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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beckett at his maddening best
I am no literary critic, but after reading Waiting for Godot, I sought more of his works. Beckett smashes everyday reality with a sledgehammer, wrecking the fantasy of social reality as we know it. The pointless circular conversations between Hamm and Clov are pathetic, useless, and point to the madness we engage in everyday, living in our own self created fantasies...
Published on September 4, 1999

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Absurd yet Compelling
Beckett's second play "Endgame," translated from French by his own hand into English, is a vision of the world at its end. It focuses on the few surviving human beings who are themselves facing mortality; the betrayal they face from their own bodies as their physical forms break down and the end of life becomes imminent. I freely admit that I didn't understand everything...
Published on January 22, 2010 by JustinWrites


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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beckett at his maddening best, September 4, 1999
By A Customer
I am no literary critic, but after reading Waiting for Godot, I sought more of his works. Beckett smashes everyday reality with a sledgehammer, wrecking the fantasy of social reality as we know it. The pointless circular conversations between Hamm and Clov are pathetic, useless, and point to the madness we engage in everyday, living in our own self created fantasies. We try to communicate with others , but in a sense we are only inflicting our own psychosis on each other, selfishly engaging in social ritual for some kind of perverse gratification. Of course this is only one take on life, only one way of viewing it. And like Elutheria and Godot, it is a dark vision. But to confront the deepest anxiety and emptiness within, a dark path is the only road to follow. Act Without Words is the first mime I have ever read. Seemingly simple, it also attempts to paint a picture of the futility and hoplessness of life, everything the mime reaches for he can never get, always tantilizingly out of reach. So with satisfaction and everything else in life it is always just over the horizon. Although others have interpreted this sense of need in other ways, sometimes more positively, Beckett shows it in an aweful light, leaving the reader with an empty yearning for something that can never be satisfied.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two very different poles of Beckett's art., January 31, 2001
'endgame' is one of Beckett's most famous works, generally considered to be his theatrical masterpiece, as a master and servant fight it out at the end of the world in somebody's decaying head. Despite some very gallows humour, this is the Beckett aesthetic at its bleakest.
'Act Without Words' is very different. The philosophy may be familiar - man's struggles to survive in a world powered by unseen, malevolent, sadistic forces - but this is treated almost (self?) parodically. The play's main interest lies in its form. Throughout his career, Beckett has been paring down his language to the limits of concision - here he finally abandons it, giving us a mime more than a little influenced by the slapstick silent cinema that has always fuelled his work. I guess this is genuinely a case where you have to see it to appreciate it, but I had fun imagining proto-Beckett Buster Keaton in the role.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From Oedipus to Lear to Hamm--the blind man's procession, July 30, 1998
By A Customer
In "King Lear" Shakespeare asked far more questions than he could answer, and by the end of the play little was resolved: unfit leaders would perpetuate the march of folly. Shakespeare's work followed many themes from "Oedipus" and both spoke to the ethos of their times. If any twentieth century play deserves to be considered the heir to "Oedipus" and "Lear" then Beckett's "Endgame" should rank right along with the other two. In Beckett's finest theatrical work, he places a blind man in Job's world, but in this case there is no answer from the heavens; instead Hamm, Clov, Nagg and Nell have to invent their own worlds, reconstructing the past and deconstructing themselves while Beckett himself reconstructs and deconstructs theater. One line best sums up the play and provides probably the best motto for the twentieth century: "the end is in the beginning and yet you go on." Many have seen this play as a dar! k Kafkaesque nighmare, but I see it as a true existential affirmation of what Camus saw as acting in good faith--choosing to play the game and go on with life even though there is little reason to play on.
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17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Epitomy of the Theatre of the Absurd.......to the extreme., May 2, 1997
By A Customer
What the audience is met with is full-blown confusion. Thefirst scene opens with a brief tableau, a frozen frame depicting thetwo main character Clov and Hamm, the latter confined to a chair and the other dressed in shabby clothes, face expressionless, standing and looking into the audience. Beckett intends for the audience to be shocked and to be left unrestful. Beckett wrote Endgame to illustrate human suffering and the meaninglessness of routine. People who are not courageous enough to experience anything other than the monotony of life, people who lack any imagination and creativity. It is the extent of unfeelingness and total oblivion of emotions that detaches the characters in the play from what we may perceive as "realistic". On the first reading, one may be put off entirely by the repetitive questions and actions but with a closer second reading, the quality of Beckett's dramatic technique becomes palpable. Beckett's ingenuity of writing a play devoid of a plot shows that a dramamtist is not always bound to plot as most people assume. Anyway, here is a quote from the play to consider: "All life long the same questions, the same answers..........have you not have enough of this..this...this thing?"
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Hunter and the hunted, July 23, 2012
This review is from: Endgame and Act Without Words (Paperback)
This play is mythical for some but it has a less eschatological meaning than "Waiting for Godot". It is more locked up in an individual personality. As much as "Waiting for Godot" could have been seen as deeply schizophrenic, "Endgame" is psychotic, a psychotic vision of the isolated individual in some kind of more than self-centered, in fact self-locked psyche, locked onto himself by himself. And of course we remain in a, obsessively male-dominated world.

There are officially four characters. But in fact two are really active. In the dustbins you have Nagg the father and Nell the mother of Hamm, a crippled and blind individual who is more or less the father of Clov who is his slave, younger, physically active though entirely dependent but maybe not forever.

The room in which these characters exist is a miniature of the psychology of a person who is completely cut off from the world. This person is Hamm. We are inside his brain. For him the world is dead, though he is the one who is a living dead since he is crippled, i.e. unable to move, and blind, i.e. unable to see. He has to be moved around and someone has to see for him and tell him what can be seen. The room has an outside kitchen, an extension that is not the outside world but that is reachable only to one character, Clov who goes to it now and then, though it is the Arlésienne of the play, the one utem you speak if constantly but never see.

Hamm henceforth asks his son Clov to check the world through windows that are too high for direct vision, built too high since windows don't grow on houses that don't grow naturally in the earth, hence purposely positioned too high. There are two windows, Beckett's obsession of duality, one looking over the land and the other looking over the sea, but both land and sea are absolutely desolate, empty, dead. To see through the window Clov has to use a ladder and then a telescope to see what is far away, to have some perspective. I just wonder why they don't use a periscope. After all a house does not come with a telescope, so they could have had a periscope. That would have made things too easy I guess. Beckett wants things to be complicated for his very simple-minded characters.

Hamm lives with vague, evanescent memories of his own parents who are in the trashcans, in other words trashed. Nell, the mother, will appear once only and disappear to be later declared dead. And that will be the end of the first female character of Beckett's plays, a short-lived and sacrificed human entity, a very sexist vision of the woman. Nagg, the father, will appear a first time to ask his "pap", either the tit of a mother or a feeding bottle, or the soft and semi liquid stuff that is fed to babies on the way to more consistent food, and this "pap" is refused. We can see the mother fixation of that grandfather. He has regressed a lot, methinks. He will be given a biscuit (English meaning of course, hence a cookie) by Clov. The second time Nagg comes out Nell will come out too and Nagg will tell her a story, the story of the tailor, a story which has a strange anti-Semite flavour, and yet seems to be a rewriting of some old Germanic medieval story about a brave tailor who kills seven flies at one blow. But this tailor here is incompetent and he asks ever increasing delays because he fails some section of the striped trousers he is supposed to make for an Englishman. "I've made a mess of the seat." "I've made a hash of the crutch." "I've made a balls of the fly." Then these obscene, "indecent" says the Englishman, difficulties are compared to the six days of Genesis, hence with the creation of the world by God. The punch line is supposed to be funny: "But my dear Sir, my dear Sir, look at the world ... and look ... at my TROUSERS." And that is a lot more indecent still and totally gay we would say today.

Note in this second appearance of Nagg, first and last of Nell, Nagg tries to reach Nell and kiss her. But the trashcans are too far apart, on purpose of course. No sex we are British, aren't we? Castrating disposition, and disposal, of the two oldies by Hamm himself of course.

The third time Nagg comes out it is at the request of Hamm who wants to tell a story and promises a bon-bon that becomes a sugar plum that will never be delivered anyway. Empty promises, even worse than Indian giver, and Nagg will be pushed back down into his trashcan, or should I say dustbin, dust to dust, hence to death. Nagg goes back into his reservation and will be declared crying in there.

Hamm is the center of this room-world, crippled and blind. He uses still and probably used in the past his parents for his own sake and then rejects them into oblivion or death just the same way he has rejected the world into death. Then he exploits his own son, if he is his own son, to take care of him since he is crippled and blind. And his requests are capricious and tyrannical. Nothing surprising in that. The play is then about the total tyrannical dependence an older crippled and blind father imposes onto his own son, if he is the son, till, and that is the stake, the son sees a boy outside and runs away abandoning his dear father. That's the end. It is finished as is repeated many times in the play, from beginning to end.

The world then is not dead because of some cataclysmic apocalypse decided by God or decreed and implemented by humanity but because of the total self-centered father locked up onto himself. The only people he acknowledges must be his slaves in a way or another, his toys even, and he has the right of life and death over them, or so he thinks.

The game then is not a playful game but it is Clov, Hamm's game, the animal, "mammal" Beckett says in the play, Hamm has hunted and then locked up in his egotistical or is it ego-testicle blindness. The endgame is no longer the end of a game but the end of the venison Hamm has reduced his own son, if he is the son, to be. This works in English, but the French title does not at all carry this double-entendre, double meaning, though "Fin de Partie" may have an open sexual innuendo this time, like the fly of the trousers that had been "made a balls of." Since "une partie" is nothing but a ball, a testicle, generally in the plural, "les parties", hence with another innuendo about a one-balled man, or the castration of one ball. The title anyway implies the end of a game in which Hamm was holding Clov by the balls, so he thought, till Clov saw a boy and ran to him and Clov was the one who was holding Hamm by the balls and his leaving leaves him ball-less. Hamm has lost his game, his venison, but also his balls if we integrate the castrating meaning of the French title, a castrating meaning that is present all the time in Hamm's tyrannical requests and imposition.

A boy is the messenger, like in "Waiting for Godot," that the world is not completely dead, that there is some life out there. But he is only seen by Clov through the window overlooking the land, but Clov's reaction is immediate.

He, a grown man, in his newly donned Panama hat, tweed coat, raincoat on his arm, umbrella and bag, in one word dressed for the road, runs out to meet and capture a boy. Then what? The what! The theme is openly paedophiliac but also the reproduction of Hamm's hunting which may mean that Clov was Hamm's little boy captured in an ancient hunt.

That's where we can doubt the filiation of Clov to Hamm. It is never clearly said but it is probable. He might only be the younger human male Hamm captured a long time ago, and then Clov is on the road running out to do the same in his turn for his own benefit. And the end will be a new beginning exactly similar to the beginning of this endgame.

This play might sound absurd but it is not. It is the realistic denunciation of the enslavement of the young by the old, of their exploitation till the old die or are relegated into the trashcans, or should I say dustbins, of death. Then the young who are now middle-aged take over the hunt, the enslavement and the exploitation till they die or are relegated to the trashcans, etc.

Society is the dictatorship of the old over the young with a purely demographic rotation based on age only, from the older generation to the generation just lower in age forever over and over. There seems to be no escape to that fatality.

This leads to the idea that Beckett was living the years after WW2 in an extremely pessimistic mood. The Cold War led him to see and represent a world that is dead, that has no history anymore, in which biology is the only rule, henceforth and therefore in which survival is only individual provided you can find the slave you need or, if you are too young to be a slave master, the master you need in order to mature to take over later. The survival to which some philosophers want to reduce human life to in the name of science, thus reducing man to a blind mammal.

Beckett's world is a world of total dependence, of total absence of freedom, of total ruins, but all that is totally enclosed in one's own vision of reality that evades any kind of sense and meaning for that particular anyone.

Not absurd but totally and deliriously psychotic as well as anti-historical, un-human and anti-social. Is it Beckett's vision or is it Beckett's representation of a standard vision of his time? No one can answer this question, and certainly not the copyright holder, Jérôme Lindon and then Edward Beckett, who sticks to the letter of the plays and the stage directions and refuses any kind of side-tracked interpretation that could lead to a completely new vision of Samuel Beckett's work. Luckily his power does not extend beyond the borders of France. Beyond one can think differently.

I just wonder what that vision could become if Beckett could see our world of hyper-virtual-reality-communication-cum-social-networking. Could a psychotic post-modern vision of his type survive and thrive in our modern world of total drowning in the multiple and never-ending flow of unforeseen and unforeseeable expansion?

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impossible, Wonderful, March 1, 2012
By 
Steiner (Philadelphia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Endgame and Act Without Words (Paperback)
A richly absurd masterwork of existential theater. Although this is only existentialist from a certain perspective. As Adorno has argued, Beckett was preoccupied with a confrontation with existentialist ontology-this work is the negation of existentialist thought via `subtraction,' which is to say that Beckett subtracts from the raw materials of ontology and presents their non-sense as sense. After an implicit event of annihilation, the characters of his tragedy play out the impossibility of any reconciliation with meaning. Beckett lives in the world of non-sense, and for many, this play is incomprehensible. And it should not be interpreted. It is simply the presentation of man's reconciliation with absolute alienation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Absurd yet Compelling, January 22, 2010
This review is from: Endgame and Act Without Words (Paperback)
Beckett's second play "Endgame," translated from French by his own hand into English, is a vision of the world at its end. It focuses on the few surviving human beings who are themselves facing mortality; the betrayal they face from their own bodies as their physical forms break down and the end of life becomes imminent. I freely admit that I didn't understand everything Beckett was doing in the play, with fragmentation, repetition, extensive pauses within the dialogue, and allegorical referencing. I looked into educated sources on the play and found that there are allusions to the death of Christ and to Dante's "Inferno," which upon reflection become clearer to me now. I also recognized allusions of my own, particularly the parallels between the slave-son Clov and Prospero's savage servant Caliban: Clov's relationship to his father-owner Hamm is more forgiving and less vile than that between the two men in Shakespeare's "The Tempest," but the similarities are definitely there. Specifically, the line from Clov -- "I use the words you taught me. If they don't mean anything any more, teach me others" -- harkens back to Prospero and his daughter Miranda giving the man-beast language and understanding.

Beyond the allusions are Beckett's own personal ideas about life and death, loneliness and family, powered by a fairly pessimistic and dark view of the ultimate fate of humanity and humankind. As a main player in the philosophical ideology and existentialist movement of The Theatre of the Absurd, his stance makes sense. The world within his play IS absurd, as well as meaningless and a bit inhumane. So, making sense out of non-sense is the key to the reading experience -- or, refusing to make the attempt to unravel the play in order to find some common understanding and just choosing to go with the flow of dialogue and action that is presented. I tried a little of both, which was frustrating and challenging while still being somewhat enjoyable.

The companion piece to "Endgame" is "Act Without Words: A Mime for One Player," which borrows motifs, characters, allegories and tone from its predecessor. While it might be much more effective and interesting if seen in performance, the actual reading of five pages filled with nothing but repetitive, tedious stage directions is less than a fulfilling experience. But the main event, "Endgame," is the reason for this book, and if you want a taste of that absurdist, existential playwriting that Beckett and Ionesco made famous, this and "Rhinocerous" are good places to start. And, of course, there's always "Waiting For Godot."
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4.0 out of 5 stars It doesn't get much better than this., January 3, 2008
Samuel Beckett, Endgame, A Play in One Act, Followed by Act Without Words, A Mime for One Player (Grove, 1958)

Samuel Beckett's plays are known for being obtuse while entertaining; Endgame is no different where this is concerned, but it is also arguably his most powerful work. We are presented with four characters, three of whom cannot move and one of whom cannot stop moving, in a relentlessly bleak landscape that, while it is never explicitly stated, seems to be post-apocalyptic. It is possible that these four are the last people left alive on earth, and their collective health is failing. Beckett uses this absurd, if gripping, mise en scene to reflect not only on both the banal and the dramatic in interpersonal relationships, but on how screwed up the world is in general. What caused these four people to be the last on Earth? And are they, in fact, the last on Earth in a literal sense, or is it just that they have become so isolated the rest of the world has forgotten about them? And can we (and the other characters) trust anything that Clov, the sole character capable of movement, is telling them? We get no answers; we are expected to supply them ourselves, of course.

Endgame is, in this volume, followed by Act Without Words, a behaviorist melodrama taken to absurd extremes, with one man in a desert setting unable to reach a carafe of water that is dangled (presumably, by a supreme being) just out of his reach, despite objects being delivered to him that should by rights help him reach it. As with most of Beckett's work (much of which, by the way, can be found free online at samuel-beckett.net, including the entire texts of these two plays), the comic and the tragic (or, I should say in this case, the endlessly frustrating) blend marvelously into one ugly morass of emotion. Great stuff, this. ****
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10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful writing on several different perspectives, September 7, 2000
By 
Endgame is a beautiful example of why Samuel Beckett is hailed as one of the greatest playwrites of the 20th century. Beckett, one of the most profound exestentialists of all time is famous for not only his brilliant dialouge (so real and beautiful) but also for his amazing characters. Endgame is a perfect example of this.
If you are considering reading this play, or any other by Beckett, I suggest you prepare yourself. Do not expect Death of a Salesman here, because you are going to get the exact opposite. Without proper analyzation, Endgame appears to have no real meaning or plot so to speak. Baisically, it is about two men struggling to get along with each other, one whom had raised the other since birth. The entire one act play is based on their rising conflict with each other, and on the developement of both the major characters, Clov and Hamm. Although this may seem to you as not much to base a play on, the art of exestencialism is based on human emotion and existence. Therefore, it is the perfect place to describe a character in depth. If you are still having difficulty understanding the meaning of Endgame, analyze it as a feud between an aging father and a teenage son. The aging father yells and is tired of the teen, but still wants to hold him. The teen is tired of the father, but still listens to him until a certain line is crossed. That line will become clearer in Endgame by Samuell Beckett, a true masterpiece, which I highly recommend.
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3.0 out of 5 stars What does it all mean?, April 1, 2014
By 
AmyThink (Springfield, MO USA) - See all my reviews
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Saw the play at the local university, and kept thinking about it. (Which, I suppose, it what one is supposed to do after an existential experience.) I only made it a couple of semesters as a philosophy major, so trying to think this one through was kind of a tail-chasing exercise. So, kindle to the rescue--I bought a copy of the play. Did it help? Well...Kind of. In the end, it is a lot more enjoyable to read the play and try to insert various existential realities into it than to just look it up on the internet and run with the reviews there. Hey, maybe that's what it means!
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Endgame and Act Without Words
Endgame and Act Without Words by Samuel Beckett (Paperback - June 16, 2009)
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