A seminal work of twentieth century drama, Waiting for Godot was Samuel Beckett's first professionally produced play. The story line revolves around two seemingly homeless men waiting for someone or something named Godot. Vladimir and Estragon wait near a tree on a barren stretch of road, inhabiting a drama spun from their own consciousness. The result is a comical wordplay of poetry, dreamscapes, and nonsense, which has been interpreted as a somber summation of mankind's inexhaustible search for meaning. Beckett's language pioneered an expressionistic minimalism that captured the existentialism of post-World War II Europe. His play remains one of the most magical and beautiful allegories of our time.I have decided to split this review into two sections: the first being 'my initial thoughts', the second being 'I have done some research and apparently this play means this'.
I very much enjoyed the back and forth between Vladimir and Estragon. It is often humorous, it is quick, it is witty and yet at times also very profound. What is great about the dialogue between Vladimir and Estragon is that it never wavers. If one speaks, then the other has to speak next and so forth. Even when other characters appear, this pattern is hardly ever interrupted. What this shows is how much of what humans say depends on what is said by others. And through their relentless need to comment, they inadvertently reveal how empty words are. A declaration of intent is completely void if it is not followed by the action it promised. What Beckett really shows here is how easily people manipulate themselves and others through what they say, even if that was completely unintentional. What I also liked about their banter was that it seems to suggest that there is no power struggle between the two, that neither of them is the dominant one, verbally speaking.
What this play "suffers from", fully intentionally, is that there is no action, which is part of it being an Absurdist play. Of course Becket did this on purpose. The very point of this play is that it shows us how these two main characters create their own world, their own drama within it, and the other characters inhabiting it. In the end, I assume, this is a commen on life. In the end life is what we make it and if one decides to spend it under a tree, waiting for Godot, then that is exactly what you'll do. My favourite quote from the play is probably this one:
'They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it's night once more.'Each life is very much this brief fleeting moment between two gaping expanses of night, whether you believe in a Heaven or not. The idea of the potential futility of life very much infuses the entire play and it makes it both exciting and depressing to read.
Now, for my research-inspired and reflective thoughts on this play. My favourite critical statement about this play is probably the following by Vivian Mercier:
"has achieved a theoretical impossibility—a play in which nothing happens, that yet keeps audiences glued to their seats. What's more, since the second act is a subtly different reprise of the first, he has written a play in which nothing happens, twice."What makes this play so fascinating is that nothing happens. In many ways it is like going to the Zoo where you observe other animals love and be. And most of the time what they're doing is nothing, simply sitting around, waiting. And yet we are fascinated by it. Perhaps Beckett predicted the trend of reality shows where we really do nothing except watch other people live their life.
What was interesting, in the edition I had borrowed from the library it said, in pencil, on the bottom of one of the pages, that Godot 'is the relief that can never exist'. English students really go deep sometimes. What I assume whoever wrote this meant was that the desperate waiting for Godot is something we all do. We all wait for this one job, this one man, this one book, etc. that is going to save us, is going to change us. However, this endless waiting doesn't give a meaning to our life and doesn't make it time well-spent. In many ways that same phrase could be applied to this play. However, the difference is that where this play makes us realize that wasting time waiting is indeed a waste, a lot of others thing merely continue to feed us the same drabble.
I give this play...
Yes, it is hard to get into. Yes, at times you wonder what the hell is going on and what you're supposed to gain from it. But you never stop reading and that is what, to me, makes this a masterpiece. I can imagine that as a staged performance, it is enrapturing, but even when reading it, you're desperate to know whether Godot finally comes and what the outcome will be. There's not a particular category of readers I'd recommend this to since it is so different from a lot of other things. Reading this play is a process, but once you achieve it you're bound to have some new opinions. And in my opinion, that is always a good thing.