Analysis of the Play “Words and Music” by Samuel Beckett

The plot of Samuel Beckett’s radio play Words and Music is at once dismayingly simple in its minimalist reductiveness and disturbingly advanced in how the play’s fundamental components are combined. The play opens with only two of its three characters current. While Music comprising a small orchestra tunes up, Words break in reasonably peremptorily to rehearse his speech on one in all Beckett’s favourite subjects, Sloth.

As quickly becomes clear, the connection between Words and Music is antagonistic; every implores, loathes, interrupts, and seeks to achieve ascendancy over the opposite till they hear Croak, in his bedroom slippers, approaching from the distance. Croak arrives as lord and peacemaker, addressing Words and Music as “my comforts,” “my balms,” and more acquainted, and comically, as Joe and Bob, whom he advises to be “friends.”

After rhetorically begging their forgiveness for his being late after which providing some imprecise fragments of clarification (“on stairs,” “in tower”), Croak considers their theme for the evening. After some thought, he decides on love. With just one exception, Croak expresses himself elliptically by sighs, groans, single phrases, short phrases, and by thumping his club. Called on first, Words reply by repeating the identical speech he had been rehearsing on the very starting of the play, substituting “love” for “sloth” wherever mandatory.

Neither Croak’s sigh nor his thumping dissuades Words from persevering with till Croak thumps his club a second time and requires Bob (Music). Even then Words solely falters; he doesn’t cease until Croak summons Music more forcefully: “Bob!” Only then do Words stop, and Music start, enjoying “as before.” Croak, maybe displeased by Words’ incessant protestations and pleadings, calls for that Music plays more loudly, which Music does, drowning out Words but in addition shedding his own earlier expressiveness.

Read About: Themes and Meanings in “Words and Music” by Samuel Beckett

At this level there’s a pause which indicators that the play’s first cycle is over and the next about to start, repeating the primary outline although not in all details. Croak’s gentle summons, “Joe sweet,” evokes more phrases from Words, which evoke more groans from Croak till Croak stops Words and once more calls on Music. As before, he points his summons twice, first gently, “Bob dear,” then more insistently and successfully, a simple “Bob!”. Again Music performs, and once more Words protests (“no,” “please”), all resulting in the inevitable pause.

The second cycle differs from the primary in two essential if not fully apparent ways. One is that Words’s protestations are much less audible than before; the opposite and more essential distinction is that Words should not merely repeat the speech he had rehearsed earlier. It now delivers hesitantly his speech; the various pauses recommend that the phrases listed here are improvised reasonably than repeated. Neither these modifications nor Music’s playing satisfy the still-anguished Croak. Having heard how little “love” gives, he changes the topic to “age.”

The ensuing third cycle is way shorter than the previous two. Words now seem like actually at a loss and in consequence rapidly get the thump. Music fares no higher, and Croak, displeased and demanding, orders them to carry out “together… Together, dogs!” Each improvises and follows the opposite’s lead as best he can as individually and collectively they attempt to please their imperious master.

Then, with Words “trying to sing” and Music prepared to accompany, they compose a quite satisfactory poem, to which Croak responds with one thing apart from his characteristic groan, repeating the enigmatic phrase “the face” 5 times. Neither their success nor Croak’s memory lasts. Music and Words bicker anew, but regardless of his personal faltering and regardless of Croak’s renewed groans, Words persevere and evoke a much more emotional response from his lordly viewers, the identification “Lily!” His endeavor almost involves an abrupt end when Music interrupts Words’ extremely descriptive narrative with an “irrepressible burst of spreading and subsiding music.”

In retaining with the tenor of your entire play, Beckett doesn’t clarify why the outburst is “irrepressible.” Is it Music’s personal emotionally charged response to Words’ phrases or his victory over his antagonist? Either way, Music’s “triumph and conclusion” proves short-lived. Words persevering resume his story. Again he falters, however Music rapidly picks up the lead, discreetly providing a tune to which Words tentatively adapt his phrases, each rising more assured as they proceed, until lastly collectively they compose a second poem:

“Then down a little way Through the trash Towards where… All dark no begging, No giving no words, No sense, no need… Through the scum Down a little way To whence one glimpse Of that wellhead.”

The poem over, Words is “shocked,” although whether by this uncharacteristic concord of Words and Music or by Croak’s own ambiguous response—letting his club fall, he shuffles haltingly away, presumably again to the tower “whence” he got here — stays unclear.

More shocking is Music’s “Brief rude retort” to Words’ imploring but in addition Croak-like “Bob,” adopted by Words’ once more Croak-like command, “Bob!,” which Music does obediently heed, supplying a reprise of earlier musical phrases which Music then repeats “as before or only slightly varied.” The play ends with neither Words nor Music however with one more pause, adopted by Words’ wordless however but once more Croak-like “Deep sigh.”

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