Samuel Beckett Waiting for Godot
Table of Contents
Waiting for Godot was written during the half-a-dozen years (1945-50) when Beckett’s genius was at its white heat and his output was most prolific. The play first appeared in print in 1952. It was produced for the first time in January 5, 1953 in Paris. In 1954, Beckett’s English translation of the play was published in U.S.A. The world premiere of the play was performed in London in 1955 on the 3rd of August.
Waiting for Godot Characters
One of the two tramps. He was formerly a poet.
Estragon’s pet name.
The second tramp, He once used to cultivate grapes.
This seems to be Vladimir’s first name
Vladimir’s pet name.
A tyrannical landlord who owns the place where the tramps are waiting. In the Second Act he is shown as blind.
Pozzo’s slave who used to be quick-witted and entertaining once. In the Second Act he is shown to have become dumb.
The mysterious stranger for whom the tramps are waiting.
- A Boy
A messenger boy who brings messages from Godot. The ‘Boy’ of the Second Act claims to be a different person.
A Biblical character. He was murdered by his elder brother, Cain. Pozzo is called by Estragon by this name.
Adam’s eldest son; the first murderer in the world according to the Bible. Pozzo responds when called by this name also.
Waiting for Godot Places
(1) Macon country
The region where Estragon and Vladimir used to work in the past.
(2) Cackon country
The region where the events of the play are supposed to take place.
A river flowing through Germany etc. Estragon tried to commit suicide by throwing himself into it.
(4) Eiffel Tower
A steel monument in Paris. The tramps think that they ought to have committed suicide by throwing themselves down from it.
A mountain range in France. The tramps think of going there.
Waiting for Godot Summary
Waiting for Godot Act 1 Summary
The setting for the act 1 is, as described by the playwright, a road in the countryside, by the side of which a tree is growing. The tree is short and leafless. The tramps identify it differently as a shrub or a willow-tree. There is a mound nearby, on which a tramp, Estragon, is sitting as the play opens.
Two Friends Meet
Estragon is sitting on a low mound and trying to take off his boots. After trying to pull them off with both his hands he becomes exhausted and gives up the effort. After resting for a while he resumes but has to give up once again, exclaiming : “Nothing to be done.” In the meanwhile, Vladimir enters, walking with short, still steps. Taking Estragon’s words in a larger sense, he expresses his agreement with them. Both the tramps express happiness at meeting each other again and voice the fear that they thought they had lost each other for good. In answer to Vladimir’s question, Estragon mentions that he spent the last night in a ditch, and that some people beat him up as usual. Vladimir takes credit for having stood his friend in good stead all these years. However, he admits that their struggle has been of no use. They ought to have jumped off Eiffel Tower in the nineties when they were presentable enough to be allowed up there. Estragon does not take much interest in his friend’s talk and tells him rather irritably to help him in the job of taking off his boots.
The Boot and the Hat
Estragon becomes desperate when his efforts to take off his boots prove futile. He almost tears them. He again asks his friend to help him, reminding him at the same time to button up his fly. In the meanwhile, Vladimir takes off his hat, peers inside it and then puts it on again. Estragon makes one mighty effort and succeeds in pulling off one boot. He looks inside it, shakes it and turns it upside down, expecting something to fall out of it but nothing happens. Vladimir repeats the action about his hat. Estragon says he will air his foot a bit before putting on the boot again. The foot has become swollen visibly. Vladimir repeats his earlier action with the hat once more.
Vladimir asks Estragon if he ever read the Bible. The latter answers that he read the Gospels and remembers the maps of the Holy Land. They showed the Dead Sea as pale blue and the very sight made him feel thirsty, Vladimir alludes to the Biblical story about the two thieves. These were to be crucified at the same time as Christ. One of the two was saved while the other was damned. It seems strange to Vladimir that of the four Gospels which describe the crucifixion only one mentions that one of the thieves was saved. Two of the Gospels do not mention any thieves and the third states that both the thieves were damned because they abused Christ. It is curious that people believe the one dissenting account as if it were the only version in existence.
Estragon is sick of the place and wants to leave. Vladimir reminds him that they cannot leave for they are waiting for Godot. Estragon asks him if he is sure that they were asked to wait at this place. Vladimir says that they were to wait by the side of the tree, and points out that it is the only tree near about. He thinks the tree is a willow, but Estragon insists that it is only a bush. Vladimir resents the insinuation that they are waiting at the wrong place. Estragon observes that Godot ought to have come, but Vladimir points out that he did not say for certain that he would come.
If he did not come that day, he might come the next day, or the day after that. Estragon complains that they came there the previous day also. Vladimir contradicts him, though he cannot answer his question as to what they did on the previous day. Estragon then doubts whether they were asked to wait this particular evening. Vladimir answers, somewhat doubtfully, that Godot had mentioned Saturday. Estragon questions whether the day really is a Saturday. Estragon then requests his friend to stop talking for a minute.
Thoughts About Suicide
The two tramps make desperate efforts to pass the time by telling anecdotes to each other. Estragon becomes irritated and the two almost have a fight. At last they make up and embrace. Estragon proposes that they should hang themselves. Vladimir appreciates this mode of suicide because, he says, it would give them sexual gratification. Estragon feels excited to hear this. Vladimir alludes to the legend about the mandrake, a plant which is popularly believed to grow under the gallows. Estragon suggests that they should hang themselves immediately. Vladimir says that the difficulty would be about the place from where they should hang. He thinks the tree before them is not strong enough. Estragon makes a suggestion that Vladimir should be the first to hang from the bough because he is heavy If the bough can sustain his weight it would certainly bear Estragon’s weight because he is lighter. Estragon puts an end to the topic by saying that it would be better and safer for them not to do anything at all.
Talking About Godot
They fall to talking about Godot once again. Estragon asks his friend what it was that they had asked Godot to do for them. Vladimir answers that they didn’t ask anything very definite, they had just made a sort of prayer to him. Godot had given no definite reply; he had said he would see. He could not promise anything to them straightaway because he would have to consult his family, his friends, his agents, his correspondents, his books and his bank account before taking a decision. They are absolutely at Godot’s mercy. For a moment it appears to them that there are sounds suggestive of the approach of Godot, but finally they dismiss it as the sound of the wind in the reeds, Estragon is hungry. Vladimir gives him a carrot to eat. Just then they hear a terrible cry and run away to hide in safety from the approaching danger.
Lucky and Pozzo
Two newcomers enter the scene. One of them is Pozzo who drives the Other Named. Lucky, by means of a rope tied round his neck. Pozzo bears a whip in his hand. Lucky is carrying a heavy bag, a folding stool, a picnic basket and a great coat. Seeing the tramps Pozzo gives a sudden jerk to the rope and Lucky falls to the ground along with his burden. The tramps feel like helping Lucky to his feet but are restrained both by their own apprehension and by Pozzo’s waming that Lucky is vicious. Estragon is sure that Pozzo is Godot. They admit that they are waiting for Godot but Estragon says that he would not be able to recognise him if he saw him. Pozzo tells them that the place where they are waiting is his land. Pozzo gives some nasty pulls to the rope, telling the tramps that he is trying to wake up his servant who drops off to sleep whenever he gets the chance. He orders Lucky to hand him various things and Lucky obeys. He takes out a piece of chicken and a bottle of wine from the picnic basket and has a meal. The tramps watch Lucky who seems to sway into sleep while still on his feet and then wake up, every few moments. They notice that there is a running sore round Lucky’s neck. They want to speak to Lucky but Pozzo asks them to leave him alone. Estragon begs of Pozzo to let him have the chicken bones which he has thrown away. Pozzo says he has no objection provided Lucky doesn’t want them. Pozzo asks Lucky whether he wants the bones but the latter does not reply. Estragon is told that the bones are his and he greedily snatches at them and begins to gnaw them. Vladimir is unable to repress his dislike of Pozzo’s treatment of Lucky and says aloud that it is a disgrace to treat another man thus. Estragon, still gnawing at the bones, expresses agreement with his friend. Then he puts the bones in his pocket.
Estragon is puzzled as to why Lucky carries the bags all the while. He could make himself comfortable by placing the bags on the ground. After a lot of fuss, Pozzo answers the question. Lucky has the right to make himself comfortable; if he doesn’t do so, it must be because he does not want to Pozzo believes that Lucky’s action is meant to please him, so that he is persuaded to keep Lucky. Vladimir asks Pozzo again and again if he wants to get rid of Lucky. At last he answers that he is going to sell him at the fair, though it would be a far better thing to kill him. Hearing this, Lucky weeps. Pozzo gives Estragon his handkerchief and asks him to wipe away Lucky’s tears since he feels so much pity for him. Estragon hesitates. Vladimir tries to snatch the handkerchief out of his hand, saying that he will wipe Lucky’s tears, Estragon refuses to give him the handkerchief. At last, he approaches Lucky to wipe his tears but Lucky kicks him violently in the shins. Estragon howls with pain.
Pozzo speaks some high-sounding words and then wants to know the tramps’ opinion of his performance. They praise him warmly. He is gratified and wants to know if there is anything he can do for them in return. Estragon says that they would welcome even a few small coins, but Vladimir protests that they are not beggars. Pozzo offers them several choices they can either have Lucky dance for them, sing for them, recite to them or think before them. Estragon suggests that Lucky should first dance and then think. Lucky dances mirthlessly and Pozzo explains that he calls the movement the dance of the net. Lucky is then asked to think. Giving a jerk to the rope, after the hat has been put on his head, Pozzo asks the slave to think. Lucky begins to speak as though he is midway in a speech. A little later all the three jump on Lucky, the tramps as though to save him from misery, and Pozzo because he is disgusted with Lucky’s abominable thinking. After this Lucky shouts out his words. He re-duplicates several of the words, e.g. he says ‘Acacacacademy’ instead of Academy. He repeats some of the sentences also. As he gets stuck on the word “unfinished’. Pozzo instructs the tramps to remove his hat. Vladimir does so. The result is that Lucky’s thinking is terminated. Lucky falls. Pozzo tramples on his hat. Lucky is unable to be on his feet and falls down again and again. Pozzo asserts that he is doing so on purpose. Pozzo requests the tramps to help him in raising Lucky to his feet.
They do so once but he falls down as soon as they discontinue supporting him. At Pozzo’s request they raise him and hold him up once again. Pozzo puts one of the bags in Lucky’s hand but the latter drops it immediately. After several efforts, Lucky at last regains his normal self and clutches the handle of the bag tightly. The tramps withdraw their support. Lucky totters briefly but does not fall. Pozzo discovers that he has lost his watch, Pozzo and Lucky exit, the former pulling at the rope and cracking the whip at the latter.
When Lucky and Pozzo have left, Vladimir remarks that their arrival helped them pass the time. Now they must use their own devices to pass the time. Estragon suggests that they make a little conversation. They make a tentative start, Vladimir saying that the two people they have met have changed a great deal. In the meanwhile a boy comes and asks for Mr. Albert. Vladimir asks him to approach and tell them what he wants. The boy is timid and holds back, at which Estragon orders him to approach. He – announces that he has a message from Mr. Godot. Estragon demands why the boy is so late. He pleads that he was afraid of the others. He tells them that he has been there a good while. He admits that he was afraid of Pozzo’s whip. Vladimir seems to have met the boy before. He suggests that the boy was there the previous day also, but he denies this. The message is that Mr. Godot would not come this evening but he would surely come tomorrow. They try to get him to say more but fail.
End of the Evening
When the tramps release the boy he goes away running. All at once it is night, with a pale moon in the sky. Estragon suggests that they might keep on waiting for Godot at the same place, but Vladimir reminds him that they must take cover for the night. Estragon looks at the tree wistfully and says it is a pity they do not have a piece of rope with which they could hang themselves. He asks his friend to remind him to bring a piece of rope the next day. Estragon mentions how he fell into the river once and Vladimir fished him out. Estragon is bitter and says that it would have been better if each one of them had been left alone. Vladimir answers that they could still part if Estragon wishes so, but he replies that it is no longer worthwhile. They decide that they must go now, but they are not shown to be moving as the curtain comes down.
- Vladimir and Estragon Relationship
- Waiting for Godot as a Religious Play
- Absurdism in Waiting for Godot
- Post-War Disillusionment in Waiting for Godot
- Who is Godot in Waiting for Godot?
Waiting for Godot Act 2 Summary
The place is described by a stage direction to be the same as in Act I. The time also is the same but one whole day has passed. Estragon left his boots back in Act I, saying that they might be useful to somebody with smaller feet. Now the boots are seen to lie in the centre of the stage. Lucky’s hat is also there. The tree of the First Act can be seen but it has now four or five leaves growing on it. This time it is Vladimir who enters first. He sings to himself a song about a dog who stole a crust of bread and was beaten to death by the cook.
Estragon enters soon afterwards. Estragon affects to be disgusted to see Vladimir again, but after a while they are friendly to each other. They embrace and clap each other on the back. At the end of the embrace Estragon almost falls down. He says that it hurt him to see his friend singing. He thought he was expressing his happiness at having got rid of Estragon, Vladimir admits that he did feel happy in his absence but says that it is all a matter of one’s moods. Vladimir says that Estragon always comes back to him because he cannot defend himself. He claims that he would have defended Estragon against the men who beat him last night if he had been with him. Estragon replies that he could not have done so because there were ten of them. Vladimir remains insistent, observing that he could have stopped Estragon from doing whatever it was that offended the people who beat him. Estragon pleads that he was not doing anything, They end by admitting that they are both happy to be together again. But the problem is-what shall they now do now that they are happy. The answer to this is the same as before they must wait for Godot.
Talking About Godot
They fall to talking about Godot once again. Estragon wonders what they would do if once again Godot fails to turn up. Vladimir says that they must not worry about it before the time comes. He feels that things have changed since yesterday. One of the changes he can even pinpoint-the tree has a few leaves growing from it now, Estragon seems to have forgotten much of what happened yesterday and Vladimir makes a patient and painful effort to remind him. Once again their problem is that of passing the time. They make brave efforts at conversation. The conversation halts every few seconds. Now and then they pause to praise their own efforts at conversation. Estragon thinks that it is only another of Vladimir’s nightmares that they were there the previous evening. Vladimir points to Estragon’s boots which are still lying there as a triumphant evidence of what he has said. Estragon remembers that he abandoned his boots because they were hurting him. However, after examining the boots Estragon exclaims that they are not his. Vladimir is amazed to hear this Estragon points out that the boots are a different colour. Moreover they are a different size. They agree that it would be a good relaxation as well as recreation for Estragon to try on the strange boots. He is agreeably surprised to find that the boots fit him; or rather that they are a little too big. Estragon goes to sleep, while Vladimir sings a sort of lullaby.
Vladimir notices Lucky’s hat and pick it up. This gives him the idea that they might play at being Lucky and Pozzo. Vladimir says he will play Lucky while Estragon must pretend to be Pozzo. He asks Estragon to curse him and the latter does so in the manner of Pozzo. His first attempts, however, are rather feeble. For a while Vladimir pretends to play both parts simultaneously. Estragon disappears briefly, only to come back running into his friend’s arms. He says they are coming to beat him. Vladimir prefers to think that it is Godot who is coming and that they would now be saved. It occurs to them that they could pass the time by abusing each other, They call each other many fancy bad names, including curate and critic. Their next move is to inake up. They do this in a rather ostentatious manner. Then they do some exercises.
Lucky and Pozzo Again
Lucky and Pozzo enter the stage again. They have changed a great deal. Lucky is dumb now and Pozzo has gone blind. Estragon once again mistakes him for Godot. Pozzo seems to be in trouble and cries for help. Estragon would do so only against a heavy price. Pozzo finally offers them two hundred francs. In their efforts to help Pozzo on his feet, the tramps also fall down and can get up only with a great deal of difficulty. They pretend that Pozzo and Lucky are Abel and Cain. Pozzo seems to have forgotten what took place there the previous day. At last, Lucky manages to get up and picks up his burdens again. Pozzo narrates that he suddenly went blind one day and that Lucky became suddenly dumb in the same fashion
Once again the messenger-boy arrives. He claims, however that it was not he who brought the message the previous day The tramps conclude that it must have been his brother of whom the boy had spoken. The message is the same as the one brought yesterday. Godot is sorry that he cannot come that evening but he will surely come the next day. The tramps realize that the evening’s wait is now over and that they must return to do the same the next day.
The Attempted Hanging
Estragon proposes that now they must hang themselves. But there is no rope with which they can do so. Estragon says that they can use the string with which he keeps his trousers in place. As he removes the string the trousers fall to his knees. Vladimir says that they must test the strength of the cord. They pull at it from opposite sides. The cord breaks into two. It is useless for hanging purposes now. The tramps must go away for the night. They must come and wait for Godot again. As Estragon says, ‘Let’s go’, the curtain comes down. The two tramps have not moved from their place.
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