Composers and their stage works 

Happy Days

(Oh les beaux jours) 

Samuel Beckett - 1961

Two-act play : 

Though some critics feel that Happy Days (Oh les beaux jours, 1961) is Beckett's most pessimistic play, it is in many ways an exposition of the resourcefulness of the human spirit in the face of hopelessness. Nevertheless, it contains Beckett's clearest image of physical paralysis.

While Gogo and Didi are only psychologically unable to leave the appointed rendezvous site and while Hamm is confined to his wheelchair in a closed room, Winnie is actually buried to the waist in earth that seems to be drawing her downward. Elaborately constructed routines occupy her time and her mind and make it possible for her to endure the hopelessness of her situation. In the second act Winnie is buried to her neck and must rely solely on the resources of her mind. The situation grotesquely echoes Descartes' famous "Cogito ergo sum" ("I think, therefore I am").

In Act I, Winnie is buried to the waist in earth; a scorching sun beats down. A bell summons Winnie to her day's activities, which begin with a prayer. As a defence against the infinitude of time, she has devised a series of routines: making an inventory of her possessions, doing her toilette, recalling the past, inventing stories, trying to remember snatches of poetry, and conversing with the generally unresponsive Willie, who dwells in a nearby hole just within her range of vision. Successful efforts of memory or an occasional word extracted from Willie convince her that it has been a happy day after all. The climax of this particular day comes when the sight of an ant stimulates Willie to a pun on "formication," making the couple laugh.

In Act II, Winnie is embedded up to her neck, and her all-important physical routines are now impossible. Her memory seems to have deteriorated, but she perseveres in fabricating stories and prattles on to the now-absent Willie. Because Winnie can no longer turn her head to see him, she may be unaware that he is gone, but soon he reappears dressed in morning clothes and crawling toward her. Winnie joyfully begins humming the "Merry Widow" waltz, but whether Willie means to kiss her or is merely groping for the revolver that lies on the nearby ground remains undisclosed as the curtain falls.