It was almost a decade before any more significant short prose emerged, but when it did another shift had taken place. Language remains problematic, but a level of acceptance has been reached. Granite of no common variety assuredly. Black as jade the jasper that flecks its whiteness. On its what is the wrong word its uptilted face obscure graffiti. The terrain and structures of Ill Seen Ill Said seem to come into existence at the very moment we read them. The two zones form a roughly circular whole.
As though outlined by a trembling hand. Say one furlong. That he wrote some of the greatest short stories of the 20th century seems to me an uncontroversial claim, yet his work in this genre is comparatively obscure. Partly this is a problem of classification. Unfortunate as the resulting neglect might be, this is a fitting position to be occupied by a writer who consistently struggled to develop new forms. If the history of the short story were mapped, he would belong in a distant region. The isolation would not matter.
It begins: All known all white bare white body fixed one yard legs joined like sewn. Facebook Twitter Pinterest. Topics Samuel Beckett A brief survey of the short story. Short stories Fiction blogposts. Reuse this content. Order by newest oldest recommendations. Show 25 25 50 All. Threads collapsed expanded unthreaded. Loading comments… Trouble loading? Most popular. So, unlike Beckett's tramps, and more like Ionesco's characters, Albee's people are seen as Babbitt-like caricatures and satires on the "American Dream" type; the characters remain mannequins with no delineations.
Likewise in Ionesco's The Bald Soprano, the Martins assume the roles of the Smiths and begin the play over because there is no distinction between the two sets of characters. Perhaps more than any of the other dramatists of the absurd, Ionesco has concerned himself almost exclusively with the failure of individualism, especially in his most famous play, Rhinoceros.
To repeat, in this play, our society today has emphasized conformity to such an extent and has rejected individualism so completely that Ionesco demonstrates with inverse logic how stupid it is not to conform with all society and be metamorphosed into a rhinoceros. This play aptly illustrates how two concerns of the absurdists — lack of communication and the lack of individualism — are combined, each to support the other.
Samuel Beckett: Debts and Legacies
Much of Ionesco's dialogue in this play seems to be the distilled essence of the commonplace. Then two rhinoceroses, then more. Ridiculous arguments then develop as to whether they are African or Asiatic rhinoceroses. We soon learn that there is an epidemic of metamorphoses; everyone is changing into rhinoceroses. Soon only three individuals are left. Suddenly it seems almost foolish not to become a rhinoceros. In the end, Berenger's sweetheart, Daisy, succumbs to the pressures of society, relinquishes her individualism, and joins the society of rhinoceroses — not because she wants to, but rather because she is afraid not to.
She cannot revolt against society and remain a human being. Berenger is left alone, totally isolated with his individualism. And what good is his humanity in a world of rhinoceroses? At first glance, it would seem obvious that Ionesco wishes to indicate the triumph of the individual, who, although caught in a society that has gone mad, refuses to surrender his sense of identity. But if we look more closely, we see that Ionesco has no intention of leaving us on this hopeful and comforting note.
In his last speech, Berenger makes it clear that his stand is rendered absurd. What does his humanity avail him in a world of beasts? Finally, he wishes that he also had changed; now it is too late. All he can do is feebly reassert his joy in being human. His statement carries little conviction. This is how Ionesco deals with the haunting theme of the basic meaning and value of personal identity in relationship to society. If one depends entirely upon the society in which one lives for a sense of reality and identity, it is impossible to take a stand against that society without reducing oneself to nothingness in the process.
Berenger instinctively felt repelled by the tyranny that had sprung up around him, but he had no sense of identity that would have enabled him to combat this evil with anything resembling a positive force. Probably any action he could have taken would have led to eventual defeat, but defeat would have been infinitely preferable to the limbo in which he is finally consigned.
Ionesco has masterfully joined two themes: the lack of individualism and the failure of communication. But unlike Beckett, who handles the same themes by presenting his characters as derelicts and outcasts from society, Ionesco's treatment seems even more devastating because he places them in the very middle of the society from which they are estranged. Ultimately, the absurdity of man's condition is partially a result of his being compelled to exist without his individualism in a society which does not possess any degree of effective communication.
Essentially, therefore, the Theater of the Absurd is not a positive drama. It does not try to prove that man can exist in a meaningless world, as did Camus and Sartre, nor does it offer any solution; instead, it demonstrates the absurdity and illogicality of the world we live in. Nothing is ever settled; there are no positive statements; no conclusions are ever reached, and what few actions there are have no meaning, particularly in relation to the action.
That is, one action carries no more significance than does its opposite action. For example, the man's tying his shoe in The Bald Soprano — a common occurrence — is magnified into a momentous act, while the appearance of rhinoceroses in the middle of a calm afternoon seems to be not at all consequential and evokes only the most trite and insignificant remarks.
Also, Pozzo and Lucky's frantic running and searching are no more important than Vladimir and Estragon's sitting and waiting. And Genet presents his blacks as outcasts and misfits from society, but refrains from making any positive statement regarding the black person's role in our society. The question of whether society is to be integrated or segregated is, to Genet, a matter of absolute indifference. It would still be society, and the individual would still be outside it. No conclusions or resolutions can ever be offered, therefore, because these plays are essentially circular and repetitive in nature.
The Bald Soprano begins over again with a new set of characters, and other plays end at the same point at which they began, thus obviating any possible conclusions or positive statements.
Waiting for Godot
The American Dream ends with the coming of a second child, this time one who is fully grown and the twin to the other child who had years before entered the family as a baby and upset the static condition; thematically, the play ends as it began. In all of these playwrights' dramas, the sense of repetition, the circular structure, the static quality, the lack of cause and effect, and the lack of apparent progression all suggest the sterility and lack of values in the modem world.
Early critics referred to the Theater of the Absurd as a theater in transition, meaning that it was to lead to something different. So far this has not happened, but the Theater of the Absurd is rapidly becoming accepted as a distinct genre in its own right. The themes utilized by the dramatists of this movement are not new; thus, the success of the plays must often depend upon the effectiveness of the techniques and the new ways by which the dramatists illustrate their themes.
The techniques are still so new, however, that many people are confused by a production of one of these plays. Yet if the technique serves to emphasize the absurdity of man's position in the universe, then to present this concept by a series of ridiculous situations is only to render man's position even more absurd; and in actuality, the techniques then reinforce that very condition which the dramatists bewail.
In other words, to present the failure of communication by a series of disjointed and seemingly incoherent utterances lends itself to the accusation that functionalism is carried to a ridiculous extreme. But this is exactly what the absurdist wants to do. He is tired of logical discourses pointing out step-by-step the absurdity of the universe: he begins with the philosophical premise that the universe is absurd, and then creates plays which illustrate conclusively that the universe is indeed absurd and that perhaps this play is another additional absurdity.
In conclusion, if the public can accept these unusual uses of technique to support thematic concerns, then we have plays which dramatically present powerful and vivid views on the absurdity of the human condition — an absurdity which is the result of the destruction of individualism and the failure of communication, of man's being forced to conform to a world of mediocrity where no action is meaningful.
As the tragic outcasts of these plays are presented in terms of burlesque, man is reminded that his position and that of human existence in general is essentially absurd. Every play in the Theater of the Absurd movement mirrors the chaos and basic disorientation of modern man. Each play laughs in anguish at the confusion that exists in contemporary society; hence, all share a basic point of view, while varying widely in scope and structure. Previous Lucky. That translation presaged one of the directions Mr. For it is a noteworthy fact that he undertook the translation from English, his first language, into French, his second.
Some twenty years later, Mr. Beckett was to publish a startling novel, written not in English, but directly in his adapted language. The example of a language-switch leads one inevitably to think of Joseph Conrad. Both writers chose finally to write in tongues not theirs by birth. Beckett has, in a numerical sense at least, lost in choosing to write in French. No one is questioning the unquestionable merits of French as a language, nor trying to hold a brief for English as in any way the superior of the two languages.
It is nevertheless a fait accompli that Mr. Eliot have become English writers, and his work will ultimately be judged as a part of twentieth century French literature.
One could speculate further on the reasons for Mr. It is sufficient to notice that he is undoubtedly a more adaptable, and perhaps a more honest person than most of his colleagues-in-exile; he is a prime example of that literary phenomenon which began some time during the last century and continues today, the writer in exile. A writer divorced from his society places himself in a precarious position. An artist, a musician, can work under whatever sky, but a novelist, one of whose sources of material is the society into which he was born, risks, in turning his back on that society, cutting himself off both from that source of material and from his rightful literary heritage.
Moreover, by prolonged contact with a foreign environment, he risks losing his mastery of idiom, unless, as is the instance of James Joyce, he is strong enough to take his country with him, or, as in the instance of Beckett, he is adaptable enough to assume the obligations of his new environment.
Whether Mr. Beckett consciously felt all this is a moot point. As late as he was still an Irish writer working in English. The only commentary I have ever found which makes mention of them is Mr. The novel is set in the everyday surroundings of London and Dublin, with only minor deformations. Murphy is a comparatively young man-as in all Mr. Influenced by the environment of the asylum, he commits suicide.
Those of his acquaintances who throughout the book have been hunting for him— Miss Counihan, who thinks she loves Murphy, Neary, who thinks he loves Miss Counihan, etc. It is obvious that he must find another room. He rents a horse-drawn cab, whose obliging chauffeur, after fruitless efforts to find his homeless client a room, offers him the hospitality of his own apartment. At dawn he abandons the stable for the street. Ames vives, vous verrez que cela se ressemble.
Molloy, an old man with one stiff leg and the other stiffening, sets out to find his dying mother, who lives somewhere in a city called X. Jacques Moran, who leads a tidy life tending his bees and his chickens, receives an order from the messenger Gaber, sent by the invisible Youdi, to go to find Molloy. In company with his son, Moran sets out, knowing that the mission is futile, and that it will lead to the ruin of both himself and his son.
Later, having failed to find Molloy, having lost his son somewhere along the way, Moran receives the order from Youdi to return home. He obeys and arrives to find his hives dry, his chickens dead, his house abandoned. La pluie fouette les vitres. Je suis calme. Tout dort…Mon rapport sera long. Il est minuit. Il ne pleuvait pas. It has become almost gratuitous. Sapo, the sixteen year old boy, is subsequently transformed into MacMann, who crosses endless plains, beneath a driving rain, and finally lies down, Molloy-like, until he almost dissolves into the mud itself.
He finishes in an insane asylum, grows older, weaker, until his condition approaches that of Malone, his creator. While waiting for their friend, Godot, whom they only vaguely remember, they pass the time conversing endlessly and pointlessly. They are interrupted by the nobleman of the neighborhood, in front of whose tree they have chanced to wander.
The nobleman is leading a man, Lucky, on a leash. To perform, Lucky stands upright, doffs his hat and recites, at an incredible pace, a tirade in which the worst blasphemies and the purest poetry intermingle at random. In the end, a little boy arrives to announce that Mr. Godot will not come tonight, but that he will in all probability come tomorrow.
The two tramps decide that, since the reason for their vigil no longer exists, or is at least postponed, they may as well lie down and go to sleep. The movement is away from the world of the body towards the world of the mind. He is aware of his own body, if only of its infirmities. As space has dissolved, so has time. Murphy, despite lapses, lends an ear to the tower chimes in order to reach Celia and home in time for supper. Molloy, if beyond hours, still moves through sunlight into shadow and back to sunlight again. The movement, then, is away from external precision towards the increasing autonomy of consciousness.
Joyce undoubtedly had a profound influence on his younger compatriot, but Mr. They likewise have an affinity with M. Beckett was influenced by any or all of these writers, whether he borrowed from them, seems quite secondary. For as Mr. Eliot once remarked, the mature artist steals, the immature artist imitates.
And Mr. The inevitable question remains to be asked, What does Mr. The meaning, if there must be one, is perhaps latent in the lack of meaning. What is significant is insignificant; what is insigificant, significant, and therefore insignificant, and so on around the circle.
Beckett builds, because building is a part of living, as destruction is a part of living. Inevitable and stinking. Beckett destroys. His characters are never certain of their facts. So Mr. Beckett Samuel-Lemuel? Is it possible for Mr. Beckett to progress further without succumbing to the complete incoherence of inarticulate sound, to the silence of nothingness where mud and Molloy, where object and being are not only contiguous, but one? Perhaps the name is significant. Perhaps another time I shall tell another. Lively souls, you will see how much they resemble one another.
And when I was no longer there, I was again on my way towards her, hoping to do better the next time. Rain lashes the windows. I am calm. Everything is asleep… My report will be long. Perhaps I shall never finish it. It is midnight. Perhaps next month. That would make it the month of April or May…I could die today this very day, if I wished, merely by pushing a little, if I could wish, if I could push. One about a man, one about a woman, one about any old thing, and one about an animal, perhaps a bird. Theater-lovers rarely have the pleasure of discovering a new author worthy of the name; an author who can give his dialogue true poetic force, who can animate his characters so vividly that the audience identifies with them, suffering and laughing with them; who, having meditated, does not amuse himself with mere word-juggling; who deserves comparison with the greatest.
When this occurs, it is an event which will be spoken of for a long time, and will be remembered years later. They heard people using everyday words, and they did not feel that by an inexplicable miracle—which is called art—the words suddenly acquired a new value. They saw people being happy and suffering, and they did not understand that they were watching their own lives.
Each word acts as the author wishes, touching us or making us laugh. These two tramps, who represent all humanity, utter remarks that any one of us might utter. These two men are feeble and energetic, cowardly and courageous; they bicker, amuse themselves, are bored, speak to each other without understanding. They do all this to keep busy. To pass time. To live or to give themselves the illusion that they are living. They are certain of only one thing: they are waiting for Godot.
Who is Godot? I have seen this play and seen it again, I have read and reread it: it still has the power to move me. I should like to communicate this feeling, to make it contagious. At the same time I am faced with the difficulty of fulfilling the primary duty of the critic, which, as everyone knows, is to explain and narrate a play to people who have neither seen it nor read it. I have experienced this difficulty several times before; the sensation is infinitely agreeable.
One feels it each time one is called upon to describe a work that is beautiful, but of an unusual beauty; new, but genuinely new; traditional, but of eminent tradition; clever, but with a cleverness the most clever professors are unable to teach; and finally, intelligent, but with that clear intelligence that is non-negotiable in the schools. Two men, two vagabonds, stand on a road, beneath a tree ravaged by winter, in a barren, desolate place.
They are waiting for Godot. When Godot comes, everything will be better, and their meeting with Godot is set for today, under this tree. To pass the time they talk, they talk about Godot, whom they really do not know much about. Before the eyes of the vagabonds, to whom he has taken a sudden liking, Pozzo puts the well-trained Lucky through his paces. Lucky walks, dances and thinks on command.
They go on their way and we all settle down to wait for Godot, when a little boy arrives, saying he has been sent by Godot: Godot is busy today, sends his apologies and will come tomorrow. In the second act, on the same spot, beneath that tree from which they occasionally feel like hanging themselves, now, it seems, sprouting a few leaves, the vagabonds are still there. And Pozzo reappears. And so does the little boy, and, as in a nightmare, everything begins all over again, waiting, hope and disappointment.
I would not say that this analysis falsifies the play: it is a pure and simple suppression of the play. The extraordinary success of Samuel Beckett is primarily due to the artistry with which he gives life and presence to this waiting—we know very well what it represents.
We do it too, we participate in it completely. But Beckett is not a heavy-handed manipulator of symbols of the sort we are used to: we do not see him coming, and when we see where he means to lead us it is too late, we are caught. Either it will charm the public or arouse contempt, even fury. It marks the true path of an entire movement in theatre that is still in an experimental phase.
For several years Blin has been providing us with excellent performances, though far too rare. To attain such simplicity, such clarity and expressive power, one must possess that sincere intelligence and generosity without which talent and experience are of little use. The role of the rich Pozzo is played by Blin: he has made of it an unforgettable composition in buffoonery. Pierre Latour and Lucien Raimbourg play the pair of vagabonds.
I know Pierre Latour quite well; his cool humor and sensitivity please me infinitely; but I did not know Lucien Raimbourg: an actor whose lack of affectation and comic force are surprising. I am told he used to play in music halls; it does not surprise me. One senses in his acting the rigor and awareness of a man who has worked before a public infinitely more demanding than the theater audience.
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Serreau deserves our thanks for having welcomed it to this theater. The objections to Mr. Anyone keensighted enough to see a church at noonday can perceive what they are. Its drab, bare scene is dominated by a withered tree and a garbage can, and for a large part of the evening this lugubrious setting, which makes the worst of both town and country, is inhabited only by a couple of tramps, verminous, decayed, their hats broken and their clothes soiled, with sweaty feet, inconstant bladders, and boils on the backside.
This is not all. In the course of the play, nothing happens. Such dramatic progress as there is, is not towards a climax, but towards a perpetual postponement. The dialogue is studded with words that have no meaning for normal ears; repeatedly the play announces that it has come to a stop, and will have to start again; never does it reconcile itself with reason. Yet at the end the play was warmly applauded. Strange as the play is, and curious as are its processes of thought, it has a meaning; and this meaning is untrue.
To attempt to put this meaning into a paragraph is like trying to catch Leviathan in a butterfly net, but nevertheless the effort must be made. In this, says Mr. Beckett, they are like humanity, which dawdles and drivels away its life, postponing action, eschewing enjoyment, waiting only for some far-off, divine event, the millenium, the Day of Judgment.
Beckett has, of course, got it all wrong. Humanity worries very little over the Day of Judgment. It is far too busy hire-purchasing television sets, popping into three-star restaurants, planting itself vineyards, building helicopters. But he has got it wrong in a tremendous way. And this is what matters. There is no need at all for a dramatist to philosophise rightly; he can leave that to the philosophers. But it is essential that if he philosophises wrongly, he should do so with swagger.
Beckett has any amount of swagger. A dusty, coarse, irreverent, pessimistic, violent swagger? But the genuine thing, the real McCoy. Vladimir and Estragon have each a kind of universality. They wear their rags with a difference. Vladimir is eternally hopeful; if Godot does not come this evening, then he will certainly arrive tomorrow, or at the very latest the day after. Estragon, much troubled by his boots, is less confident.
He thinks the game is not worth playing, and is ready to hang himself. Or so he says. But he does nothing. Like Vladimir, he only talks. They both idly spin away the great top of their life in the vain expectation that some master whip will one day give it eternal vitality. It is bewildering. It is exasperating. It is insidiously exciting. Then there is Pozzo, the big, brutal bully, and the terrible, white- faced gibbering slave he leads about on the end of a rope.
The long speech into which the silent Lucky breaks, crammed with the unintelligible, with vain repetitions, with the lumber of ill-assorted learning, the pitiful heritage of the ages, the fruits of civilisation squashed down and rotten, is horrifyingly delivered by Mr. Timothy Bateson. Equally startling and impressive is Mr. Paul Daneman and Mr. Peter Woodthorpe play the tramps without faltering, and the last scene in which a little boy is involved, has a haunting and inexplicable beauty.
Over the whole play lies a great and sad compassion. During the s, he was one of the most influential drama critics in England. A special virtue attaches to plays which remind the drama of how much it can do without and still exist. Pity the critic who seeks a chink in its armour, for it is all chink.
Unavoidably, it has a situation, and it might be accused of having suspense, since it deals with the impatience of two tramps, waiting beneath a tree for a cryptic Mr. Godot to keep his appointment with them; but the situation is never developed, and a glance at the programme shows that Mr. Godot is not going to arrive. It arrives at the custom-house, as it were, with no luggage, no passport, and nothing to declare; yet it gets through, as might a pilgrim from Mars. It does this, I believe, by appealing to a definition of drama much more fundamental than any in the books. A play, it asserts and proves, is basically a means of spending two hours in the dark without being bored.
Its author is an Irishman living in France, a fact which should prepare us for the extra, oddly serious joke he now plays on us. Passing the time in the dark, he suggests, is not only what drama is about but also what life is about. Twenty years ago Mr. Odets had us waiting for Lefty, the social messiah; less naively, Mr. Beckett bids us wait for Godot, the spiritual signpost. His two tramps pass the time of day just as we the audience, are passing the time of night.
For the most part they converse in the double-talk of vaudeville: one of them has the ragged aplomb of Buster Keaton, while the other is Chaplin at his airiest and fairiest. Their exchanges are like those conversations at the next table which one can almost but not quite decipher—human speech half-heard and reproduced with all its non-sequiturs absurdly intact. From time to time other characters intrude. Fat Pozzo, Humpty Dumpty with a whip in his fist, puffs into sight with Lucky, his dumb slave. They are clearly going somewhere in a hurry: perhaps they know where Godot is?
But the interview subsides into Lewis-Carrollian inanity. All that emerges is that the master needs the slave as much as the slave needs the master; it gives both a sense of spurious purpose; and one thinks of Laurel and Hardy, the ideal casting in these roles. The style hereabouts reminds us forcibly that Mr. Beckett once worked for James Joyce. In the next act Pozzo and Lucky return, this time moving, just as purposefully, in the opposite direction. The tramps decide to stay where they are. A child arrives, presenting Mr. It is the same message as yesterday; all the same, they wait.
The play sees the human condition in terms of baggy pants and red noses. Hastily labelling their disquiet disgustt many of the first-night audience found it pretentious. But what, exactly, are its pretensions? I care little for its enormous success in Europe over the past three years, but much for the way in which it pricked and stimulated my own nervous system. It forced me to re-examine the rules which have hitherto governed the drama; and, having done so, to pronounce them not elastic enough.
It is validly new, and hence I declare myself, as the Spanish would say, godotista. Peter Hall directs the play with a marvellous ear for its elusive rhythms, and Peter Woodthorpe and Paul Daneman give the tramps a compassionate lunacy which only professional clowns could excel. Physically, Peter Bull is Pozzo to the life; vocally, he overplays his hand.
Fraser b. Since , he has been on the English faculty at the University of Leicester. Nor do Mr. In one sense, indeed, they do not share that appeal. In his narrative prose, Mr. Beckett presents the paradoxical picture of a man of very great talent, and possibly even of genius, using all his gifts with enormous skill for the purpose of reducing his readers to a state of tired disgust and exasperated boredom. It is anything but boring, it instead extracts from the idea of boredom the most genuine pathos and enchanting comedy. Again, the message of Mr. Beckett as a novelist is perhaps a message of blank despair.
Audiences do not leave the theatre, after seeing his play, feeling that life has been deprived of meaning. That is what so far eluded critics of the play as performed. Beckett is rumoured to have instructed his English producer not, by any manner of means, to tell the actors what the theme of the play was.
Yet unless Mr. The elusiveness of the core has, indeed, led some critics to contend that there is no core; that the whole startling effect of the play on the stage depended on excellent production and acting and on Mr. Or, to put this with more dignity, the theory might be that Mr. It is also a play by an Irishman, by a friend and disciple of James Joyce; a play, therefore, by a man whose imagination in the sense in which Mr. Eliot used this phrase of Joyce himself is orthodox. In other words, we should consider where Mr. Beckett springs from and what he is reacting against in his roots.
Even at his most nihilistic he will come under Mr. Beckett is probing, there is no other source of imagery for him to draw on. Their life is a state of apparently fruitless expectation. They receive messages, through a little boy, from the local landowner, Godot, who is always going to come in person to-morrow, but never does come. Their attitude towards Godot is one partly of hope, partly of fear. The orthodoxy of this symbolism, from a Christian point of view, is obvious. The tramps with their rags and their misery, represent the fallen state of man.
Yet the two tramps, Didi and Gogo, as they call each other, represent something far higher than the other two characters in the play, the masterful and ridiculous Pozzo and his terrifying slave, Lucky. Didi and Gogo stand for the contemplative life. Pozzo and Lucky stand for the life of practical action taken, mistakenly, as an end in itself. The so-called practical man, the man of action, has to be set on his feet and put on his way by the contemplative man. The mere and pure man of action, the comic caricature of the Nietzschean superman, Pozzo, is like an actor who does not properly exist without his audience; but his audience are also, in a sense, his judges.
It is worth noting, also, that Didi and Gogo are bound to each other by something that it is not absurd to call charity. They treat each other with consideration and compunction their odd relationship, always tugging away from each other, but always drawn together again, is among other things an emblem of marriage. Pozzo and Lucky are drawn together by hate and fear. Their lot is increasing misery; but if Didi and Gogo are not obviously any better off at the end of the play than they were at the beginning, neither are they obviously any worse off.
Their state remains one of expectation. But, even if the Christian basis of the structure were not obvious, Mr. The four of them were there—or thereabouts, and only one speaks of a thief being saved. I find this really most extraordinarily interesting. The discussion goes on to canvas the melancholy possibility that perhaps both thieves were damned.
There is also towards the end of the first act a discussion about whether their human affection for each other may have stood in the way of that salvation: ESTRAGON: Wait! He moves away from Vladimir. He crosses the stage and sits down on the mound. The tree on the stage, though it is a willow, obviously stands both for the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and, when it puts on green leaves, for the Tree of Life and for the Cross.
When Didi and Gogo are frightened in the second act, the best thing they can think of doing is to shelter under its base. The angel who appears to them at the end of the first act is an ambiguous angel: the angel who keeps the goats, not the angel who keeps the sheep.
BOY: He beats my brother, sir. BOY: Yes, sir. BOY: He minds the sheep, sir. Are Didi and Gogo in the end to be among the goats? The boy who appears as a messenger at the end of the second act looks like the same boy, but is not, or at least does not recognize them. He may be, this time, the angel who keeps the sheep. That Godot himself stands for an anthropomorphic image of God is obvious.
That is why Vladimir— if he had a blonde or a black beard he might be more reassuringly man or devil—is so alarmed in the second act when he hears that Godot, Ancient of Days, has a white beard. And they crucified quick. I have such need of encouragement! He jerks the rope. There is an echo in the rhythm and idiom of the first sentence, there, of Synge.
Beckett allows himself in this play, and since he is the most calculatingly skilful of writers, one may take it that the echo is meant as a criticism of Pozzo—a criticism of romantic stylized pessimism. If the Nietzschean attitude is dismissed in Pozzo, it is harder to suggest just what is dismissed in Lucky. He is the proletarian, who used to be the peasant. And so on to the length of almost two complete pages! Beckett has never been more brilliantly unreadable; not only Didi, Gogo, and Pozzo but the audience want to scream. It is at least a more comprehensive and profound hypothesis, whatever Mr.
Beckett may personally think of it; and the total effect of his play, therefore—since most of us, in the ordinary affairs of the world, have more of Pozzo or Lucky in us, than of Didi or Gogo—is not to lower but unexpectedly to raise our idea of our human dignity. Questioning and expectation do give life dignity, even though expectations are never satisfied, and even though the most fundamentally important questions can expect, perhaps, at the most an implicit answer. And I felt myself being jockeyed into writing a defense of the play as if by its success or failure civilization would stand or fall.
Such is criticism. Or is it? Besides the intellectual anti-intellectualism of a Walter Kerr, two other attitudes, both of them less objectionable, have defined themselves in modern America: one is non-intellectual pro- intellectualism and the other is non-intellectual anti-intellectualism. Both groups of critics found the writing beyond them. The first was prepared to be respectful toward what was not fully understood. The second joined Mr. And there emerged, in his review and theirs, one of the big ideas of the century: Thinking is a simple, elementary process. All of them, I think, are the rhythms of musical comedy, or revue, of tanbark entertainment— and they suggest that Mr.
Lahr has, all along in his own lowbrow career, been in touch with what goes on in the minds and hearts of the folk out front. I wish that Mr. Beckett were as intimately in touch with the texture of things. All we need, to take upon us the non-mystery of things, is constant communion with the man of non-distinction. This conflict is, of course, anterior to the play. Though it is permissible to be nauseated by existence, and even to say so, it seems doubtful whether one should expect to be paid for saying so, at any rate by a crowd of people in search of an amusing evening.
Critical essays on Samuel Beckett / [edited by] Patrick A. McCarthy. - Version details - Trove
Yet, since the humor which provides amusement is precisely, as Nietzsche observed, a victory over nausea, it would be hard to stage the victory without at least suggesting the identity and character of the foe. It has taken Krafft-Ebing and Freud to force a general admission of the importance of nausea even, say, in the work of Swift, where it is most prominent. American optimism drives American nausea a little more deeply underground: that is the difference between America and Europe.
For Broadway use, the professional pessimism of Anouilh is made over into professional idealism. Essential to drama, surely, is not merely situation but situation in movement, even in beautifully shaped movement. A curve is the most natural symbol for a dramatic action, while, as Aristotle said, beginning, middle, and end are three of its necessary features. These strips are One Day and the Following Day in the lives of a couple of bums. What has brought the play before audiences in so many countries— aside from snobberies and phony publicity—is its theatricality.
Highbrow writers have been enthusiastic about clowns and vaudeville for decades, but this impresses me as the first time that anything has successfully been done about the matter. Kerr gave Bert Lahr all the credit for a traditional yet rich characterization, which, however, had been skillfully put together by Mr. It is, therefore, an important play. Whether it is more important than these two achievements suggest is the question.
One is surely not exploiting an external fact unfairly in saying that Mr. Beckett is excessively—if quite inevitably—over-influenced by Joyce. No doubt there are meanings that will disengage themselves in time as one lives with such a work, yet enough is clear from the first not only to arouse interest but to communicate a sense of a unified and intelligible image of life. I take it that Beckett belongs to that extensive group of modern writers who have had a religious upbringing, retain religious impulses and longings, but have lost all religious belief.
I should differentiate him from, say, Sartre, in that he does not write from the standpoint of atheism but, theologically speaking, from that of skepticism. They are wrong only if they intimate that the author himself passed through the door and closed it behind him. Rough words have been spoken about the allegedly excessive symbolism of the play. This is unjust. The New York production is so good that I can dispose of the only serious shortcomings in a few lines. One of the actors seems miscast. This is Kurt Kasznar as Pozzo, the Master, who gave us a playful stage villain instead of a stomach-turning real one; Mr.
On the first night, Alvin Epstein as Lucky, the Man, threw away the content of the most effective speech in the play, into which Beckett seems to have poured all his training in Catholic philosophy. Marshall, as one of the bums, was overshadowed by his partner. His acting seemed to me defensive—and therefore, as things work out on the stage, a little self-destructive. The part was underacted —sometimes almost to the point of inaudibility. Long speeches were attacked diffidently with the usual result: that they constantly seemed to be over before they were, and one thought: Heavens, is he starting up again?
Yet all this is by no means as disastrous as spelling it out makes it sound. In any part, Mr. Marshall is interesting. Estragon, the less philosophical bum, the dummer August of this particular circus, is played by Bert Lahr. If to Mr. If the perfection of it is bound to hurt the less perfect impersonations by contrast, it has the merit of enabling us to visualize a perfect production of the play as a whole and even, by extension, a perfect play of this type perfectly produced.
I shall not insult Mr. Lahr by giving the credit for his work to an institution that did not in fact have very high standards. One does see the advantage of his training, for, while Mr. Marshall has to create a clown and constantly work at it, Mr. Lahr did his creating in that line so long ago that he settles and relaxes into a clown personality as others do into a smoking jacket and carpet slippers.
But it was a matter of marriage, not lifesaving. Both actors showed respect for the words they spoke, while the words, gratefully, but with a proper pride, gave something to the actor that made him larger and richer than he had been, perhaps ever, before. Herbert Berghof directed.
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I have less reverence for this play than he, and would have lopped off the last bit of the first act. I would also have been tempted to make cuts at several points where the dialogue stumbles. The rhythm is very firm for longish stretches but will from time to time just go to pieces. But reverence toward a script is a good fault, and, on Broadway, an unusual, almost exemplary, one. This imprint Mr. Berghof—in the quietest way in the world—imparts. A remark—perhaps irrelevant—about the title.