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Brian Doyle (Lehman College, City University of New York)
The Explicit Moment in Samuel Beckett’s Rockaby, Ohio Impromptu and Catastrophe

    “The Explicit Moment” explores a phenomenon characteristic of Samuel Beckett’s later, short one-act plays, in particular Rockaby (1980), Ohio Impromptu (1981) and Catastrophe (1982). In these plays the playwright juxtaposes an explicit theatrical moment—respectively, a profanity, a protracted eye contact or an irresolute gaze—within the context of a rhythmically and aurally complex, four-part dramatic structure crafted to illustrate, often for varying reasons, the duality of Self and Other implied in Bishop Berkeley's quote, Esse est percipi, or “to be is to be perceived”.

    In his exploration of the philosophical dimensions of Berkeley's quote, however, Beckett in his plays inverts the meaning of the quote. In other words, implicit in these three Beckett plays is the idea that in order for the Individual to truly perceive the essence of Self, the Individual must eliminate not only his perception of the Other but also the Other's perception of the Individual. To eliminate or to deny the perception of the Other, however, necessitates the presence of the Other, creating a tension within a dramatically static situation (or an endgame) that is punctuated by this explicit theatrical moment, an act which merely calls attention to the fundamental or essential humanity of the Individual.

    In each of these plays, then, Beckett’s use of an explicit moment provides not only a visual or verbal counterweight to the plays’ rhythmic and aural structures but also reminds the character—and the audience—of the futility of the search for Self.

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