having trouble remembering. Her utterings are becoming more and more fractured, "that day… the lake…the reeds" (2.1).
  • A big old long pause later Winnie's eyes close, but that's not allowed is it? The bell rings loudly and she opens her eyes again. Winnie looks to the right and asks Willie about Brownie. (That's a bit odd isn't it? Naming a revolver, Brownie?) A pause later her eyes return to the center.
  • Her eyes look to the right as she talks about the impotence of words and yet, ironically what she would do without them, "What would I do without them, when words fail" (2.1).
  • She says she'll simply look ahead (literally) and then does so as she presses her lips together. (What's with forcing the silence, Winnie?)
  • A long pause follows as she listens for sounds that she thinks she hears. She thinks about how sounds are a "boon" (2.1) (a fancy way of saying that something is a blessing).
  • And one pause later, she's smiling again but not for long (apparently sounds can only do so much), off goes the smile, but a few pauses later it returns, getting bigger and bigger as she talks about how happy days include sounds, before it turns off once more.
  • In between several pauses, Winnie questions whether she's lost her marbles—it seems Winnie often hears "faint confused cries in her head" (2.1). Lucky for us (and Winnie), she convinces herself that she's all right, "I have not lost my reason. Not yet" (2.1).
  • Winnie then goes on to say how much the bell hurts her when it rings, and about how she's told Willie "to ignore the bell, pay no heed, just sleep and wake, sleep and wake, as you please" (2.1). How about following your own advice, eh, Winnie?
  • Her smile gets bigger like before, but then turns off as she thinks about how now isn't the time to be thinking about life without of the bell.
  • Winnie then calls out to her husband. As you can probably imagine Willie doesn't respond.
  • And so amid pauses, Winnie begins thinking about how life begins in the womb. More specifically she thinks on Mildred's memories in the womb (who's Mildred, Winnie?).
  • Winnie then begins a rather long story interrupted by pauses about a girl named Milly (possibly her daughter), who one night crept into a nursery room to undress a doll name Dolly, when she's suddenly surprised by a mouse.
  • Apparently this story upsets Winnie because she tells herself, "Gently, Winnie" (it's kind of like saying "easy does it").
  • Two long pauses later, she screams out her husband's name. Not surprisingly, Willie doesn't respond. After a pause she calls for him twice more, getting louder again and again. She's finally had enough and says, "I sometimes find your attitude a little strange, Willie, all this time, it is not like you to be wantonly cruel" (2.1). Good for you, Winnie, tell him how you feel.
  • Winnie quickly becomes anxious about Willie's state and says, "I do hope nothing is amiss" (2.1).
  • A pause is followed by a look to the right as she calls for her husband. Winnie wonders whether Willie is stuck in his hole and "crying out for help all this time and I do not hear him!" (2.1).
  • She then says that she does hear cries but then reassures herself that it's nothing new (and that's it's not Willie): "No, no, my head was always full of cries" (2.1). Winnie did say she used to hear sounds.
  • A pause later Winnie finds something to be happy about: the fact that the sounds go away "as on a wind" (2.1). She manages a smile but it quickly turns off.
  • Winnie then begins talking about the time of day and how perhaps it's time for her to sing her song, but then she remembers that "one cannot sing… just like that, no" (1.1).
  • Winnie then begins talking about the "sadness after song" (2.1) and then refers to Willie's own sadness and says that she's sure Willie would concur with Aristotle about sadness following sexual intercourse. Some background: It seems Aristotle believed that all animals experienced sadness after coitus, a topic he wrote about in De Generatione Animalium.
  • Several pauses later Winnie attempts to recall "those exquisite lines" (2.1), but once again cannot remember. She sighs as she says, "one loses one's classics" (2.1), but quickly consoles herself by saying that "a part remains" (2.1).
  • Winnie soon changes the subject and, between several pauses, begins talking about Mr. Shower and Mr. Cooker (remember them from Act I?). Unfortunately, in an attempt to remember she closes her eyes and, after a long pause, the dreaded bell rings once again. Winnie quickly opens her eyes up resumes talking about Mr. Shower and Mr. Cooker.
  • It seems like there's more to Mr. and Mrs. Shower's (or is it Mr. Cooker's?) story. In fact, when they visited Winnie's mound they asked questions about what Winnie looks like underneath her mound, "Has she anything underneath?" (2.1).
  • At some point in Winnie's story (memory/fantasy/manic babbling), Winnie feels like someone is grabbing her and begins screaming, "Let go of me for Christ sake and drop!" (2.1).
  • Winnie then asks for Willie's help and when she doesn't get a response from him begins talking about Mildred.
  • She narrates the story about Mildred and the mouse (oh Winnie, you poor thing, the rambling really has taken a turn for the worse hasn't it?) and when she gets to the part when Mildred screams Winnie herself begins screaming the words "screamed and screamed" at the top of her lungs several times (2.1).
  • Winnie is anxious for "the bell for sleep" (2.1) to ring so she can rest her eyes. Maybe she's just sleep-deprived.
  • Suddenly, Winnie's neck begins to hurt. She adjusts herself. In between several pauses Winnie digresses about how little she can do and say. She attempts to once again remember the "immortal lines" but fails in her endeavor (2.1).
  • It seems like Winnie's thoughts are becoming more and more scattered and disrupted. After several short pauses and one long pause, Winnie begins remembering a day of celebrations when she drank champagne out of a flute glass. Winnie recalls requests from others asking her to, "sing your old song, Winnie" (2.1).
  • Suddenly, Winnie looks very alert. Her eyes dart to the right.
  • Drumroll, please. It seems like Willie's back, and in style. He crawls over the right hand side of the mound dressed in a top hat, white gloves, and a tuxedo. From somewhere he has grown what is referred to as a "Battle of Britain mustache."
  • He stops and, looking out to us, strokes his impressive facial fuzz (we would do the same, Willie). He is now completely visible and, crawling toward the center of the stage, he straightens his tie, gives his impressive mustache another smoothing, and adjusts his hat before moving forward a little more before he stops. He removes his hat and looks to Winnie.
  • Winnie sees him but the effort he's just exerted causes his head to suddenly drop.
  • Winnie comments on Willie's sudden appearance, "Well this is an unexpected pleasure" (2.1). She tells him that it reminds her of when he "came whining for my hand" (2.1).
  • Two pauses later Willie raises his head as Winnie giggles to herself and says, "What a get up, you do look a sight!" (2.1). Another pause later and Willie's head drops.
  • She asks him where he's been and then tells him to "feast your old eyes" (2.1) on Winnie.
  • After several pauses Winnie asks, "Does anything remain? Any remains? No? I haven't been able to look after it, you know" (2.1), at which point Willie's head sinks again.
  • Winnie then asks Willie about the cries she hears, "Do you ever hear cries, Willie?" She then asks Willie to look at her, at which point much to her surprise (and ours) Willie gives his wife a look of complete happiness only for Winnie to gasp, pause, and say, "What ails you, Willie, I never saw such an expression" (2.1).
  • A pause later, Willie's hat and gloves come off as he begins to crawl toward his wife's head, "gleeful" (1.2). (Great word, Mr. Beckett.) Winnie's delight is obvious as she cheers Willie on, "Come on, dear, put a bit of jizz into it" (2.1). (Jizz is an Irish term for life. But certainly don't do a Google search for the word if you're under 18.) Willie stops and reaches out to her with one hand.
  • She wonders whether he's after "a kiss" or perhaps "something else" (2.1). (Remember, the gun is near Winnie.)
  • However, he soon slides back down the mound, and his face buried in the floor. Winnie tells him "to have another go" (2.1) and soon after Willie gets on all fours again and faces her direction when suddenly Winnie says, "Don't look at me like that! Have you gone off your head, Willie?" (2.1).
  • Willie barely gets out one word and it's, "Win" (2.3). (Does he mean Winnie or the verb win?)
  • At the sound of her name, Winnie smiles and a happy expression grows on her face as she says "Oh this is a happy day, this will have been another happy day!" (2.4). She begins to sing the song from the music box, softly at first.
  • After she finishes her song the happy expression turns off, and her eyes close. Then—you guessed it—that bell starts to ring. Her eyes reopen, but it's okay, she's smiling. She gazes toward the audience and then smiles at her husband, who's also looking at her. In the final moment of the play a look is shared between the couple as a final long pause plays out.

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