Course Hero. "Endgame Study Guide." Course Hero. 29 June 2017. Web. 29 May 2020. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Endgame/>.
Course Hero. (2017, June 29). Endgame Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved May 29, 2020, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Endgame/
(Course Hero, 2017)
Course Hero. "Endgame Study Guide." June 29, 2017. Accessed May 29, 2020. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Endgame/.
Course Hero, "Endgame Study Guide," June 29, 2017, accessed May 29, 2020, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Endgame/.
The play's circular nature is highlighted by the assertion the action is finished in the opening lines of the play. Hamm later speaks these same lines as he and Clov struggle to determine when and if they will ever be finished with their roles and their lives.
Hamm's announcement puts the action of the play in motion. He is center stage, the star of the play and of his own life, ready to play multiple roles as father, son, and captive dictator.
Clov states a central tenet of the play and repeats it later. The characters and audience search for the answer to precisely what—the play? life?—is taking its course. The characters appear tortured by the passage of time and their inability to act with meaning.
Nell's remark to Nagg expresses old-fashioned affection. She uses a term of endearment when she speaks to her husband and acknowledges her fond feelings for him.
Nell asks this question to no one in particular after she and Nagg try unsuccessfully to kiss. Clov later asks the same question. The characters ponder the existential question of why life, especially in their tiny, constricted world, continues.
Nell chides Nagg for laughing at Hamm's suffering but admits comedy exists in misery. This line synthesizes Beckett's mix of tragedy and comedy in the play which mirror the human condition.
Clov has just played a typical comic routine as he forgets, searches for, retrieves, drops, and finally looks through his telescope. Clov's observation as he turns his glass on the auditorium is a direct comment to and about the audience. The dramatic irony in Clov's line is heavy, as the audience has little reason to be in "transports of joy" watching the play's tedious action.
The search for meaning in life, as well as for dramatic meaning, is the underlying quest of the characters and represents the quest of humanity. In Beckett's postmodern world, where people, symbols, and ideas are detached from historical significance, it is even harder, perhaps impossible, to mean anything at all.
Hamm's words to Clov exemplify Hamm's self-centered view of the world. He sees himself as an all-powerful savior, which makes him feel justified in controlling Clov.
Hamm's question emphasizes the play's vague sense of time and history. The characters are stuck in a potentially endless present and take little comfort from their past. Their recollections are muddled and either sentimental (Nagg and Nell) or painful (Hamm and Clov).
That means that bloody awful day, long ago, before this bloody awful day.
Clov expresses the harshest view of time in the play. Clov's tortured present gains no meaning from yesterday, and the past offers no help in relieving the characters' current misery.
Hamm's desperate attempt to keep the conversation going with Clov defines their existence. As long as they keep talking, they have not come to an end (and as long as there is dialogue, the play has not ended). However, they also desperately want to stop playing. This combined with their desire to keep the game going is the heart of their conflict and crisis. Clov echoes this anxiety when he repeats the line later.
Hamm's observation is a companion to the play's opening line, "it's finished." Like life which starts dying the second it is born, the play starts ending the second the opening line is uttered. This line also foregrounds the play's circular construction. It is hard to discern the beginning and the end of the play's action.
As Clov finally seems resolved to leave his agonizing relationship with Hamm, he uses Hamm's theatrical language against him. Hamm, the self-styled "ham actor," so to speak, is left alone when Clov leaves the stage.
Hamm realizes Clov has gone and wearily utters this line to acknowledge the end has come, at least in that moment on that day. Whether Hamm is done with losing the game of life or merely the daily game with Clov is not clear, but this first line of Hamm's final speech shows he believes the end of something has come.