Samuel Beckett Biography

Samuel Beckett Biography

Samuel Beckett was, in a word, “absurd.” Despite his lengthy and complex career, Beckett will always be closely associated with the absurdist movement, which took a darkly comic look at humankind’s search for the meaning of life. For Beckett, this search was entirely futile—but quite funny. In Beckett’s Happy Days, for example, a woman is slowly engulfed by a mound of dirt yet retains her sunny disposition. And in his most famous work, Waiting for Godot, two vagabonds horse around by the side of a deserted road waiting for the titular character to show up—only he never does. Scholars have debated for decades whether Beckett’s outlook was entirely pessimistic or if it did have—deep down—an odd, distorted kind of optimism. The futility of ever reaching a satisfactory answer surely would have pleased Beckett.

Facts and Trivia

  • Despite his reputation in the world of drama, Beckett wrote novels, short stories, and poetry for nearly two decades before turning his attention to plays.
  • Nearly all of the English-language premieres of Beckett’s plays were directed by Alan Schneider. The two maintained a close working collaboration until Schneider’s death in 1984.
  • Although an Irishman, Beckett was of French descent. Many of his most famous works, including Waiting for Godot, were originally written in French and later translated into English.
  • In the early 1980s, Beckett attempted to shut down a production of Endgame directed by the well-respected Joanne Akalaitis. Beckett’s primary reason was that Akalaitis disregarded his stage directions and changed the setting of the play to a subway station.
  • The American premiere of Waiting for Godot featured Bert Lahr, best known for his performance as the Cowardly Lion in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.
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