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Beckett, Brecht and Endgame

Powerful Essays
Beckett, Brecht and Endgame

Irish playwright Samuel Beckett is often classified amongst Absurdist Theatre contemporaries Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Jean Genet, and Eugene Ionesco (Brockett 392-395). However, Endgame, Beckett's second play, relates more closely to the theatrical ideology of German playwright Bertolt Brecht, father of epic theatre and the alienation effect. Through the use of formal stage conventions, theatrical terminology, and allusions to Shakespearean texts within Endgame, Beckett employs Brecht's alienation concept, distancing the audience empathetically from players of the game and instead focusing attention upon the game itself.

Bertolt Brecht, whose final work, Galileo, was last revised three years before Beckett published Endgame, was personally and professionally influenced by Marxist theory and the political events which plagued the middle of this century. According to drama anthologist Oscar G. Brockett, Brecht asserted that theatre must do more than simply entertain the passive spectator; theatre must recognize and incite change. Brecht suggested a system of "productive participation, in which the spectator actively judges and applies what he sees on stage to conditions outside the theatre" (365-366). Brecht's alienation effect was a direct means of evoking this participation-the audience is emotionally distanced from characters to allow objective observation. "The audience should never be allowed to confuse what it sees on the stage with reality. Rather the play must always be thought of as a comment upon life- something to be watched and judged critically" (Brockett 366).

Samuel Beckett distances the audience from his comment on life throug...

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