• Born 13 April, 1906, in Foxrock, near Dublin.
• 1923-1927: Attended Trinity College, Dublin, studying Modern
Languages (French & Italian) graduating with BA first class, and
was awarded the gold medal.
• 1927-28: worked as a teacher of French & English at Campbell
College, Belfast. Followed by École Normale Supérieure in Paris, as
• 1929: publishes his first essay (‘Dante… Bruno. Vico… Joyce’) and
his first short story (‘Assumption’) in the émigré magazine transition.
• 1930: Debut writing of ‘Whoroscope’. Beckett’s first and only critical
study of any substantial length, which won a £10 prize from Hours
• 1938: Stabbed on street in Paris, suffering perforated lung. Was
visited by pianist, Suzanne Dumesnil, who later became his wife.
• 1946: began his most creative period, writing in French, with
Mercier et Camier (novel) and Nouvelles.
• 1955: produced Waiting for Godot – most renowned piece.
• 1961: World premier for Happy Days
• 1969: awarded Nobel prize for literature, 23 October.
• 1970: Lessness premiered in London, and Not I premiered in New
• 1989: Beckett’s wife Suzzanne died in July.
• 1989: Last book printed was Stirrling Still.
• Died December 22, following respiritory problems.
• Is rumoured he give much of Nobel Prize money to needy artists.
• In 1969, Beckett was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature “for his
writing, which, in new forms for the novel and drama, in the
destitution of modern man acquires it’s elevation.”
• His wife Suzanne, who saw that her intensely private husbajd would
be saddled with fame from that point onward, called the prize a
• He accepted the award but refused to attend the prize giving
ceremony in Stockholm.
• While he did not devote much time to interviews, he would still
sometimes personally meet the artists, scholars, and admirers who
sought him out in the anonymous lobby of Paris Hotel PLM, which
was near his Montparnasse home.
• Beckett was part of the literary movement called Modernism.
• Modernism is a series of reforming cultural movements in art,
architecture, literature and applied arts which emerged in the three
decades before 1914.
• Beckett’s work represents the most sustained attack on the realist
• He opened up the possibility of drama and fiction that gets rid of the
conventional plot and the ideas of time and place in order to focus
on the essential components of the human experience.
• His work is stark, minimalist and deeply pessimistic according to
some critics about the understanding of being a human.
Theatre of Absurd
• Named by critic Martin Esslin, after title of his 1962 book of same
• Movement designated for plays written by mostly European
playwrights in late 1940s/50s/60s, along with the style of theatre
evolved from their work.
• Originates from Dadaism, nonsense poetry and avant-garde art.
• The FIVE defining playwrights of this movement are: Eugene
Ionesco, Jean Genet, Arthur Adamov, Harold Pinter, and Samuel
• Members of the group were not always entirely comfortable with the
term, and often refered to themselves as ‘Anti-theatre’ or ‘New
• Most Famous and controversial absurdist play is Waiting for Godot,
by Samuel Beckett.
• Absurd Theatre is intended to shock the audience.
• 1940: Eleuthéria
• 1952: Waiting for Godot
• 1956: Act Without Words I & II
• 1957: Endgame
• 1958: Krapp’s Last Tape
• 1960: Happy Days
• 1963: Play
• 1965: Come and Go
• 1972: Not I
• 1975: That Time
• 1975: Footfalls
• 1981: Rockaby
• 1981: Ohio Impromptu
• 1982: Castastrophe
• 1983: What Where
Waiting for Godot
• ‘En Attendant Godot’ – French, written in 1949, and published in English in
• Was the break for Beckett that brought him international fame across the
globe, and became established as a leading figure in the Theatre of the
• It is a Tragi-comedy in two acts, and first opened at Theatre de Babylone,
on 5th January, 1953, and made history.
• The story follows two tramps, Vladmir and Estragon, who meet near a tree
on a country road. They await the arrival of a man called Godot, and so to
pass the time they joke, reminisce, eat, and even contemplate suicide,
• It soon appears Godot arrival is never to happen, so the play ends with no
meaning or specific event that has occurred.
• Reflects life – waiting, killing time and clinging to the hope that relief may be
just around the corner, if not today then perhaps tomorrow.
• During the 15 years after the war, Beckett produced 4 major full-length
plays, one being Happy Days.
• He began the play on the 8th Oct 1960 and finished the play in may 1961.
The 1st production was at The Cherry Lane Theatre, New York on the 17th
• Happy Days is about a woman named Winnie who is trapped to her waist
and then to her neck in the ground, with her husband Willie her only
• The dirt is thought to be a metaphor for the human condition. Like Winnie
we are all moving slowly towards our deaths with only our daily routines to
distract us from the despair and the need to end our lives early.
• This play is about a woman who spends her life focusing on her everyday
activities such as brushing her hair, praying and sorting out the objects she
keeps with her in her bag in order to help get her through the day.
• This play shows the strength of the human spirit, the trap of existence and
the limited nature of communication.
• Happy Days incorporates powerful themes such as expectation,
companionship , abuse and hope.
• Written in 1980, it is a short, one woman play; in
which she is surrounded by no props or scenery,
dressed in an evening dress, and in a wooden
rocking chair that stops and starts of it’s own
accord, to a pre-recorded voice (her own)
playing, recounting details of her life.
• The play was premiered on April 8, 1980 at the
state University of New York at Buffalo, directed
by Alan Schneider and starring Billie Whitlaw.
• Throughout the play, the woman joins in with the
lines “time she stopped”, “living soul” and “rock
her off” by demanding “more” each time a little
softer than before. At the end, the woman fails to
join in with the voice, the rocking ceases and the
woman’s head slowly indicates; “she has
“We were all born mad. Some remain so.”
- Waiting for Godot
“… this place, if I could describe this place, portray it, I’ve
tried, I feel no place, no place around me, there’s mend to
me, I don’t know what it is, it isn’t flesh, it doesn’t end, it’s
- The Unnamable
“You were saying something nice about me, I can feel it.”
“With diminished concentration, loss of memory, obscured
intelligence… the more chance there is for saying
something closest to what one really is. Even though
everything seems inexpressible, there remains the need
to express. A child need to make a sand castle even
though it makes no sense. In old age, with only a few
grains of sand, one has the greatest possibility.”
- Samuel Beckett, at the age of seventy-six.
The Oxford Samuel Beckett
Theatre Trust Award Prize
• In spring of 1967, Francis Warner, fellow and tutor in English
Literature at St Peters College, Oxford, had idea of founding a
theatre in Oxford, which would be a foundation for all new
writers/musicians/artists/performers/directors of avant-garde, the
aim being for them to produce new and experimental work.
• During the Summer of 1967, Warner personally asked Samuel
Beckett if the theatre could be given his name. He was happy to
• 1976 – The college passes the management process to allow
access to set up a charitable trust, dedicated to encouraging new
generations of creative artists .
• The Trust Award was set up in 2003, and the purpose of the award
is, to help the development of emerging practitioners with
The Samuel Beckett Theatre
• The Samuel Beckett Theatre was opened in 1992 to celebrate the
quatercentenary of Trinity College, Dublin.
• It is the campus theatre of the Universities Department of Drama.
During University term it showcases the work of the Department and
it’s courses, while outside term it hosts visits from some of the most
prestigious dance and theatre companies from Ireland, Europe,
Japan and the United States.
• Regular events taking place there are the Dublin Fringe Festival,
International Dance Festival Ireland, the Dublin Theatre Festival,
and an on-going series of lectures by practitioners and scholars
called Contemporary Theatre in context.
• James Joyce: He was an Irish expatriate writer, widely
considered to be one of the most influential writers of the 20th
• William Butler Yeats: He was an Irish poet and dramatist;
foremost figures of the 20th century literature.
• Dante Alighieri: He was an Italian poet from Florence; his
central work, the Commedia, is considered the greatest literary work
composed in the Italian language and a masterpiece of world
• People he met whist travelling through Europe, give him ideas
which would later translate into some of his finest characters.
Influence on Others
• Beckett influenced writers like Václay Havel, John Banville, Aidan
Higgins and Harold Pinter which have all stated their indebtness to
• He had a wider influence on experimental writing between the
1950’s and the 1960’s. He had great influence on poets such as
Derek Mahon, Thomas Kinsella as well as writers like Trevor
• Many major 20th Century composers including Luciano Berio,
Philip Glass and Pascal Dusapin have created musical works
based on Beckett’s texts.
• He influenced many visual artists like Bruce Nauman and
• Beckett is considered to be one of the most prized of twentieth century
“If you believe that Beckett is pessimistic, then you are a Beckett
character trapped in a Beckett play; Beckett was not saying “no”
because he wanted to, but because he was searching for the yes.”
- Peter Brook, The Empty Space
“Samuel Beckett is sui generis… He has given a voice to the decrepit
and maimed and inarticulate, men and women at the end of their
tether, past pose or pretense, past claim of meaningful existence.
He seems to say that only there and then, as metabolism lowers,
amid God’s paucity, not his plenty, can the core of the human
condition be approached… Yet his musical cadences, his wrought
and precise sentences, cannot help but stave off the void… Like
salamander we survive in his fire.”
- Richard Ellman
From Beckett’s work we have found it to be quite bizarre,
joyless and harshly pessimistic about recalling everyday
memories from the human life. His plays aren’t about
anything specific, yet they still engage the audience
attention with his wicked taste in humour. Beckett’s works
seem to have similar themes of waiting and passing the
time, and demonstrates that even though a journey is
hard, it is worth the effort. Samuel Beckett is remembered
as being one of the greatest writers and theatre makers of
the 20th century. His work is hard to equal, but great for
inspiring up and coming theatre practitioners, to come up
with new and innovative ideas for theatre.
- Samuel Beckett, Andrew K. Kennedy, 1989, Cambridge University Press
- The Cambridge Companion To Beckett, John Pilling, 1994, Cambridge
- Beckett on Film, Happy Days, 2001
- Beckett on Film, Catastrophe, 2001