Samuel Beckett


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Samuel Beckett

Ostensibly a comedy, Happy Days (1961) could be the darkest of Beckett's play, a terrifying portrait of the human condition. The protagonist knows that she is dying, slowly and inexorably, lonely and abandoned by everybody, a metaphor for the life of every human being, trapped in a cage that gets smaller and smaller. She tries to survive by denying the obvious (that her life is a complete failure). Day after day she tries to convince herself that her pathetic existence is worth reenacting. She often breaks up in laughter that borders on crying. The man is death: she knows that he is constantly behind her but cannot see him until the time comes.

An alarm bell rings. Winnie, a middle-aged woman buried up to her hips in a mound of earth, wakes up and picks up from a bag (the only object she can reach) the items that she needs to refresh herself (a comb, a toothbrush, lipstick, and especially a mirror). It is not explained how she feeds herself. She has an umbrella to protect herself from the sun. As she sets begins her daily routine, she keeps talking to herself about her own condition. Willie (her husband?) crawls out of the cave beneath the mound in which he lives, puts a hat on and reads a newspaper. He rarely acknowledges her existence. Whenever he answers her, she exclaims that it is "happy day". He sits on the other side of the mound so that neither Winnie nor the audience can see his face. He crawls back into his hole and pretends not to hear her but he does because, when she discovers a bug crawling on the mound, he makes a nasty joke about it. Winnie pulls out a revolver from the bag and a music-box that plays her favorite song. In her soliloquy she recognizes that he must be tired of living as much as her and maybe tried to kill himself with the revolver. Willie sings along with the carillon's tune. Anything that breaks her monotonous routine makes her happy. At some point she makes herself ready for the night, although it is still day. She admits that she dreams that Willie still cares for her. She begs him to come around so that she can see him but he doesn't.

In the second act Winnie is buried up to her neck. Now we know that she is going to be dead soon. She can't even move her hands anymore. She calls her husband in vain: he never replies. Now she is completely powerless and alone, and her chatter is becoming more nervous. The lights go off, the alarm bell rings. The lights go off, the alarm bell rings. The bell is not only for the audience: she makes specific references to it. Someone is ringing the bell to wake her up. We are made aware of the days that go by without any improvement for her, without any hope that the process of dying will reverse. She uses the items from her bag to reminisce about her childhood. Finally, Willie reappears when she starts singing, which she has postponed so far. He crawls back from his hole dressed in a tuxedo. He only has the strength to crawl slowly around the mound. He can't talk. We can finally see his face. She sings. He raises his hand towards her. She can finally see her face and she is happy, but it is not clear why he is crawling towards her and extending his hand. He looks older than her and weaker than her, totally exhausted. When he finally pronounces her name, it is another happy day for her. Night. Bell.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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(Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )