Monday, January 10, 2011

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

"The tears of the world are a constant quantity. For each one who begins to weep somewhere else another stops. The same is true of the laugh. Let us not then speak ill of our generation, it is not any unhappier than its predecessors. Let us not speak well of it either. Let us not speak of it at all. It is true the population has increased."

Waiting for Godot is a short little play by Samuel Beckett that’s often considered one of the most important plays ever written. Representing a near-complete break from the necessities of plot and coherency, its plotless plot—two men, Estragon and Vladimir, wait in front of a weeping willow for the never-to-show Godot, and interact only with a madman, Pozzo, and his mostly-mute slave, Lucky, and then start the whole process over again the next day—brought the absurd and unknowable to the mass audience of the theater.

Reading the play—I have a performance downloaded which I haven’t yet watched—I was struck by how involving it is. In spite of the nothing that happens (twice!), it still kept me wondering what wouldn(n’t) happen next. Never having read the play, I wasn’t sure if Godot would show, but after the first act, it became pretty evident that he wouldn’t be making an appearance in the second.

Because of Godot’s complete refusal to show its hand, it can be interpreted in any number of ways. Partially due to my own interests and partially due to the text itself, I found it most effectively read as a modern lament of the absence of God. Godot, inexplicable and unseen, never shows, never really explains, and only sends a young boy to tell the two men, at the close of every day, that he’ll come tomorrow which, of course, he never does. This smacks of deism, but there’s a strong strain of humanism in the play as well, in spite of its dim trappings. Beckett himself said it was only about symbiosis, and that symbiosis is evident in the exchanges between Vladimir and Estragon: they can hardly stand each other at times, but they certainly can’t make it alone.

It’s also worth noting that the play is pretty funny, in an absurd way, and if that’s your thing, you can enjoy it on that level as well. It seems like a work that would reward rereading; perhaps I’ll read it again next time I’m at the DMV.

1 comment:

Brooke said...

"Before God and with God we live without God." -Bonhoeffer