This chapter looks at three plays by Samuel Beckett - Oh les beaux jours, La Dernière bande and Quad - in order to highlight his emphasis on resilience, stoicism and "going on". In the case of Winnie in Oh les beaux jours it is the disparity between her awful circumstances and her forced optimism and cheerfulness that is relevant. She is indeed an "unsung heroine" in the face of the human condition but persists even in Act 2 where her situation becomes dramatically worse. In another sense she is a "sung heroine" because her song is one of her resources, the "heure exquise" from The Merry Widow helping her to end her day. With La Dernière bande we have Krapp as a representation of the ravages of life, time and old age but again he is an "unsung hero" who fights on against physical and mental decline. He also refers to the possible song of an old woman and this raises again the idea of singing in the face of adversity. Finally, Krapp himself sings a Vespers hymn in what is like a swan song as death nears. Krapp's human tragedy of isolation and decay is ultimately a musicalized and sung tragedy. Finally, in the case of Quad we have a minimalist drama with no dialogue but forms of musical accompaniment to the shuffling and coming and going of four players. These four represent the mass of humanity pushing on through the pain and meaningless of life with stoic heroism and they are unacclaimed warriors. Each of the four has his/her internalized music to help them through life and so they, like Winnie and Krapp, exemplify Beckett's dictum : "Quand on est dans la merde jusqu'au cou, il ne reste plus qu'à chanter."
|Title of host publication||Heroism and Passion in Literature|
|Publication status||Published - 2004|
Bibliographical noteReference text: Enoch Brater Why Beckett?, Thames and Hudson, London, 1989
No Author Better Served: The Correspondence of Samuel Beckett and Alan Schneider, ed. Maurice Harmon, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass. and London, 1998
A Alvarez Beckett Fontana/Collins, Glasgow, 1978
S Beckett Oh les beaux jours, Les Editions de Minuit, Paris, 1974.
C Baudelaire 'Mon coeur mis à nu' in Oeuvres complètes 1, ed. Claude Pichois, Gallimard, Pléiade, Paris, 1975
S Beckett Proust and Three Dialogues with GoergesDuthuit, John Calder, London, 1999
S Beckett La Dernière bande suivi de Cendres, Les Editions de Minuit, Paris, 1959
Ill Seen Ill Sung, broadcast by BBC Radio 3, September 5, 1999
James Knowlson Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett, Bloomsbury, London, 1996
The Joke's On Us, BBC 2 Arena, 1989
S Beckett Worstward Ho, John Calder, London, 1999
S Beckett Quad in Samuel Beckett. The Complete Dramatic Works, Faber and Faber, London and Boston, 1990.
S Beckett Cendres, Les Editions de Minuit, Paris, 1959