A Nobel Prize winning absurdist play, Waiting for Godot revolves around two tramps, Vladimir and Estragon, who are seemingly waiting for Godot. Who or what Godot is, they are unaware. To pass their time till Godot arrives, these two friends argue, play, eat, sleep and converse. They even think of committing suicide – anything that would help them to pass time. In the first as well as the second act of the play, they encounter Pozzo and Lucky who are master and slave. The two tramps also argue on philosophical and religious topics, though they always end up agreeing that there is “nothing to be done.” Each act ends with the arrival of a boy who informs the two that though Godot would not be able to come that day, he would surely come the next day. Thus their “waiting for Godot” goes on ad infinitum.
Absurdist theatre was widely popular in the second half of the twentieth century. With the Second World War wrecking widespread destruction, the people were plagued with despair with the modern world. Such a genre of theatre aimed at depicting the absurdity of existence for these people. Waiting for Godot, written and produced in 1952, deals with some of the important philosophical questions of the time such as existentialism and nihilism. There are also several references to the Christian faith, which people had begun to question in the aftermath of the war.
Being an absurdist play, the dialogues in the play do not make much sense on the surface. But in such drama, dialogues are the most important tool in the hands of the playwright, since the sets or the costumes are used minimally. In this play, through the dialogues, we can sense the frustration that Vladimir and Estragon feel. They are waiting for someone about whose existence they are not even sure. They ask existential questions, and getting no answers, are driven to despair and thoughts of suicide. The incoherence of the dialogues points to the fact that there is little sense to our existence as humans.
The play is certainly not an easy read. But for anyone who is interested in drama, this is one Beckett’s best works. It takes a while to grasp the play in its entirety, but once such a feat is accomplished, the play will provoke much thought and introspection in the reader’s mind. Anyone attempting to read the play should also make sure that he/she is aware of the basics of absurdist drama and philosophies such as existentialism and absurdism. All this will help in enjoying and understanding the play better.
Book Reviewed by Prerna Gupta
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