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Course Hero, "Endgame Study Guide," June 29, 2017, accessed December 15, 2017, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Endgame/.

Endgame | Plot Summary

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Summary

Endgame is punctuated by pauses within and between the characters' dialogue. For instance, a character might answer, "Yes," pause, and then complete a thought. The pauses are part of the stage directions and underscore the painful nature of the characters' interactions.

As Endgame begins, Clov, a man who struggles to walk, begins to prepare the stage for action. In an orchestrated series of moves, he fetches a ladder so he can reach two windows and pull back the curtains. He then removes a sheet from two trash bins and another sheet covering a sleeping man in a chair on wheels. Clov works carefully, folding the sheets and placing the ladder out of the way. He asserts order in the spare space in which he moves. The silence is punctuated by his occasional brief laugh, which seems anything but funny.

Once his preparations are complete, he faces the audience and utters the play's first lines, "Finished, it's finished," although the play has just begun. After Clov exits, Hamm, the man in the chair, awakens and removes a bloody handkerchief from his face, revealing black glasses that signal his blindness. His opening soliloquy makes clear he considers himself an actor and has a grandiose sense of himself. He blows a whistle to summon Clov, and the nature of the relationship becomes clear. Clov is there to serve Hamm, and Hamm's first line to Clov, "You pollute the air!" shows Hamm is a cruel master. Hamm and Clov converse in brief sentences focusing on their physical discomforts (Hamm cannot stand, and Clov cannot sit), Hamm's tyranny over Clov, and conflicted ideas about whether Clov should stay with Hamm or leave him.

Next, the two trash bins onstage come into play when two elderly characters peek out from under the lids. Nagg and Nell are Hamm's parents. They are said to have no legs and although they still have affection for each other, they are forever separated, each stuck in a bin. Hamm treats them brutally, often ordering Clov to "bottle them" and screw down the lids. With Hamm in his chair and his legless parents in trash cans, Clov is the only mobile character, although his master, Hamm, scripts his movements.

Hamm asks to be wheeled around the room: "Right around the world!" for the room is their world. Clov complies and pushes Hamm along the wall until Hamm demands to be taken back to his place "right in the center" of the room. The minute adjustments Hamm forces Clov to make to his position lend a terrible comic air to the scene which continues as Clov repeatedly fetches and forgets the telescope and ladder he needs to look out the windows.

Hamm, however, is soon ready to tell his story and, fancying himself an actor, wants an audience. He awakens his father, Nagg, to listen to him. Hamm's story is about a distant past and a beggar with a boy Hamm saves. Details suggest the boy is Clov, but this connection is not explicitly stated. Hamm and Clov discuss the story and continue talking about the emptiness of the world beyond the windows and the sameness of their lives inside the room. Clov reports Nell is dead but Nagg is not, and then pushes Hamm around the room again. Hamm wants to feel the sun on his face, but there is no sun. The circular trip around the room mirrors their circular existence.

Clov looks through the windows once more, once more struggling with the ladder. Neither he nor Hamm want to investigate Clov's report that there is a boy outside, although the thought of someone new seems to prompt Hamm to announce he no longer needs Clov. Delivering his final speech "tonelessly," Clov makes his exit, only to return and remain silently onstage. Hamm calls to him, but when he receives no answer, he assumes that Clov has gone. They remain without speaking in the same positions they took when the play began.

Endgame Plot Diagram

ClimaxFalling ActionRising ActionIntroductionResolution2134675

Introduction

1 Hamm and Clov bicker about their relationship.

Rising Action

2 Nagg and Nell reminisce about the past.

3 Hamm tells the story of when he took in a beggar and a boy.

4 Hamm and Clov argue about whether to end their lives.

Climax

5 Clov makes a final speech and exits.

Falling Action

6 Clov returns dressed to leave but silently remains.

Resolution

7 Hamm covers his face and sits motionless.

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