Hamm, a man who is blind and unable to walk. He appears to be middle-aged, and he sits in an armchair mounted on castors, parked in the middle of the stage. He wears a dressing gown, a brimless hat, and a pair of dark glasses. A whistle hangs from his neck, a blanket covers his knees, and thick socks swathe his feet. At the beginning of the play, his red face is covered with a large, blood-stained handkerchief, which, he explains, stanches the flow dripping from a hole in his head, a wound that makes him dependent on painkillers. Hamm dominates his parents and his servant Clov, to whom he issues arbitrary and contradictory orders. Whenever Clov becomes frustrated and threatens to leave, Hamm entices him to stay by provoking conversation. Hamm considers himself a storyteller and a poet, and, in the course of the play, he composes part of his autobiography.
Clov, Hamm’s servant and possibly his adopted son. A younger man than his employer, Clov cannot sit down, and he walks stiffly because of the pain in his legs. He shares Hamm’s red complexion, and he acts as a codependent to Hamm’s capricious addict’s behavior. Clov makes up for his employer’s deficiencies by acting as Hamm’s eyes and legs, caring for Nagg and Nell, and cleaning up the room where they all live. He grudgingly obeys all of Hamm’s orders, and although he feels resentful and victimized by his situation, he feels helpless to leave it.
Nagg, Hamm’s father, an old Irishman with a white face who wears a nightcap. He and his wife, Nell, got their legs cut off in a tandem bicycle accident, and ever since they have been living near their son in a pair of trash cans, with the stumps of their legs embedded in sand. Nagg considers himself a great comical storyteller and a philosopher who has come to terms with disappointment and the loss of nearly all of his physical pleasures and abilities.
Nell, Hamm’s mother. She is an elderly, white-faced Irishwoman wearing a lace cap who lives in a trash can next to her husband, Nagg. She is more serious than Nagg, and she scolds him for joking about the sorrow of life. She often drifts off into elegiac recollection. Nell insists that she will abandon Nagg, just as Clov threatens to leave Hamm. When she dies, she becomes the only character in the play to carry out her threats and change her situation.
Clov Clov is Hamm’s servant, and he follows his master’s wishes, despite being treated horribly. Crippled but not incapacitated, Clov is capable of leaving the shelter he has known his entire life and of taking his chances in the ‘‘other hell’’ beyond the walls. Clov shows that he is capable of handling tasks and life, and at the end of the play he prepares to leave Hamm and take his chances in the outside world.
Hamm Hamm is dying in a world that seems to be ending. Hamm is blind and confined to a wheelchair. He is selfish and wants always to be the center of attention and considers himself something of a god-like character. He berates his servant Clov, upon whom he is completely dependent. His parents, Nagg and Nell, live in ashbins and occasionally emerge only to be berated by their son. Though the world may be coming to an end, Hamm takes satisfaction in knowing that perhaps all existence may fade to extinction. He hopes to exist long enough only to...
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outlive his father.
Nagg Nagg is Hamm’s father. He and his wife now live in ashbins, having lost their legs in a bicycling accident years ago. Although their current situation is bleak, there are moments in the play where we understand that in their youth, Nagg and Nell had a great and wondrous love. They still reach for that love, despite the horrid conditions and their ungrateful son.
Nell Nell is Hamm’s mother. She, like Nagg, lives in an ashbin, also having lost her legs in the bicycling accident years ago. She dies in the play to the great distress of Nagg.