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The Collected Shorter Plays

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  1,952 ratings  ·  52 reviews
Samuel Beckett, the great minimalist master and winner of the 1969 Nobel Prize for Literature, produced some of his most widely praised work for the stage in the form of the short play. This complete and definitive collection of twenty-five plays and "playlets" includes Beckett's celebrated Krapp's Last Tape, Embers, Cascando, Play, Eh Joe, Not I, and Footfalls, as well as ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published July 13th 2010 by Grove Press (first published 1984)
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Average rating 4.23  · 
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Jan 17, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
“…so no love…spared that…no love such as normally vented on the…speechless infant…in the home…no…”

My lukewarm rating is far more indicative of my inability to understand what the hell Beckett was saying half the time than it is of the actual quality of these plays. Some of them struck me as brilliant, original, and powerfully moving, whereas, with way too many others, I honestly couldn’t figure out what the fuck was going on, and had to rely on various online analyses and interpretations. Th
E. G.
Sep 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

--All That Fall
--Act Without Words I
--Act Without Words II
--Krapp's Last Tape
--Rough for Theatre I
--Rough for Theatre II
--Rough for Radio I
--Rough for Radio II
--Words and Music
--The Old Tune
--Come and Go
--Eh Joe
--Not I
--That Time
--Ghost Trio
--... but the clouds ...
--A Piece of Monologue
--Ohio Impromptu
--Nacht und Träume
--What Where
The adventure of a train delay. A radio play with all of Beckett's trademark playfulness, bitterness, and absurdity. A story with a zinger. A late-arriving character, the blind (maybe) Mr. Rooney, is the life of the party and the motive of the not particularly motive play.
"... On the other hand, I said, there are the horrors of home life, the dusting, sweeping, airing, scrubbing, waxing, waning, washing, mangling, drying, mowing, clipping, raking, rolling, scuffling, shovelling, gr
John_Dishwasher John_Dishwasher
We live in an illusion of communion. Really we are alone. Even in our most intimate encounters with other humans our minds are irrevocably detached not only from theirs, but also from the rest of the universe. I read three of the plays in this volume wondering if I might discern, in a small sampling, some single undercurrent in Beckett’s work. A commonality running through these three plays was the brutality of human aloneness.

He shows this through a woman lost inside her head due to some sudde
Sep 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Look. Dig it. Wait with it. Retrace you steps to it. Find yourself haunted by it. Beckett's work – here, his shorter and lesser known drama – may be part of an eternal and endless palinode, but it's at times a beautiful and cutting, hopeless and uplifting one. Read past Waiting for Godot, Endgame & Act Without Words, and Krapp's Last Tape, please! You're worth it, and so too is Sam Beckett. ...more
Erika Curtis
Mar 16, 2016 rated it it was ok
I read several of these plays for my Modern Drama course and quite frankly, I did not understand what was happening in the majority of them; however, I am excited to hear what my professor has to say about them. I also have a feeling that I will go back and change my rating for these plays once I have a more thorough understanding of what Beckett was trying to accomplish throughout these pieces.

Plays read: Play, Not I, Rockaby, Krapp's Last Tape, Act Without Words I, Act Without Words II, Come
Dec 11, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: play-drama
Oh my goodness. The shorter his plays, the more crazed they are. Ohio Impromptu is one of the most depressing things I have ever seen or read. So is Not I. Beckett bends everything way beyond its limits here. The end results are prescient, untraceable, and at times almost profound. That;s about as much as I can intelligibly say.
Simon Mcleish
Jan 18, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Originally published on my blog here in February 2002.

Beckett has a reputation as one of the most difficult twentieth century writers, many finding even his most accessible and most famous play, Waiting for Godot, impenetrable. As a follower of Joyce, there is certainly something in this, as is perhaps particularly apparent in the thirty or so short dramtic pieces collected here, which actually make up the bulk of his output.

They stretch the meaning of the word "play" somewhat; originally writte
James F
Twenty-nine very short, very depressing plays, written between 1957 and 1984, in chronological order. None were much over ten pages long; some were written in English, others translated from French. They are mainly absurdist pieces, about the meaninglessness of life. The best known is probably Krapp's Last Tape. The most interesting was a filmscript with the generic title Film, which played with the idea of esse est percipi. The same ideas were repeated through most of the plays, which mainly ha ...more
Joseph Mirabelli
In particular, the plays containing both words and directions for music were haunting. Rarely have entries so short, taking just minutes to read, left me needing so much mental digestion. Very worth it, particularly the plays "Cascando" and "Embers." ...more
Jan 20, 2014 added it
Shelves: bkclb
Small doses necessary. Brilliant man, but too much, too fast may cause madness.
Rick Homuth
Some of it is great. Some of it is way over my head. Most of it is both.
Arun Singh
Apr 27, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays, fiction
It's a little confusing. I enjoyed reading all of the plays but there are some which are just too confusing. Will have to read it again some time later. ...more
James Henderson
Feb 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
My recent reading of Beckett's plays included Happy Days, Embers, and Not I, the last two of which are included in this excellent collection of his shorter plays. The length of these plays does not diminish their brilliance or depth of meaning.
In these short plays Beckett focused even more tightly on the inner experience of humanity. In Embers, a play written for the radio Beckett presents a man named Henry who shares his thoughts, both through attempting to tell a story and through memories of
Dec 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
of all the authors i have read, i find Beckett to be the most challenging by far... in much the same way as reading textbooks and scholarly works (meaning books meant to teach first and foremost and not to entertain or take one's mind off the day or transport you to another world/time/perspective), reading Beckett forces you to pay full attention to every single word... you can't skim Beckett, or if you do, then you are not reading Beckett at all, for by skipping or eliding or jumping ahead you ...more
Jun 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beckett's later short plays explore the ways in which people become physically and emotionally exiled. Characters find themselves in increasingly restricted poses (stuck in an urn, rocking chair, park bench.... His women are haunting. You have to watch "Not I" to get the full experience. Youtube has the Billie Whitelaw version which Beckett directed. ...more
David Allen
Usefully, this compiles 29 short plays. (Now how much would you pay?) "All That Fall," "Krapp's Last Tape" and "The Old Tune" are particularly good. Some of the rest might be improved by seeing them live. Some, which consist almost entirely of diagrams and stage and lighting directions, barely exist. ...more
Oct 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
If you want to feed your existentialist fire, these well written, literary plays by Beckett are the way to go. Some are better than others, (my favorite by a long shot was "This Time") but most of them are pretty spectacular pieces of modernism, and should be consumed by lovers of the genre. Now on to Waiting for Godot... ...more
Feb 09, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
Read Krapp's Last Tape - solid Beckett - though the monologue format made it harder initially to engage with the plot. I wonder, though, how much additional value I get from reading more of Beckett's work beyond Waiting for Godot. Law of diminishing returns? ...more
Jul 08, 2008 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Oh man, this guy's a freak! You call this drama? You call this writing? Well, that said, his plays are actually quite good if your prepared to spend a lot of time with them - and if you have a good internet connection that will allow you decent access to youtube. ...more
Rasmus Skovdal
Feb 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rating based on 'Not I', 'Footfalls', 'Rockaby', 'All That Fall' (the most immediately accesible of the five pieces I read) and 'A Piece of Monologue' (the most interesting of the five pieces I read). ...more
Jessica Hatch
Sep 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mystifying and oh so post-modern. I especially loved discovering "Play" and "That Time," which are both monologues in the round.

My only wish is that the book came with some back matter to help contextualize the plays so that the reader could make more analytical sense of them.
Dec 13, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some better than others here. These works command work to be done, but "Krapp's Last Tape" is a must for any young dramatic would be scholar. ...more
Jennifer E
Yea for Footfalls! I loved performing that at the community college.
Feb 19, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Rockabye" is amazing. It's really hard to find these days, but check out D.A. Pennebaker's documentary about Billie Whitelaw and Beckett, in which she performs this and "Not I." ...more
Leonard Pierce
Jul 02, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
Terrific collection of some of Beckett's later short theater pieces, including the last stuff, where he was using language so minimally it was like seeing the skeleton of a skyscraper. ...more
Oct 04, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This man is the bane of my existence.
Jun 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Just another of those old tales to keep the void from pouring in on top of you." ...more
Feb 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: beckett
So many plays - so strange - some very hard to read, but it's a great collection to get a feel for what Beckett was doing with theatre as a medium. Now I'm on to the short prose. ...more
Michael P.
Aug 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I resist the temptation to explain these works, not because they are hard to explain, though they are, but because they are best approached fresh to puzzle about yourself. They are amazing.
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Samuel Barclay Beckett was an Irish avant-garde novelist, playwright, theatre director, and poet, who lived in France for most of his adult life. He wrote in both English and French. His work offers a bleak, tragicomic outlook on human nature, often coupled with black comedy and gallows humour.

Beckett is widely regarded as among the most influential writers of the 20th century. Strongly influenced

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