Critical Context

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Although he considered himself a novelist who turned to drama when he reached an impasse in his prose, Samuel Beckett was best known for his plays. Indeed, starting in the 1960’s he spent much of his creative energy supervising productions of his plays in several countries.

Happy Days marks a midpoint in the inexorable progression of Beckett’s drama toward immobility and silence. In many ways more austere than Beckett’s earliest dramatic work, Happy Days is clearly more traditional and direct than his later works.

Beckett’s literary reputation was made by the success of his play En attendant Godot (pb. 1952; Waiting for Godot, 1954), a work that alone has sold more copies than all of his other drama and fiction combined. Along with his second important play Fin de partie (pr., pb. 1957; Endgame, 1958), Waiting for Godot established Beckett as the central figure in the Theater of the Absurd. Although each of these early plays presents a world of severely limited possibilities in which mortals have no effective control over their physical condition, each also portrays mobile characters who interact with one another.

In contrast, Beckett’s next two important plays, Krapp’s Last Tape (pr., pb. 1958) and Happy Days, focus on individuals who are almost completely isolated. The lone character in Krapp’s Last Tape sits in his room...

(The entire section is 475 words.)