The Role of the Body in the Works of Samuel Beckett Essay examples

The Role of the Body in the Works of Samuel Beckett Essay examples

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Throughout the works of Samuel Beckett there is an intense focus on the body both in its role as a medium of “physicalized language” (Hunka, 2010) as well as a metaphysical and philosophical catalyst or metaphor. The body in Beckett is thereby not merely a vessel for a character but a prop of its own that can be used to explore or exaggerate the themes and ideas of his plays. There is a dichotomy between the body and mind throughout Beckett’s plays and an examination of the plays Happy Days (1961) and Act Without Words Part One (1956) shows the reliance that is placed on the body as a mode of communication that language cannot achieve itself. The body is so intrinsic to the works of Beckett that even in the radio play All That Fall (1957) he creates a radiophonic body to add solidity to the soundscape for the listener in an environment based in their imagination.

In the play Happy Days Beckett uses the mobility, or lack thereof, of the characters bodies as declining force as they age and are abandoned by the outside world. The play begins with the image of Winnie “embedded up to above her waist in exact centre of a mound” in the middle of a scorched and isolated land. She is trapped in the ground, an example of bodily iconoclasm (Guest, 2004, p. 164) as her bodily ‘self’ is deconstructed leaving just her mind behind. She makes up for what she cannot do with her body with her talking to the quiet and mostly hidden Willie, who we only see the back of the head of in the first act. Her chatter is incessant and repetitive, reminiscent of the benign prattle of an older woman with frequent references to the “old style” of her youth. By the second act, Winnie is buried past her neck and is unable to move anything but her eyes which dar...


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...ujourd'hui, 14, 161-177. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/25781464
Hunka, G. (2010, May). Access to the Body: The Theatre of Revelation in Beckett, Foreman, and Barker. Hyperion,Volume V, issue 1,, pp. 17-27.
Lamont, R. (1987). To Speak the Words of "The Tribe": The Wordlessness of Samuel Beckett. In Burkman, & K. Burkman, Myth and Ritual in the Plays of Samuel Beckett (p. 60). London and Toronto: Fairleigh Dickson University Press.
Lamont, R. (1987). To Speak the Words of "The Tribe": The Wordlessness of Samuel Beckett. In Burkman, & K. Burkman, Myth and Ritual in the Plays of Samuel Beckett (p. 60). London and Toronto: Fairleigh Dickson University Press.
Morrison, C. (2008). Meat, Bones, and Laughter Without Words. Theatre Symposium, 89-102.
Porter, J. (2010). Samuel Beckett and the Radiophonic Body: Beckett and the BBC. Modern Drama, 53(4), pp. 431-446.

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