Showing posts from August, 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 Major “Absurd” Dramatists

This kind of play, according to Esslin, arises from the disillusionment and loss of certitude characteristic of our times and reflected in works like The Myth of Sisyphus (1942) by Albert Camus—where the word “Absurd” appears. The major dramatists of the School of the Absurd, in Esslin’s view, are Beckett, Adamov, Ionesco, and Genet. The senselessness of life and loss of ideals had, of course, been reflected in dramatists like Giraudoux, Anouilh, Sartre, and Camus, but whereas they had presented irrationality in terms of the old conventions, dramatists in the Theatre of the Absurd sought a more appropriate form. They do not argue about absurdity; they “present it in being”. Like the Poetic Theatre, the Absurd Theatre relies heavily on dream and fantasy, but unlike that theatre it rejects consciously “poetic” dialogue in favor of the banal. Although centered on Paris, the Theatre of the Absurd is distinctly international in flavor, as is emphasized by the four leading exponents chosen …