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Beckett's Play: The Circular Line of Existence SHOSHANA AVIGAL • THE REAL ACTION of Beckett's Play is a direct result of the spatial tableau. The abstract, almost empty stage, presents a strict linear structure. The rectangular frame of the stage contains a horizontal line, consisting of '~three identical urns," from which three heads protrude. The heads are said to "face undeviatingly front throughout the play.'" Their "speech is provoked" by a single spotlight, situated at t~ center of the footlight (p.23), and thus not breaking the line-continuity. These physical conditions suggest a certain concept of existence which Beckett tends to reject and to ironize in all his work. this will be referred to as "the linear concept of existence." The linear image derives from the belief that human life has a purpose, it leads in a definite direction towards a final aim. In short, it has meaning. Meaning, in this sense, is related to a transcendental object, (e.g., the beginning, the end, the source of movement). It is symbolized many times by Beckett in his different works, Godot being the most famous embodiment of that idea, and the goad in Act Without Words, II the most concrete one. The two tragicomic tramps in Waiting For Godot live and wait on a "road" which, they believe, leads from one point to another. But the whole play in effect eventually refutes this "meaningfulness" of the road and proves the absurdity of their circular existence. Play achieves the same effect with less words and mainly by a "frozen mise-en-scene" inside the stage-frame. The static, linear picture of the stage in Play is proved a mere optical illusion, if one takes into account all the components of the picture. The 251 252 SHOSHANA AVIGAL whole play in fact dialectically rejects the first impression one gets from each of its elements. This process begins with the static and linear mise-en-scene which proves circular and dynamic - a banal trianglelove -story distorted and regarded as unfit for further dramatization. Our impression of a no-time freeze becomes an eternal stream of simultaneous all-times. The illusion is created by presenting four isolated, independent beings . A male and two females (called impersonally M for man and WI W2 for women), speak monotonously into space; no dialogue is possible as they are not allowed to look at each other, and are therefore not even aware of their co-existence.2 The fourth "participant" - the spotlight - is mute by its very nature. The horizontal, one-dimensional placement of the three characters portrays a triangular conflict-relationship which cannot be expressed spatially on stage (although the triangle is the most popular form of grouping on stage). This extremely common dramatic situation of an equilateral triangle is represented flatly; no one is a main hero. The three are equally stressed, each gets the same opportunity of speaking and being heard. The only non-banal element in this story, which hints at the circular structure of their contact, is the man's attitude: he does not prefer one woman to the other. He would like to keep them both but forsakes both of them for a twilight existence where he continues to weave a utopia in trio: To think we were never together .... Never woke together, on a May morning, the first to wake to wake the other two. Then in a little dinghy .... A little dinghy ... A little dinghy, on the river, I resting on my oars, they lolling on air-cushions in the stern ... sheets. Drifting. Such fantasies . (pp. 20-21) The verbal image of the dinghy ap.d the grouping of its passengers imply the triangle not portrayed on stage. The linear image explicit in a two or three-sided conflict, is, however, ruled out. It is not even a duel of the sexes, where the man overpowers the woman. Both man and women function as subject and object for one another. They are tightly interdependent . The man keeps both his women waiting and desiring him, and they, in their turn, shatter his self-confidence with well-known feminine weapons such as sex appeal and hysteria. The grouping on stage is...


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pp. 251-258
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