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By R. Federman, L. Graver

Samuel Beckett (1906-1989). Irish dramatist and poet. His use of the level and dramatic narrative and symbolism has revolutionalized drama in England.

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The New York production of ‘Krapp’s Last Tape’ was warmly received, most notably by Robert Brustein (No. Pritchett (No. 44), Frank Kermode (No. 45), and Northrop Frye (No. 46). Valuable as single statements, these essays also demonstrated the challenges Beckett’s work offered to three very different critical perspectives. Pritchett’s Beckett is a manic monologist speaking from the depths of Irish rage and European disillusionment. His themes are old age, flight, decrepitude, and the needful, hopeless search for self; his manner mocking and earnest, innocent and sly, vindictive and forgiving, lyrical and indecent, frenzied and serene.

Worsley (‘New Statesman,’ 8 November 1958, 630) and Alan O’Brien (‘Spectator,’ 7 November 1958, 609) were mixtures of intensity and ignorance that had little more than stridancy to recommend them. Worsley renewed the attack on Beckett as an obscurantist locked in the cage of his own neurosis. ‘Endgame,’ he said, ‘tells us a good deal about Mr. Beckett’s solitary despairs, if you are interested in them. ’ Dismissing ‘Krapp’s Last Tape’ as ‘a crazy monologue’ that would have been ‘yawned off stage’ if it weren’t for the acting of SAMUEL BECKETT : THE CRITICAL HERITAGE 19 Patrick Magee, Worsley expressed final relief at being able to move away from ‘these inverted explorations of the seamier side of Mr.

Surveying the contemporary French theatre for the ‘Listener’ (28 January 1954, 174–6), Pierre Schneider called ‘En attendant Godot’ ‘the most important dramatic work of the past few seasons’; and an anonymous writer for the ‘Times Literary Supplement’ (27 May 1955) named Beckett as the most significant of expatriate authors in Paris. The first general account of his work to appear in the USA was Niall Montgomery’s No Symbols Where None Intended (‘New World Writing,’ April 1954, 324–37). Although Montgomery’s swaggering style tended to trivialize his subject, the essay did bring Beckett’s work to the attention of thousands of new readers in one of the most respected literary magazines of its day.

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