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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: May 2013

Literary Allusions in Happy Days

from The Stage

Summary

Discussing Godot with Beckett, Colin Duckworth asked, “Is a Christian interpretation of the play justified?” Beckett responded, “Yes, Christianity is a mythology with which I am perfectly familiar. So naturally I use it.” The response is something of an understatement, for Beckett's corpus is saturated with Christian mythology and variations on its ideology. He is as tied to Christian thought as Lucky is to Pozzo, as obsessed with Christian dogma and its implications as was Joyce. Maria Jolas suggests, “Like Joyce he is also a Christ-haunted man.…” And little wonder. Born 13 April 1906. Friday the thirteenth. Good Friday the thirteenth. On the 606th anniversary of Dante's descent into Hell. A persistent theme of Beckett's is divine caprice, the arbitrary nature of salvation, a theme that haunts his plays like the ghost of King Hamlet. In Godot, one of Estragon's feet is comfortable, one in pain; one of his feet is saved, one damned. Beckett is fond of quoting a sentence from Augustine (ostensibly for its shape): “Do not despair; one of the thieves was saved. Do not presume; one of the thieves was damned.” The sentence indeed has a fine shape and balance, but it imposes shape on chaos.