Wednesday, August 30, 2006

“Waiting for Godot”: An Introduction

Beckett’s Waiting for Godot has proved the most commercially successful “experimental” play since Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author (1921). First produced in Paris in 1952, Waiting for Godot has since been translated into more than eighteen languages and performed all over the world.

In the play practically nothing happens. There is nothing done in it; no development is to be found; and there is no beginning and no end. The entire action boils down to this: on a country road, near a tree, two tramps, Estragon and Vladimir, idle away their time waiting for Godot, who never comes. Two strangers, a cruel master and his half-crazy slave, cross their path, and soon depart. At the end of the first Act, a messenger from Godot arrives and says that he will come tomorrow. In the second Act the waiting goes on; the other pair pass by once more, but the master is now blind and the slave is dumb. The master and the slave stumble and fall and are helped on their way by the tramps. The messenger appears again with the same promise, namely that Godot will come on the following day. Every thing remains as it was in the beginning. There is no female character in the play. The spectator or the reader is fascinated by the strangeness of what he witnesses, hoping for a turn in the situation or a solution, which never comes. Beckett denies satisfaction to his audience. He wants the audience to suffer extreme despair.

The immediate appeal of Waiting for Godot is due to the fact that, even though nothing much happens, it is intensely theatrical. The endless cross-talk act of the two tramps is always funny and at the same time sad—funny because good cross-talk acts are very funny and sad because their main reason for talking at all is just to pass the time, to fill in the void. Under the farcical ripple of the dialogue lies a serious concern.

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