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Happy Days

play winnie towards beckett

a play by Samuel Beckett, first performed in 1961; it involves Winnie, who spends the action with her shopping bag and parasol on a low mound in the hot and glaring sun, embedded in the first act up to her waist, and in the second to her neck. She is awoken by a piercing bell from off-stage, fiddles with a toothbrush, a handkerchief, her spectacles, and other domestic items, and even when she can no longer use her hands keeps up a brisk chatter, sometimes talking to herself, sometimes to her unresponsive husband, Willie, who has a ‘tail’, who ‘crawls’ and lives in a nearby ‘hole’, on ‘straw’. Though she habitually affects a cheerful manner, and repeats the words ‘great mercies, great mercies’, her mood occasionally veers towards the angry, disgusted, or contemptuous: as well it might, given the wasted life and sorry marriage she inadvertently evokes. A revolver, which Winnie extracts from her bag and places ‘conspicuously’ beside her, indicates the only possibility of escape; and it may be towards this that Willie is reaching when, at the play's end, he appears in top hat and morning coat, only to slither to the bottom of the mound murmuring ‘Win’. At this, Winnie herself declares ‘oh this is a happy day’ and launches smilingly into a song, ‘it's true, it's true, you love me so’. The play would seem to be Beckett's sardonic but not unsympathetic comment on those who try to make the best of essentially frustrating lives.

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