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Samuel Beckett. 1906-1989. About Beckett:. Irish novelist and playwright One of the great names of the “Theatre of the Absurd” along with Eugene Ionesco Samuel Beckett was born in Dublin into a prosperous Protestant family. His father, William Beckett Jr. was a surveyor.

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about beckett
About Beckett:
  • Irish novelist and playwright
  • One of the great names of the “Theatre of the Absurd” along with Eugene Ionesco
  • Samuel Beckett was born in Dublin into a prosperous Protestant family.
  • His father, William Beckett Jr. was a surveyor.
  • Beckett’s mother Mary Roe had worked as a nurse before marriage.
  • He was educated at the Portora Royal School and Trinity College, Dublin, where he took a B.A. degree in 1927, having specialized in French and Italian.
  • Beckett worked as a teacher in Belfast and lecturer in English at the Ecole Normal Superieure in Paris.
about beckett3
About Beckett
  • In his writings for theatre, Beckett showed influence of burlesque, vaudeville, the music hall, commedia dell’arte, and the silent-film style of such figures as Keaton and Chaplin
  • His plays are concerned with human suffering and survival
  • His characters are struggling with meaninglessness and the world of Nothing
  • A comic writer, as well as a tragic poet
  • Considers the bare essentials of the human condition in his writing
  • He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969
about beckett4
About Beckett:
  • During this time he became a friend of James Joyce, taking dictation and copying down parts of what would eventually becomes Finnegans Wake (1939).
  • He also translated a fragment of the book into French under Joyce’s supervision.
  • In 1931 Beckett returned to Dublin and received his M.A. in 1931.
  • He taught French at Trinity College until 1932, when he resigned to devote his time entirely to writing.
  • After his father died, Beckett received an annuity that enabled him to settle in London, where he underwent psychoanalysis (1935-36).
about beckett5
About Beckett:
  • As a poet, Beckett made his debut in 1930 with WHOREOSCOPE, a ninety-eight-line poem accompanied by seventeen footnotes. In this dramatic monologue, the protagonist, Rene Descartes, waits for his morning omelet of well-aged eggs, while mediating on the obscurity of theological mysteries, the passage of time, and the approach of death.
  • It was followed with a collection of essays, PROUST (1931), and novel MORE PRICKS THAN KNICKS (1934).
  • From 1933 to 1936 he lived in London.
  • In 1938 he was hospitalized from a stab wound he had received from a pimp to whom he refused to give money.
  • Around this time he met Suzanne Dechevaux-Dumesnil, a piano student, whom he married in 1961
about beckett6
About Beckett:
  • When Beckett won the Nobel Prize, Suzanne commented: “This is a catastrophe.” Beckett refused to attend the Nobel ceremony.
  • Beckett’s career as a novelist really began in 1938 with MURPHY, which depicted the protagonist’s inner struggle between his desires for his prostitute-mistress and for total escape into the darkness of mind.
  • The conflict is resolved when he is atomized by a gas explosion.
  • When World War II broke out, Beckett was in Ireland, but he hastened to Paris and joined a Resistance network.
about beckett7
About Beckett:
  • He was sought out by the Nazis but fled with Dechevaux-Dumesnil to Southern France, where they remained in hiding in the village of Roussillon two and a half years.
  • Beckett worked as a country labourer and wrote WATT, his second novel, which was published in 1953 and was the last of his novels written originally in English.
  • After the war, Beckett worked with the Irish Red Cross in St. Lo in Normandy.
  • He wrote a number of other works in French, which he explained he felt made it easier to write “without style”- he did not try to write elegantly.
about beckett8
About Beckett:
  • Beckett’s writing attempted to escape from everything that he was familiar with.
  • His books reflected Beckett’s bitter realization that there is no escape from illusions and from the Cartesian compulsion to think, to try to solve insoluble mysteries.
  • Beckett was obsessed by the desire to create what he called “a literature of the unword.”
  • He waged a lifelong war on words, trying to yield the silence that underlines them.
  • Waiting for Godot (En Attendant Godot) was written in 1949 and published in English in 1954.
  • It brought Beckett international fame and established him as one of the leading names of the theater of the absurd.
  • Beckett more or less admitted in a New York Post interview by Jerry Tallmer that the dialogue was based on converstaions between Suzanne Deschevaux-Dumesnil and himself in Roussillon.
  • The tragi-comedy in two acts, opened at the Theatre de Babylone on January 5 1953, and made history.
  • Two tramps, Vladimir and Estragon, who call each other Gogo and Didi, meet near a bare tree on a country road.
  • They wait for the promised arrival of Godot, whose name could refer to “God” or also the French name for Charlie Chaplin, “Charlot”.
  • To fill the boredom they try to recall their past, tell jokes, eat and speculate about Godot.
  • Pozzo, a bourgeois tyrant, and Lucky, his servant, appear briefly.
  • Pozzo says about Lucky: “He can’t think without his hat.”
  • Godot sends world that he will not come that day but will surely come the next.
  • In Act II Vladimir and Estragon still wait, and Godot sends a promising message.
  • The two men try to hang themsleves and then declare their intention of leaving, but they have no energy to move.
  • In Beckett’s philosophical show, there is no meaning without being.
  • The very existence of Vladimir and Estragon is in doubt.
  • Without Godot, their world do not have purpose, but suicide is not the solution to their existential dilemma.

VLADIMIR: We have to come back tomorrow.

ESTRAGON: What for?

VLADIMIR: To wait for Godot.

ESTRAGON: Ah! (Silence.) He didn’t come?


  • Beckett demonstrates that when put in extreme situations, these characters tell us the most about us (the audience) and our own lives.
  • Estragon and Vladimir are always on the edge of wandering away to another and equally disappointing adventure throughout the play.
after godot
After Godot:
  • Following Godot, Beckett wrote many other works up until right before his death.
  • To this day he is revered as being an integral part of the Western literary canon.