“We’re waiting for Godot.”
Waiting for Godot is a play by Irish author Samuel Beckett in which two characters, Vladimir (Didi) and Estragon (Gogo), engage in a variety of discussions and encounters while awaiting Godot, who never arrives. Waiting for Godot is a tragicomedy and consists of two acts. The original French text was composed between 9 October 1948 and 29 January 1949. The book has since been adopted into various plays.
The play starts with two men Vladimir and Estragon, meeting at a crossing near a tree. Estragon finds Vladimir lying in a ditch in a bad condition. The pair discuss seemingly random topics but seem to know each from before. They are both are waiting for someone called Godot to arrive. Neither of them are certain what this man named Godot looks like and if he even will arrive. The two men are shortly joined by other two men, Pozzo and Lucky. Lucky is bound by a rope held by Pozzo, who forces Lucky to carry his heavy bags. Pozzo and Lucky depart after the conversation leaving Estragon and Vladimir to continue their wait for the mysterious Godot. Act ends with arrival of “a Boy”. He tells Vladimir and Estragon that he is a messenger from Godot and that he will not be arriving this evening. Boy then leaves and Vladimir and Estragon ponder if they too should leave but stay put.
Act II starts with following evening. Vladimir and Estragon are still waiting for Godot near the tree. Gogo seems even more beaten up and upset, whereas Didi has a strange air of clarity and knowing that he does not quite grasp himself. They meet Lucky and Pozzo once again, but not as they were. Pozzo has become blind and Lucky has become dumb. Pozzo cannot recall having met Vladimir and Estragon the previous night. Lucky and Pozzo exit, leaving Vladimir and Estragon to wait They meet the boy again, although he claims he never met the two men the previous night. Vladimir asks if Godot has a beard to which the boy responds that it is now long and white. Boy exits and Vladimir and Estragon think about leaving but again remain where they are and the act ends.
This was a very interesting read. My take on Beckett’s play was that he was playing with the different countries: Russia, France, Italy and Ireland and UK and their history from 1891 to second World War. Russia is represented by Vladimir, Estragon is France. Pozzo and Lucky both represent Italy and the Boy is either Ireland or UK or both. Vladimir and Estragon know each other from years ago and refer to better times. Perhaps this is a reference to Franco-Russian alliance formed in 1891. This time also represents end of Russian golden age and beginning of La Belle Epoque in France. Now though, all is lost and Russia finds Estragon in a ditch. This loss in status is also seen in their clothes, they now wear rags and are lost in their thoughts.
“You should have been a poet.”
“I was.” (Gesture towards his rags.) “Isn’t that obvious?”
― Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot
Estragon wakes up from his private nightmares in Act I, and I thought perhaps this could be a reference to World War I. Vladimir says he is heavier, perhaps referring to bigger and yet heavier history and challenges. Pozzo arrives. I think Pozzo and Lucky represent old and new values in Italy. Pozzo is a police state of Mussolini and Lucky represents the values, the culture left in the Italy. Lucky does not quite remember what he was. It seems Vladimir and Estragon both knew Pozzo once and mention how the two have changed.
I think Godot in the story represents peace. France and Russia have had wars for so long that they no longer know what peace is but keep waiting for it and hoping that he will come. Boy arrives and Vladimir thinks he has seen him before but the Boy says he has never met Vladimir. I thought that Boy could be Ireland that has just gained independence from Britain. And Godot beats his older brother, which could be UK who has also had its own issues and has not seen peace in a while.
One night passes between Act I and Act II. It is interesting to think what Beckett means by the night. What is a night? A year? Or the time between World War I and World War II. And perhaps both acts represent the wars.
Act II gets also harder to interpret. Didi seems to be helping Gogo with putting his boots back on. Towards the middle, Godot still has not arrived and Didi seems more alright with the thought stating that “it is over”, perhaps because Russia has won the World War II but also sees Cold War approaching. At the same time, there seems to be some improvement with Gogo and this is similar to France’s situation. Pozzo has become blind so perhaps this is a reference to fascism in Italy and how it did not work. Gogo mentiones a path from Pyrenees. Perhaps a freedom path through the Pyrenees from Nazi occupied France to Spain.
Boy is back but different, he also does not recall the previous night and claims to be there for the first time. He also mentions that his brother is sick. Vladimir asks if Godot has a beard to which the Boy responds by saying it is long and white. Boy leaves and the act concludes with Vladimir and Estragon, still waiting.
All in all, very interesting play. I would give it 4/5 stars.
How-To Read Waiting for Godot
1. If you need a bit of a brain puzzle, read waiting for Godot.
2. If you like figuring out what something could mean, symbolism of different things then here is a book for you.
3. Great classic to add on your list.
What are you reading? Have you read this? Thoughts?