If Waiting for Godot recalls France during the Nazi occupation, where people waited in desolate spots for others who might or might not appear, Endgame recalls a bizarre bomb shelter in the wake of Hiroshima and worse disasters, or perhaps the post-Freudian human skull. In the center, at his own request, sits Hamm, a ham-actor or failed Hamlet, often confusing himself with King Lear, now blind and immobile, confined to a makeshift wheelchair that more closely resembles a throne mounted on casters. Downstage, contained in trash cans, are Hamm’s parents Nagg and Nell, left legless after a tandem-bicycle accident years earlier in the Ardennes. The only character left standing is Cloy, who suffers from an ailment that keeps him from sitting down and who may or may not be Hamm’s son.
In many ways, Hamm recalls Pozzo of Waiting for Godot. Used to the exercise of power, turning blindness to his own advantage as he spins his dreams and memories into delusions of grandeur, Hamm rules his shrinking domain with the endless “mind games” alluded to in the play’s title, drawn from the game of chess. “Me to play,” says Hamm in the first line of the English version, delivered after nearly five minutes of illuminated stage business on the part of Cloy. Using his own French original, Beckett might better have translated the line as “It’s my turn, now,” to be delivered in a childish, churlish tone.
(The entire section is 526 words.)