Colin McKay Miller's Reviews > Waiting for Godot: A Tragicomedy in Two Acts

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
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Jun 05, 12

bookshelves: plays
Read from June 01 to 05, 2012

Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot gets most of its power from the reader, not the playwright.

I’ve long since known the kicker of Waiting for Godot (and if you don’t, I’m surprised, but I won’t spoil it for you). It opens with two men, Vladmir and Estragon, waiting to meet Godot at a tree near a country road. They call Godot an “acquaintance,” but fear they won’t recognize him. They don’t even know if they’re standing by the right tree on the right day, so they keep hanging out. Waiting for Godot takes the absurdism label -- meaning that there’s no inherent purpose for the characters. There may be satire, dark humor, and, well, an absurd lack of reason, but the characters really wind up doing a whole lot of nothing. They talk about suicide; they fail to get through jokes; they stare into their hats and boots. Yeah, it’s kinda like “Seinfeld”—it’s a play about nothing. (Although we’d argue that none of these things make up true life, much of life is made up of this mundane filler).

As a result of this, Waiting for Godot is one of those works that’s more interesting to think about than to read. Additionally, some of the more comical scenes sure would be different to see on the stage rather than read on the page (Beckett literally spends half a page describing Vladmir and Estragon repeatedly switching and adjusting hats). There’s also the added confusion of when more than two characters are talking. However, as the second act draws to a close, seemingly none of the characters are reliable. They forget things that the reader just read happen (which could be aging in some [but not all] cases, as some of the characters have been together 50-60 years) and time seems to shift differently than what is initially perceived.

Beckett left a whole lot of blanks though, so the play is widely interpretable. There’s enough to follow the themes about God, but there’s also enough to follow the themes about dogs. Beckett initially lamented the former -- as he wrote the play in French in 1948, where the name Godot is far removed from “Dieu” (the French word for God) -- however, as time went by, he realized that the play’s success stemmed from how open to interpretation it is. Sure enough, people have taken political, psychological, philosophical and homoerotic views of the work. Really, you choose. It is a play about nothing after all. In the end, I’m glad I had the experience, and that it didn’t waste too much of my time on the page, as its power lies in your mind. Two stars, but reaching higher, Beckett. Thanks for the thoughts.
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Colin McKay Miller Some more thoughts:

1) Looks like most people have polarized views of this. Me, I declare average, because I like where it took my mind, and that’s harder to widely achieve than most people realize.

2) Actually, I thought about rating this four stars. My wife asked if I could average it out at three stars, but I said, no, not with this one. So yeah, even I felt polarized by this one... against me. In the end, I went with 2.5 stars as it's less to do with the content than what people have done with it.

3) Best line in the work by far is from Estragon late in Act II: “We are all born mad. Some remain so.”


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