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on 3 February 2014
This play marked my introduction to Beckett. I had heard of his plays and his reputation for creating absurd, avant-garde theatre but nothing quite prepared me for this piece of writing. The play tells the story of Winnie – a lonely, desolate, compulsive talker, who is stuck (for reasons unclear) up to her waist in a mound of earth and her husband, Willie, an almost muted hermit, who remains pretty much hidden throughout the whole time.

Each day begins the same, triggered by the strident sound of a bell. Winnie then begins her routine in a very meticulous and exact way. Cleaning herself, checking her belongings, speaking aloud to Willie and herself, enduring the baking heat. This behaviour is both comic and tragic to behold, not to mention mind-bending. The play continues in this fashion, until the 2nd act, where Winnie is now buried up to her neck.

The play is largely thought to be about marriage and the title ‘Happy Days’ is very much an ironic label. Reading the play (and later seeing it at the Young Vic with Juliet Stevenson as Winnie), I found a number of themes and metaphors could be equally applied to this play. Also, considering the main character is physically stuck the whole time, there is actually a great deal of action. Indeed, Beckett’s stage directions are so frequent and so prescriptive, that Winnie’s actions are just as important as her words.

I am very pleased to have discovered Beckett and this play has now made me want to read (and see) all of his work. Happy days!

Highly recommended.
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When this 1961 play opens, a woman is buried waist deep in a pile of sand, a large bag on her left, and a deep tunnel behind and below her on the right. The environment is treeless and bleak, and we have no idea where, why, or how the woman (Winnie) came to be in her present predicament. Throughout the first act, Winnie engages in the minutiae of her life, pulling out her glasses, a parasol, a gun, a music box, and her hat from her bag as she blathers on about brushing her teeth, and wonders if she has brushed her hair. Occasionally, she looks toward the tunnel where she addresses the absent Willie, who does not respond. When he emerges from the tunnel briefly and hums, Winnie gaily announces "Another happy day," before he disappears again.

In the second act, Winnie appears older, she has sunk into the sand so that only her head shows, and she is unable to move it. Though she is not sure Willie is alive and calls to him repeatedly, he ignores her until he suddenly emerges, dressed in tuxedo and top hat and tries to crawl upward toward Winnie. When he fails, the play ends.

In this classic example of the Theatre of the Absurd, the characters are out of sync with the world as the audience knows it, living in some universe with which we are unfamiliar. Their lives are meaningless, undirected, and irrational, yet, during the play, they somehow survive the passage of time, the lack of connection with each other, and their purposeless existence. Willie seems to be trying, futilely, to connect with Winnie at the end, but, absurdly, Winnie cannot see him and he cannot reach her.

Author Samuel Beckett once said, "Nothing is funnier than's the most comical thing in the world." In that sense this is a funny play, but there were few laughs from the audience when I saw it recently. The production starred one of New England's most brilliant actresses in a mind-blowing performance, the lighting provided visual interest, and the direction was first-rate. Yet despite the fact that this was an audience of theatre-goers accustomed to serious drama, most of the audience was yawning by intermission, and about one-third had fallen asleep. If Beckett's intention were to show the meaninglessness of life through the monotony of this play, he succeeded brilliantly--putting the audience to sleep has to be the ultimate absurdity. Mary Whipple
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on 24 June 2015
Brilliant book; really helpful reading aid to my English university course.
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on 4 April 2016
Amusing story of domestic life from the King of Understatement.
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on 31 May 2006
The alarm clock rings and Winnie awakes. It is the beginning of a new day. The scene is a flat landscape with Winnie in the centre. She is embedded up over her waist in the mound. Winnie is happy about every single day. Willie, her husband, lies behind her and he seldom speaks. He is reading the newspaper. Winnie is preoccupied with oneself, putting thinks out of her bag and talking to Willie.

In the second act Winnie is embedded up to the neck in the mound. Her speech is an endless flow of words. She is more melancholy as in the first act. I think Beckett wanted to show the process of getting old and cope with it. They both are two different characters, but they complete in a very special way. Remembering the past and being happy with the present is one of the pleasures of life. Happy days will end, but if not today, it will be another precious day.
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on 16 May 2016
Outstanding piece by a master of the genre
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on 1 May 2009
Decent enough, good value for money version of Beckett's play that is a good example of 'The Theatre of the Absurd'.
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on 12 October 2014
Using it for A2 Literature
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