“may we not speak of the old days?” [silence]—samuel beckett’s come and go

samuel beckett’s very short dramatic piece come and go is best understood through its title, its structure, and the overt allusion to macbeth at its outset.  most tellingly, at the play’s conclusion, the three figures link hands “in the old way”, turning the whole piece—for me, at least—into a carefully wound möbius strip of drama about life and the ever-present effects of temporality.

Come and Go opens with three similar figures of indeterminable age—Flo, Vi, and Ru— childhood friends who once attended “Miss Wade’s” together. They are sitting side-by-side on a narrow bench-like seat, something they used to do in the playground as children, and are wearing colourful full-length coats, somewhat dulled by time, In effect, they three faded flowers. “Drab nondescript hats … shade [their] faces.”

The play’s structure is circular or ring-like, and is divided into three equal segments of seven lines during which a character exits and enters after completing her circuit, and takes a seat different from the one she previously occupied. In this sense the characters also move around their seats in a ring shape. Hence the typical interpretation of the play as being about time, terminality and infinity. The play’s first line, with its deliberate echoes of Macbeth, seem to confirm that interpretation that Shakespeare’s meditation on time is an informing principle:

 

Macbeth
Wherefore was that cry?

Seyton
The queen, my lord, is dead.

Macbeth
She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

 

Come and Go

A dramaticule


For John Calder

 

Written in English early in 1965. First published in French by Editions de Minuit, Paris, in 1966. First published in English by Calder and Boyars, London, in 1967. First produced as Kommen und Gehen, translated by Elmar Tophoven, at the Schiller-Theater Werkstatt, Berlin, on 14 January 1966. First performed in English at the Peacock Theatre, Dublin, on 28 February 1968 and subsequently at the Royal Festival Hall, London, on 9 December 1968.


CHARACTERS :

FLO

VI

RU

(Age undeterminable)

 

Sitting centre side by side stage right to left FLO, VI and RU. Very erect, facing front, hands clasped in laps.

Silence
.


VI : When did we three last meet?


RU : Let us not speak.
     [Silence.
     Exit VI right.
     Silence.]


FLO : Ru.


RU : Yes.


FLO : What do you think of Vi?


RU : I see little change. [FLO moves to centre seat, whispers in
       
RU’s ear. Appalled.] Oh! [They look at each other. FLO
       puts her finger to her lips,] Does she not realize?


FLO : God grant not.
        [Enter VI. FLO and RU turn back front, resume pose. VI
        sits right.
        Silence.]
        Just sit together as we used to, in the playground at Miss 
        Wade’s.

RU : On the log.
      [Silence.
      Exit  FLO left.
      Silence.]
      Vi.


VI : Yes.


RU: How do you find FLO?


VI : She seems much the same. [RU moves to centre seat,
      whispers in
VI’s ear. Appalled.] Oh! [They look at each 
      other
. RU puts her finger to her lips.] Has she not been 
      told?


RU : God forbid.
       [Enter FLO. RU and VI turn back front, resume pose. FLO
       sits left.]
       Holding hands . . . that way.


FLO : Dreaming of . . . love.
        [Silence.
        Exit RU right.
        Silence
.]


VI : Flo.


FLO : Yes.


VI : How do you think Ru is looking?


FLO : One sees little in this light. [VI moves centre seat, 
        whispers in
FLO’s ear. Appalled.] Oh! [They look at 
        each other
. VI puts her finger to her lips.] Does she not 
        know?


VI : Please God not.
      [Enter RU. VI and FLO turn back front, resume pose. RU
      sits right.
      Silence
.]

      May we not speak of the old days? [Silence.] Of what
      came after? [Silence.] Shall we hold hands in the old
      way?

     
      [After a moment they join hands as follows : VI’s right
      hand with
RU’s right hand. VI’s left hand with FLO’s left
      hand
, FLO’s right hand with RU’s left hand, VI’s arms
      being above
RU’s left arm and FLO’s right arm. The three
      pairs of clasped hands rest on the three laps.
      Silence
.]


FLO: I can feel the rings.
       [Silence.]


CURTAIN

 

 

 

NOTES

 

                                  

Successive positions

 

 

 

1

FLO

VI

RU

2

FLO

 

RU

 

 

FLO

RU

3

VI

FLO

RU

4

VI

 

RU

 

VI

RU

 

5

VI

RU

FLO

6

VI

 

FLO

 

 

VI

VLO

7

RU

VI

FLO

Hands

 

 

 

 

RU

VI

FLO

 

RU         VI        FLO

 

 

    

Lighting
Soft, from above only and concentrated on playing area.
Rest of stage as dark as possible.


Costume

Full-length coats, buttoned high, dull violet (RU), dull red (Vi),
dull yellow (Flo). Drab nondescript hats with enough brim to
shade faces. Apart from colour differentiation three figures as
alike as possible. Light shoes with rubber soles. Hands made up
to be as visible as possible. No rings apparent.


Seat

Narrow benchlike seat, without back, just long enough to
accommodate three figures almost touching. As little visible as
possible. It should not be clear what they are sitting on.


Exits

The figures are not seen to go off stage. They should disappear a
few steps from lit area. If dark not sufficient to allow this,
recourse should be had to screens or drapes as little visible
as possible. Exits and entrances slow, without sound of feet.


Obs

Three very different sounds.


Voices

As low as compatible with audibility. Colourless except for
three ‘ohs’ and two lines following.
 


Watch an adaptation of Come and Go on
YouTube.