Dramas Plays

A new chapter in the history of Greek tragedy by Denys Lionel Page

By Denys Lionel Page

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M: [Halting] It? v: It all. ] In your poor mind. ] It all. 16 May's footfalls softly echo Arsene's slip of sand, her mind broods 32 / The Beckett Irreducible over "it", the unspoken, unable-to-be-spoken fact, that of suffering, that is to say of being. Of course, as with other Beckett situations, one may choose a variety of interpretations, and in this case biographical and psychological ones readily suggest themselves. Still, it is the philosophical which is relevant to the present argument, and in pursuing this line of analysis we inevitably encounter a return to the Irreducible.

But these two have to go, they are "creatures", figments of imagination, like the long line of Belacqua, Murphy, Watt, Molloy and the rest. At the same time someone must be responsible for the voice, not to mention the subject, who is listening, and himself as well.

Where the direction of Beckett's movement has been noted it has been viewed as a search for Self, for the mystery of human identity. But the language and the concepts of psychology are inappropriate in what must be regarded as a properly philosophical context. For the purpose of the present argument Kenner's insistence on Beckett's obsessive interest in the Cartesian cogito is more relevant. It is clear that, if we refer Beckett's work to the seventeenth-century philosophers, what I have termed the Reduction may be viewed as an illustration of methodical Cartesian doubt applied to the entire sphere of human reality and coloured at the same time by a Stoic ethic of resignation derived from Spinoza or Geulincx.

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