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Analysis Of Samuel Beckett’s Plays

2515 words - 11 pages

" It will be the silence, where I am? I don't know, I'll never know: in the silence you don't know. You must go on. I can't go on. I'll go on."
—Samuel Beckett

Samuel Beckett has been known to write plays about nothingness. Over the years of Beckett's work being produced, he has gotten mixed reviews of confusion and shock at the apparent lack of plot and conventional theatrical tropes. Most of audiences at the time of the play's original production were expecting to see theatrical pieces that followed in suit with Victorien Sardou's theory of well-made play—a standard of the theatre for the time—borne out of the arguments found in Aristotle's Poetics (Esslin #). Beckett, in many ways goes against the traditional conventions of this expectation in the theatre, going so far as to eradicate some of them entirely. A myriad of Beckett's theatrical plots follow a single trajectory—they lack the first and foremost important element of tragedy, defined by Aristotle as having a clear beginning, middle and end, along with an "incentive movement" which "[starts] the cause and effect chain," eventually leading to a climax and dénouement. Instead, most of Beckett's characters are following a singular, indefinite and endless action that is, in the end, cyclical: the characters are left no better and no worse by the end of the play. Interestingly, though Beckett's characters are left heavily undefined, the vagueness of each lends them some, but not all, of Aristotle's requirements. The characters cannot be classified as definitely "good or fine" or showing "fitness of characters" as there is no plot of consequence to test their substance of character. And yet, there is reason to believe that Beckett's characters could be considered to be "true to life," "consistent," "necessary or probable," and even "true to life yet more beautiful." Beckett's characters, though uncomplicated and holding simple desires, can
Therefore, raises the question of whether or not Beckett's plays are truly mimetic— showing the audience an "imitation of action." On the one hand, the plots of Beckett's plays are, in accordance to Aristotle and Sardou's outline of plot structure, essentially non-existent. However, the second standard as dictated in Poetics could be argued for. The adumbrated, unspecified quality of Beckett's characters almost works towards to Beckett's plays being mimetic in that it is much easier for audiences to imagine themselves in the shoes of a Beckett character.
Ultimately, these characters live in a world of undefined, nebulous reality. There is no sense of definite where or how, no particular setting, moment in time and certainly no clearly defined rise and fall of action within the narrow plot. Yet Beckett's characters do not lack intrinsic motivation—there is a reason for their presence on stage, coupled with at least one singular action, however simple it may be. Within their static and unchanging ways, there is a great deal of poetic justice to...

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