Samuel Barclay Beckett was influenced by the existentialist philosophies of Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus which stated that the universe was without any overarching moral order or meaning. Beckett’s most renowned plays Waiting for Godot and Endgame were a breakthrough in such an era. There is a bridge in Ireland that’s named after him.
Samuel Barclay Beckett was one of the flag bearers of the Theatre of the Absurd, along with his contemporaries like Eugene Ionesco and Harold Pinter. Born in 1906, in Dublin, Ireland, he spent most of his life in Paris which influenced him and formed the basis of his penmanship. Many hold him very akin to other Irish writers like Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw. In fact, went to Portora Royal School in Enniskillen which was also attended by Oscar Wilde. He learned music in Dublin in his early years.
From the year 1923, he dedicated his life to studies including modern literature and Romance language at Trinity College where he received his degree. He became a teacher in Belfast and then moved to Paris. There he met writers like James Joyce who seemed to have influenced him in his literary career. Beckett had also worked for Joyce during this period and was his close confidant. He finally settled in Paris in 1937 and joined an underground resistance group during World War II.
Literary Career and Contributions
Samuel Beckett’s literary career began by writing short stories and novels. His first ever short story collection namely More Pricks than Kicks was first published in 1934. Murphy was what kick-started his career as a novelist. In it, he ventures to narrate the escape of an Irish man from a girl and he is about to be tied to a life of contemplation as a nurse in a mental institution. Not so critically acclaimed, he however managed to write a trilogy – Malloy, Mallone Dies, and The Unnamable that primarily established his reputation as an Avante Garde writer.
It is however his classic play Waiting for Godot, one of the more popular modernist plays that lay the grounds for his popularity. Waiting for Godot was first performed in Paris’ Theatre de Babylone in 1953. This was followed by theatrical works like Act Without Words I, Act Without Words II (1956), Endgame (1957), and Krapp’s Last Tape(1958). Very similar to the approach of Waiting for Godot, Beckett’s Endgame went beyond the rationalities of the human condition with its repetitive patterns of circularity. These plays left a mark on his literary career and made him stand out, gaining acclaim as a modernist writer. In these, he dealt with darker themes of life and death; hope and despair; absence and presence.
The playwright went on to become the leading figure and flag bearer of the Theatre of the Absurd, a form of theatre that brought out the meaninglessness in anything concrete and thereby laid bare the absurdity of existence and the cycle of suffering. These replaced the cluttered stage of Naturalism in drama with an empty minimalist stage that went against the general concepts of theatre and drama, sequential plot, and logical language.
Beckett finally won the award for Nobel Prize in Literature in 1969, after being deemed unsuitable for it in 1968. He had won it “for his writing, which in new forms for the novel and drama-in the destitution of modern man acquires its elevation”
List of Works
- Waiting for Godot(1953)
- Act without Words I (1956)
- Act Without Words II(1956)
- Krapp’s Last Tape(1958)
- Happy Days (1961)
Summary of top 7 plays by Beckett
- Murphy (1938)
- Watt (1945)
- Malone Dies (1951)
- The Unnamable (1953)
- How is it (1961)
- Dream of Fair to Middling Women (1992)
3 Poems by Beckett with Summary
Quad: 13 Min Drama Television Play
How were his language and style?
- What is Samuel Beckett best known for?
Samuel Beckett, an avant-garde writer, was primarily known for his absurdist work like Waiting for Godot or En Attendant Godot. Samuel Barclay Beckett was one of the flag bearers of the Theatre of the Absurd, along with his contemporaries like Eugene Ionesco and Harold Pinter.
- What Samuel Beckett’s philosophy?
Samuel Beckett had a humorous approach to the ambiguities of life and focused mainly on the polarities of existence. In his plays he laid bare the absurdity of existence and dealt with darker themes of life and death; hope and despair; absence and presence.
- What did Samuel Beckett win the Nobel Prize for?
Beckett finally won the award for Nobel Prize in Literature in 1969, after being deemed as unsuitable for it in 1968. He had won it “for his writing, which in new forms for the novel and drama-in the destitution of modern man acquires it’s elevation”
- What did Beckett say about Godot?
Beckett is said to have revealed to Peter Woodthorpe that he regretted calling the absent character ‘Godot’ because it had apparently given rise to theories revolving around ‘God’ which he had not intended.