setting of the play? Who are the characters? Why are they here?
What is their physical and emotional condition? What kinds of
disabilities afflict them? Are those disabilities significant,
by themselves, in relation to each other? What are the characters
waiting for? What has happened outside?
Who is Hamm?
Given the play's reference to a game of chess, is Hamm conceived
of as a king? If he is, what is the role of Clov? What kind
of a person is Hamm? From his behavior and assertions, what
can be inferred about his character, his activities, his business,
his social and economic status? Is he likeable? Do we sympathize
or feel sorry for him or his situation? What does he own? How
does he relate to his property? How does he see himself? How
does he see others? How does he relate to Clov? How does he
relate to his parents, Nagg and Nell? What do we know about
his past and former actions? How do those actions determine
and/or influence his present situation?
Hamm repeatedly say, "Me to play"? Play what? With
toys? In other senses of the word "play"? Does he
see himself as an actor or performer in a play? Why does he
want to tell a story? What story is it? Does he see himself
as a sort of writer/storyteller? Does he consider himself an
artist? What does he create? For what reasons? What may Beckett
be satirizing by means of Hamm's thoughts of himself as an artist?
Is such an understanding of himself accurate? Why or why not?
the nature of the relationship between Hamm and Clov? What may
that represent? Is their relationship based on reciprocal friendship
or the exercise of power? What are the implications of that
relationship and how may it be connected to the current situation
of the characters? How did the two meet each other? What were
the circumstances of the beginning of their association? Why
doesn't Clov just leave? What holds him back? What about the
relationship between Nagg and Nell? Do they love each other?
Why are they still (sort of) together? What is the significance
of the characters being bound in pairs? How does that relate
to Berkeley's postulate, "to be is to be perceived"?
What do the characters want or derive from each other?
Hamm order Clov to inspect the outside world through the window?
Looking out of the window through a telescope, Clove reports
what he sees: "Zero
What is the symbolic meaning of Clove's vision? How about a
"corpsed" external world, waves like lead, and grey
light from pole to pole? What does Beckett suggest through what
Clov reports to Hamm? Does this change at all through the course
of the play?
Why do Nagg
and Nell live in garbage cans? What is that supposed to represent
or suggest? What is the meaning of the references to the crashing
of their "tandem" and losing of their "shanks"?
Is it significant that this happened "in the Ardennes
on the road to Sedan"? (both sites related to 19th and
20th century battles and warfare). What happened to them? How
is the condition of the characters in the story related to human
history (past and future)?
At the outset
of the play, why does Clov say "Finished, it's finished,
nearly finished, it must be nearly finished"? Is it finished
or not? What? How are his words an echo of biblical language
or situations? Who, in the Bible, says, "it's finished"?
What are the implications of those parallels? Are there any
other biblical allusions in the play? How is Beckett addressing
or employing biblical stories? For what purpose? When Hamm states
that God doesn't exist, why does Clov reply, "not yet"?
Does this suggest some form of hope? What is its source? Is
Clov a prophet of sorts?
the meaning of the characters' names? If Hamm may be associated
with "hammer," and Nagg, Nell, and Clov with "nail"
(German Nägel, Italian nello, Latin clavus),
what may Beckett be suggesting? Is this a sort of crucifixion?
Who is being crucified by whom?
Beckett intend by having Hamm say, "Get out of here and
love one another! Lick your neighbor as yourself." How
do you think Hamm sees Jesus's teaching, "Thou shalt love
thy neighbor as thyself" (Matthew 19:19)? Why did he refuse
to help others who needed help (corn, bread, oil, etc.)? What
was the justification of his refusal? Is Hamm capable of love?
How is the
story of Clov as a child and of his father bringing him to Hamm
significant in the play? How is it connected to other stories
of Hamm's dealings with others, Mother Pegg, "all those
I might have helped"? What is Hamm forced to face at the
end of his life? What is the meaning of his physical blindness
and the handkerchief with which he covers his face?
Hamm call his father "accursed progenitor" and "accursed
fornicator"? Is Hamm cursing human reproduction? Why? Why
does the idea of life continuing or beginning again bring terror
and fear to Hamm?
the meaning of time when everything is "the same as usual"?
Does time really pass in this world? What may be the meaning
of the suggestion of changelessness or endless repetition? How
are the tragedies of a violent human history and an oppressive
social order explained by the images and situation of the play?
Can this be compared to the ideas of George Santayana and those
offered by T. S. Eliot in The Waste Land? Is everything
really stagnant and unchanging in the universe depicted by Beckett?
Are there any signals of positive change, of forces affirming
or resurrecting life? What may those be?
At the end
of the play, what does the emergence of the little boy stand
for? Is he really out there or is he just Clov's invention?
If Clov is making up the whole thing, what role or function
is he assuming? Does this create any ironies or reversals in
connection to Hamm's own attempts at storytelling? What is Hamm's
reaction to Clov's report? Is the boy in any way related to
the situation of Clov? His past? His present? His future? What
sorts of associations does the figure of the small boy create?
leave the stage at the end? Why does he remain standing in the
doorway, dressed to leave? What is the greatest fear that all
the characters share in this play? How is that significant to
the overall message of the play?
truly an "absurd" play or does it have an underlying
meaning beyond the assertion of the meaninglessness and arbitratriness
of the human condition? What may that meaning be?