Abstract

Music plays an important role in the art of Samuel Beckett. Indeed, we need only observe the continual presence of a defining motive that spans the thirty years between Beckett's novel Watt of 1953 and his television play Nacht und Träume of 1983: Beckett's protagonists sing. The enigmatic Mr. Knott of the novel sings, as does the nameless protagonist of the television play. An astonishing transformation emerges, however, when we trace the treatment of music from the “extreme monotony” of Mr. Knott's song in Watt to the elaborate bars of Schubert in Nacht und Träume. Increasingly, Beckett's attitude toward music contrasts with his attitude toward the other arts. “One loses one's classics,” complains Winnie in Happy Days, but this does not hold true for the Lehár melody she sings. Nor does it hold true for Beckett's relationship to Beethoven and Schubert: musical quotations from their works appear in unbroken extension. As though he meant to model his concept of music ever more explicitly on Schopenhauer's metaphysics and Proust's romanticism, Beckett's quotations from music gain strength over time, achieve more immediate reality, and become a dominant factor in his work.

This content is only available via PDF.