Nietzsche, Artaud, and the Madman in Beckett¶s Endgame
Halfway through Endgame, Hamm remembers visiting a ³madman.´ The remembered visit is out of character²it is unlike Hamm to have had a friend or to have visited anyone. The anomaly calls attention to the memory. So does strategic placement. The memory occurs on page 44, at the approximate middle of this 84-page play²as it is also in the French original, on pp. 62-3 of 112 pages. In the play, middleness is thematically emphasized. Shortly after remembering the madman, Hamm says of the ringing of Clov¶s alarm, ³I prefer the middle´ (48). Earlier, after having Clov push his chair round the room, he insists on being placed ³right in the center « more or less « right in the center « roughly « Bang in the center´ (26-7). By placing Hamm¶s remembered visit to a madman ³more or less´ at the center of the play, Beckett signals its importance to the work as a whole. The episode is aesthetically problematic, however, since it seems to contribute little to the play²unless or until the reader notices that the prophetic madman Hamm visits resembles the prophetic madman in Nietzsche¶s The Gay Science. On a more personal level, for Beckett and his close friend Roger Blin, the first director of Endgame, the madman also, we think, alludes to the French actor and director Antonin Artaud, an allusion which significantly impacts the effect of the Nietzschean allusion and may be Beckett¶s way of acknowledging affinities with, and indebtedness to, Artaud. Half-way through Endgame, Hamm says to Clov:
I once knew a madman who thought the end of the world had come. He was a painter²and engraver. I had a great fondness for him. I used to go and see him, in the asylum. I'd take him by the hand and drag him to the window. Look! There! All that rising corn! And there! Look! The sails of the herring fleet! All that loveliness! (Pause.) He'd snatch away his hand and go back into his corner. Appalled. All he had seen was ashes. (Pause.) He alone had been spared. (Pause.) Forgotten.

(Pause.) It appears the case is... was not so... so unusual. (44)

Beckett¶s madman seems to evoke Nietzsche¶s parable of the madman in The Gay Science, at the moment of the madman¶s, and Nietzsche¶s, most famous pronouncement, ³God is Dead.´ Beckett earlier, in Waiting for Godot, makes a similar allusion to a major philosophical text, where Pozzo and Lucky evoke Hegel¶s description of the master and slave in Phenomenology of Spirit, Ch. 4, part I²an evocation noticed by the philosopher Roger Scruton (144). By evoking in Endgame the parable of the madman, Beckett is repeating the strategy of referring through dramatized imagery to a famous philosophical text in order to emphasize a pervasive theme in the play. He evokes the Nietzschean madman apparently to establish Endgame as a thoroughgoing contradiction of Nietzschean optimism about the putative non-existence of God. The atheism of Beckett¶s madman is implied, since for him ³the end of the world´ involves no religious or metaphysical hope. His belief correlates with the belief ambiguously expressed subsequently by Hamm after he, Clov, and Nagg attempt, apparently in vain, to pray: ³The bastard! He doesn¶t exist´ (55)! The case of the madman is, as Hamm says, not so unusual since the appalling conditions he describes, once limited to the madman¶s delusion, are now the reality of the characters in the play. Looking out the windows at the earth and sea, Clov reports: ³Zero « zero « and zero´ (29), ³Corpsed´ (30). In his garden, seeds won¶t sprout (13). He says (only slightly exaggerating), ³There¶s no more nature´ (11), and Hamm says, ³Outside of here it¶s death´ (9). The vision of the madman whom Hamm visited has proved prophetic.1 Hamm¶s friend, the ³madman who thought the end of the world had come´ and who thinks the earth and the sea are now ³ashes,´ closely resembles the madman in The Gay Science, who announces in the marketplace that ³God is Dead. « And we have killed him´ (184). This figure is a transparent spokesman for Nietzsche, who twice elsewhere in the book announces without intermediary that ³God is Dead´ (108, 279), and, of course, Nietzsche himself was, for the last ten years of his life, insane. After Hamm says that God ³doesn¶t exist!´ Clov says, ³Not yet´ (55). The notion of a God notyet existing is a balancing contrast with Nietzsche¶s notion of God once-existing but now dead. Both Nietzsche and Clov illogically deny the essential divine attribute of eternal

3 life.2 After Nietzsche¶s madman declares God dead, he relates the consequences. As in Beckett¶s play, these are ecological and apocalyptic, though for Nietzsche¶s madman they are also cosmological. As in Beckett¶s play (during Hamm¶s visit), only the madman can see them:
How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continuously? Backwards, sideways, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? (181)

So far, the madmen of Nietzsche and Beckett are in close agreement²both of their visions correspond to the future as experienced by Hamm and Clov, for whom the land and the sea are waste. After expressing his vision of desolation, Nietzsche¶s madman becomes optimistic: ³Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us²for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto´ (181). Later in the book, in a section entitled ³The meaning of our cheerfulness,´ Nietzsche continues: the consequences of God being dead ³are not at all sad and gloomy but rather like a new and scarcely describable kind of light, happiness, relief, exhilaration, encouragement, dawn. « our heart overflows with gratitude, amazement, premonitions, expectation´ (280). Endgame contradicts this optimism. For Beckett, the non-existence of God is no occasion of joyful freedom. His characters everywhere implicitly deny Nietzschean optimism as a farcical delusion. Absence of God is the absence of meaning. It precludes real or lasting happiness. In Beckett, all that is left to Godless humanity is absurdity and despair, which Hamm fearfully, habitually (and, for the audience, unsuccessfully) attempts to keep at bay by generating dialogue, enacting familiar routines, asking ³the same questions´ and giving ³the same answers´ (5), and retelling and extending a little his narrative (50-4). Clov says, ³life´ is a ³farce, day after day´ (32). Hamm says ³crying´ is proof of ³living´ (62). If ³nature has left us,´ nevertheless, ³Something is taking its course´ (13), and that can only mean, ³we change! We lose our hair, our teeth! Our bloom! Our ideals´ (11)! What Hamm says of the dialogue is true of their lives:

4 ³This is not much fun´ (13), ³This is deadly´ (28). When he finally says of his life, ³I was never there,´ Clov replies, ³Lucky for you´ (74). Beckett¶s evocation of The Gay Science begs further questions by suggesting that other aspects of the play contradict or ridicule Nietzsche. Might Clov be Beckett¶s ironic version of the Overman, who, in the next generation, will give meaning to Godless existence? Just before Hamm remembers visiting the madman, Clov says to him that if ³the words you taught me « don¶t mean anything anymore, teach me others. Or let me be silent´ (44). This may allude to Nietzsche asserting that names, initially false, give things their apparent meaning and that creating new names would create new things (122). Hamm orders Clov to build a raft so he can ³embark´ and be carried ³to other « mammals´ but then fears sharks and changes the subject (34-5). This may allude to Nietzsche exhorting philosophers to ³embark´ in order to discover new worlds (231-2). And Hamm¶s insistence of the placement of his chair ³right in the center « more or less « right in the center « roughly « Bang in the center´ may well evoke the words Nietzsche¶s Zarathustra attributes to the mediocre: ³We set our chair in the midst´ (188). The play ends with Clov having announced his intention to leave but remaining on stage, so the next performance and those which follow may be considered an endlessly cyclic play or sequence of plays that amounts to a discouraging version of Nietzsche¶s hypothesis of eternal return.3 The Nietzschean evocation or evocations are a matter of broadly cultural, public significance. Beckett¶s madman also, seems to have a personal, theatrical association with Antonin Artaud, who had famously appeared as Marat in Abel Gance¶s Napoleon (1927) and as the monk who hears Joan¶s confession in Carl Dreyer¶s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) and who, in 1935, established what he called the Theatre of Cruelty. A French audience might notice the evocation of Artaud. It certainly would have existed in the understanding between Beckett and the avant-garde theatrical director Roger Blin. Blin was a disciple and friend of Artaud, whom he first met in 1927 or ¶28. In the 1930s he and Artaud were often seen together in Montparnase and the Café Dome (Aslan 110). Blin began his theatrical career in May 1935 assisting Artaud in his production of Cenci and playing two minor roles in the play. Blin visited him in asylums and helped to support him financially. He read parts in, and helped with sound effects for, Artaud¶s

5 radio play, To Have Done with the Judgement of God (1947), taped for broadcast on 2 February 1948. Blin met Beckett in 1950. In 1953, Blin produced and directed Waiting for Godot, taking the part of Pozzo. In the rewriting, staging, and lighting of the play, he influenced Beckett to such an extent that Blin may be said to have finished Beckett¶s theatrical education. To a significant degree, Beckett was a disciple of a disciple of Artaud. During and after the production of Godot, their friendship became increasingly close. Beckett would certainly have known of Blin¶s devotion to Artaud. Blin later said that ³the two most important people in my life´ were Artaud and Beckett, who ³divided my sentiments between them´ (Bair 405). In a letter to Blin, Beckett attests to writing Endgame ³avec complicité et amitie´ expressly for Blin and for the actor Jean Martin (Bair 447). He dedicates the play ³for Roger Blin.´ For Beckett and Blin, the madman in Endgame must have evoked Antonin Artaud, who, in his Theatre of Cruelty, initiated a theatrical tradition to which Beckett belongs. Artaud had produced and directed plays that attempted to shatter the false cultural reality, which shrouds perception, and to engage and change the audiences by stripping habitual, conventional defences against the profound uncertainty and chaos of reality. Artaud prepared the way for Beckett, as Beckett would have realized owing, if for no other reason, to his friendship with Blin.4 The madman in Endgame resembles Artaud. Like Beckett¶s madman, Artaud thought the end of the world was near. He writes to André Breton in 1937, ³I agree to go on living only because I think and believe that this World in which Life insults me and insults You will die before I do´ (400). Like Beckett¶s madman, Artaud was without religious consolation. His faith varied over time: he expressed Christian fervour in the early 1940s but by 1945 rejected all religion (Costich 20). Like Beckett¶s madman, Artaud was insane. He was schizophrenic, his mental suffering acute. First committed to an asylum at the age of nineteen in 1915. After his trip to Ireland in 1937 ended in paranoid violence, he was a patient in various asylums. Blin discovered him in the SainteAnne asylum near Paris in April 1938 (Costich 19). During the war at an asylum in Rodez in Vichy France, Artaud received electric shock treatments. After his return to Paris in 1941, he lived in a room in a suburban convalescence clinic at Ivry-sur-Seine,

6 where Blin visited him. Although Atrtaud was chiefly a man of the theatre, he was also, like Beckett¶s madman, a visual artist. In Endgame, Hamm says, ³He was a painter²and engraver.´ No engraver, Artaud was, however, a draughtsman and also made several paintings. As an adolescent and later, from 1935 till his death in 1948, he drew with inexpensive children¶s crayons and graphic pencils, in his last years often on large paper. A photograph of the room at Ivry-sur-Seine shows three of his large drawings hanging on the walls (Artaud 203). In July 1947, his pictures were publicly exhibited at the Galerie Pierre in Saint Germain-des-Prés, an exhibition accompanied by dramatic performances by Artaud assisted by Blin (Barber 68). Whether or not Beckett viewed this exhibition, he would have known of it. As we have suggested, in evoking Artaud, Beckett acknowledges indebtedness. Drama critics have noted that Artaud is Beckett¶s theatrical precursor.5 Artaud actively opposed theatre as entertainment, theatre that sought merely to distract the audience by melodrama or mindless comedy. No happy Nietzschean atheist, Artaud is a connoisseur of despair and a model of intellectual integrity, which led him to scorn the Surrealist alignment with Communism in 1927: ³I have too much contempt for life to think that any sort of change that might develop in the realm of appearances could in any way change my detestable condition´ (141). He regarded this age as one of ³spiritual bankruptcy´ (346) and declared, in The Nerve Meter (1925), ³under this crust of skin and bone which is my head there is a persistence of anguish´ (82). What Artaud saught in theatre is remarkably close to what Beckett achieved. In ³In Total Darkness´ (1927), Artaud¶s account of what theatre should be reads like a description of Endgame,
This is the point of view of total pessimism. But a certain form of pessimism carries with it its own kind of lucidity. The lucidity of despair, the lucidity of senses that are exacerbated and as if on the edge of the abyss. And alongside the horrible relativity of any human action, this unconscious spontaneity which drives one, in spite of everything, to action. (145)

In ³The Alfred Jarry Theatre´ (1927), he writes,
This is the kind of human anguish the spectator must feel as he leaves our theatre. He will be shaken and antagonized by the internal dynamic of the spectacle that will unfold before his eyes. And this dynamic will be in direct relation to the anxieties and preoccupations of his whole life. Such is the fatality that we evoke, and the spectacle will be this fatality itself. (157)

7 We do not know whether Beckett knew the text of Artaud¶s To Have Done with the Judgement of God (1947), but Endgame has one moment of affinity with that radio play, which Blin, who acted in it, would certainly have noticed and might have pointed out to Beckett. In Endgame, Clov is bothered by ³a crablouse´ (33). In the radio play, Artaud writes,
Is God a being? If he is one, he is shit. If he is not one he does not exist. But he does not exist, except as the void that approaches with all its forms whose most perfect image is the advance of an incalculable group of crab lice.´ (562-3).

These lines also recall the brief discussion, quoted above, between Hamm and Clov about the non-existence of God. And long before Hamm calls God ³The Bastard´ (55), Artaud, in ³Indian Culture and Here Lies´ (1947), calls God ³THE BASTARD.´ Beckett¶s play has a lot in common with Artaud. If, as seems unlikely, he did not initially realize this, his close friend Blin would have brought it to his attention. In the first production of Endgame, there is special significance in having Hamm recall visiting the madman. In addition to directing that production, Roger Blin played the part of Hamm. So both Hamm and Blin spoke the following words, ³J¶ai connu un fou qui croyait que la fin du monde était arrive. Il faisait de la painture. Je l¶aimais bien. J¶aillais le voir, à l¶asile´ (62)²words we translate, ³I knew a madman who believed the end of the world had come. He made paintings. I liked him a lot. I used to go and see him, in the asylum.´6 Whatever these words suggest about Beckett¶s affinity with Artaud, they constitute, in relation to Blin, the most affectionately poignant of theatrical jokes.




Prophecy is a minor motif in the play owing to Hamm asking Clov, ³what do you see on your wall?

Mene, mene?´ (12)²words seen by the prophet Daniel on the wall, foretelling the end of a kingdom (Daniel 5:25-6).

The interplay here between Hamm and Clov is more ambiguous than this owing to the double negative,

whereby the meaning may be that God µdoesn¶t exist yet¶ or that he µdoesn¶t not exist yet.¶

Martin Esslin correctly writes, though not apropos of any work in particular, ³Beckett suffers under the

thought of eternal recurrence´ but ³never overcame the dread of an infinity of time and suffering. His quest, in contrast to Nietzsche¶s, remains the pursuit of that supreme moment of unity with eternity that is the end of time «´ (122-3).

The only reference to Artaud by Beckett that we have located is in a letter to Alan Schneider about a

scholarly a colloquium ³disrupted « by a young man in bathing costume, gas mask and ___, on behalf of Artaud¶s infuriated ghost´ (Harmon 315).

For example, Fletcher writes that Waiting for Godot and Endgame are ³pieces of living drama, as deep

and suggestive as Antonin Artaud would have wished´ (76), and ³Beckett¶s work, like Antonin Artaud¶s, destroys itself in the process of giving an answer´ to the question ³What cannot be expressed´ (145). Pilling also sees Artaud as Beckett¶s antecedent (155), as he was, also, for Genet, Ionesco, ande Adamov (45).

This is a literal translation. Comparison with the English text of the play (44) will show that Beckett later

added the madman¶s being an engraver.

Artaud, Antonin. Selected Writings. Ed. Susan Sontag. Berkeley: University of California, 1976. Aslan, Odette. Roger Blin and Twentieth-Century Playwrights. Tr Ruby Cohn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. Bair, Deirdre. Samuel Beckett, a biography. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1978. Barber, Stephen. Artaud, the Screaming Body. London:Creation Books, 1999. Beckett, Samuel. Endgame. New York: Grove Press, 1959. Fin de partie. Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit, 1957.


Beckett, Samuel and Alan Schneider. No Author Better Served. Ed. Maurice Harmon. Cambridge Ma: Harvard, 1998. Costich, Julia. Antonin Artaud. Boston´: Tawyne, 1978. Esslin, Martin. ³Samuel Becktt²Infinity, Eternity,´ Becket at 80 / Beckett in Context, ed. Enoch Brater. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986. Fletcher, John. Samuel Beckett¶s Art. London: Chattow and Windus, 1967. Nietzsche, Freidrich. The Gay Science, tr. Walter Kaufmann. New York: Random House, 1974. Thus Spake Zarathustra. tr. Thomas Common. New York: Modern Library, 1905. Pilling, John. Samuel Beckett. London: Routledge, 1976. Scruton, Roger. The Philosopher on Dover Beach. London: St. Martin¶s Press, 1990.

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