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Beckett Samuel by R. Federman, L. Graver

By R. Federman, L. Graver

Samuel Beckett (1906-1989). Irish dramatist and poet. His use of the level and dramatic narrative and symbolism has revolutionalized drama in England.

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It is a perennial problem for critics of avant-garde art, and Beckett raises it in a very acute form. ’ For weeks before the New York opening the play had generated the now familiar buzz of incredulous gossip. Beckett was up to one of his stunts again: a drama for two characters in which an endlessly talking heroine remains buried in a mound of scorched grass. On the eve of the première, Herbert Mitgang wrote a ‘New York Times’ article surveying Beckett’s bizarre theatrical career, describing rehearsals and quoting comments by Alan Schneider, labeled the ‘thinking man’s filter for the far-out Beckett catechism.

S. Fraser) claimed that there was one shaping idea: Didi and Gogo stood for the contemplative life and Beckett, offering religious consolation, had written a modern morality play on permanent Christian themes. The letters inspired by Fraser’s article (and by Ronald Gray’s on the same subject in the ‘Listener,’ 7 February 1957) testified to the remarkable impact of Beckett’s play and helped to establish the lines of future contention about how it should be perceived. Some viewers saw Christ, some Marx, some Sartre as the guiding spirit of Beckett’s insinuating parable; others argued that ‘Godot’ was not to be read as an allegory, but as a ritualized expression of basic human concerns—a play in which variations of feeling and mood—rhythmical rather than cognitive progressions—were paramount.

Dennis’s funny attack on the solemnity of the Royal Court production is extreme and often misfires, but it is memorably shrewd about the nature of Beckett’s comic genius. With ‘Happy Days’—as with other Beckett works—the future brought more critical accord. After Madeleine Renaud’s brilliant success with ‘Oh les beaux jours’ in Paris, London and New York, the play has been revived many times to great critical acclaim. At a New York opening in 1968, Clive Barnes expressed a sentiment that was already becoming commonplace: Beckett’s plays age magnificently.

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