Part I: Reader Response Endgame is a term popularly used by chess players to describe the outcome of a chess game when the moves of the players become pointless. Essentially the outcome will be the same no matter what the players do. Samuel Becket compared the term used in chess to the final hours of life, deliberating drawing a similarity between the futilities of our actions, or in this case the four characters’ actions, because in the end we all die. In the play, Becket sends each character around the setting in a seemingly pointless display if only to make us understand our actions do not matter in the end. To drive the point home, the characters, of varying ages, discuss death as this goes on. Becket shows the characters in various stages of life, whether it is by age or physical and mental health, in order to show death is the ultimate equalizer. It is unavoidable and no matter our decisions or actions, we all meet the same end, much like a chess game. Hamm, Clov, Nagg, and Nell are all shown in varying states of decay, but it is done in such a way to remind us that death is never far off; we are all playing the Endgame. It makes the play highly effective (Beckett 770). We see, for example, Clov and Hamm are in carrying but advances stages of decay. One is going blind, evident by the continuous mention of his eyes, whether they are bad, and if the other has looked at them. The two comment on the fact that they cannot sit or stand. They appear to balance each other out in some ways, but are still constant reminders that the end is near. Most peculiar is that Clov is Hamm’s servant, despite the fact that both men are infirm. Nell is Hamm’s mother and though she may be unhealthy in her own rights, she appears to be the only healthy source of emotion in the play; everybody else seems set on pushing one another away, including Hamm, though Nell may be the one reason he stays alive. Nagg is Nell’s husband and the most infirm of the group. He is verbal sometimes, having become so feeble minded, though there are times when he is quite wise. Nagg suggests that Becket wants us to see death may bring out the worst, but also the best in us as we approach our end (Becket 770).
Part II: Questions
1. As the excerpt begins, we find Hamm on stage, covered, in a chair. He is feeble and weak. Two windows are in view of Hamm, one overlooking the sea, and the other the earth. Clov, Hamm’s equally feeble servant, brings a ladder so that Hamm may look through the windows. We see that the feeble care for the feeble as the end approaches, which is a theme that continues throughout the play. Hamm’s mother is old, as is his father. However, they are also being cared for, and caring for Hamm. Endgame involves all parties making moves to take care of one another as they move closer toward their deaths (Beckett 771). The idea of climbing the ladder to see out the…