'(Un)Sung Heroes in the Drama of Samuel Beckett' in Heroism and Passion in Literature edited by Graham Gargett Rodopi, Amsterdam-New York, 2004, pp.209-219

Gerald Macklin

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    This chapter looks at three plays by Samuel Beckett - Oh les beaux jours, La Dernière bande and Quad - in order to highlight his emphasis on resilience, stoicism and "going on". In the case of Winnie in Oh les beaux jours it is the disparity between her awful circumstances and her forced optimism and cheerfulness that is relevant. She is indeed an "unsung heroine" in the face of the human condition but persists even in Act 2 where her situation becomes dramatically worse. In another sense she is a "sung heroine" because her song is one of her resources, the "heure exquise" from The Merry Widow helping her to end her day. With La Dernière bande we have Krapp as a representation of the ravages of life, time and old age but again he is an "unsung hero" who fights on against physical and mental decline. He also refers to the possible song of an old woman and this raises again the idea of singing in the face of adversity. Finally, Krapp himself sings a Vespers hymn in what is like a swan song as death nears. Krapp's human tragedy of isolation and decay is ultimately a musicalized and sung tragedy. Finally, in the case of Quad we have a minimalist drama with no dialogue but forms of musical accompaniment to the shuffling and coming and going of four players. These four represent the mass of humanity pushing on through the pain and meaningless of life with stoic heroism and they are unacclaimed warriors. Each of the four has his/her internalized music to help them through life and so they, like Winnie and Krapp, exemplify Beckett's dictum : "Quand on est dans la merde jusqu'au cou, il ne reste plus qu'à chanter."
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationHeroism and Passion in Literature
    ISBN (Print)90-420-1692-2
    Publication statusPublished - 2004



    • drama
    • heroism
    • stoicism
    • music
    • song

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