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Endgame

Fin de Partie

hamm clov play beckett

a play by Samuel Beckett, originally written in French and published and performed as Fin de Partie in 1957; it was translated into English by the author and published and performed under its present name in 1958. Its two main characters are the blind Hamm, who sits immobile in an armchair, and Clov, who may be his son and may simply be his servant. Its two subsidiary ones are Hamm's grotesque parents, Nagg and Nell, who live in dustbins and feed on dog biscuits. This hideous parody of a family, if family it is, appears to be on the point of disintegration and, in some cases, death. The tyrannical but impotent Hamm issues peremptory commands, demands, and threats, asking among other things for pain-killer, information about an apparently barren and desolate world outside, and ‘my coffin’; he tells the story of how he rejected a man desperate for bread for his starving child (‘use your head, can't you? You're on earth, there's no cure for that’); and finally he throws away his few props, including the whistle with which he has summoned Clov. Meanwhile, Clov resentfully plays the lackey, mourning his wasted life and confiding that he itches to kill a master whom, at the end, he seems about to desert. The play's meaning cannot be simply summed up; but it would seem that Hamm (perhaps the bloated, importunate body) and Clov (perhaps the tormented mind) are interdependent, and also that the first of them is painfully learning a necessary resignation. In one of his few comments on the play, Beckett said that Hamm is the ‘king in a chess game lost from the start … Now at the end he makes a few senseless moves as only a bad player would. A good one would have given up long ago. He is trying to delay the inevitable end.’ The setting, a bare room with two small, high windows shedding ‘grey light’, has been compared with the inside of a dying man's skull.

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