Samuel Beckett described his Waiting for Godot as a tragicomedy. To what extent is this is an accurate description? Would you say there is more tragedy than comedy or a mixture of both? Through the use of many linguistic, structural and comic features, Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot successfully places a wayfaring line between the two genres of tragedy and comedy. With the opening showing the two main characters Vladimir (Didi) and Estragon (Gogo) in a barren setting with useless props such as Gogo’s boot and Didi’s hat and a leafless tree, there is an instant confusion created with a question as to whether this is truly a comedy at all. Estragon’s statement ‘Nothing to be done’ starts the production off very cleverly as it is a true concept through the play; there is actually nothing being done by any character. It all seems to be useless rambling in the wilderness. There is no control in Didi and Gogo’s lives due to the obsession with waiting for Godot. Because of this they never bring themselves to leave. This leads the audience to ask the question. ‘Is this really a tragicomedy or just a Tragedy? Seeing these men are obviously wasting their lives’. Undoubtedly, Godot has comical elements with classic comedic actions such as trousers falling down and the struggle to take off a boot. With events like these in the play it is seen as direct, classic, light-hearted humour but with a deeper understanding we see this light-hearted humour with dark tragedy. The two however placed together do unarguably play essential roles in completing the play. Tragedy is evident in the play but undeniably there comedy, Comedy that maybe even encourages the tragedy? ‘What about hanging ourselves?’ ‘Hmm. It’d give us an erection!’ here there is definite sexual comedy; the idea of getting an erection would have been uncomfortable yet comical at the time and even now. However, although there is humour in the topic, there are too tragic concepts with the results of the hanging being getting an erection or death. There is a heavy sense of satire comedy through the play Godot; the high ridicule of social class is endless with Gogo and Didi as the unwise, dirty tramps that live in ditches and Pozzo as the foolish, stuck up rich ruler with Lucky the animal like slave. The sense of satire causes the Superiority effect which is the idea we laugh because we feel superior to those in the play. We see this where Estragon tells Vladimir he spent the night in a ditch and was beaten up. ESTRAGON: in a ditch.
VLADIMIR: A ditch! Where?
ESTRAGON: Over there.
ESTRAGON: Beat me? Certainly they beat me
Here it’s taken very lightly that Estragon was attacked while trying to sleep in a ditch. Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s version of the play shows them to act and talk about this incident in a quite jokingly way and don’t actually pay too much attention to the seriousness of him sleeping in the ditch. Here the audience laugh because they possibly feel superior to the idea of someone sleeping in a ditch while they sleep in their houses especially since the majority of the audience was wealthy enough to attend the theatre as it was a luxury in the 1950’s; They would have had the time and the money to go and watch plays after the war seeing as rationing did not end until the 60’s. This made it easier to create the feeling of Superiority Beckett has provided through the two personae of Didi and Gogo. So even though it was comical, one cannot deny that sleeping in a ditch and getting attacked is also tragic. Ian Mackean said ‘Samuel Beckett's plays contain many comic features but are not comedies in the usual sense, and it is unlikely that an audience would actually laugh at them. Often our laughter at a comedy involves a feeling of release in response to the transgression of some rule of social conduct acted out by the performer.’ This is very true in the sense that the characters we find funny are not in funny situations. For example the character Lucky is...
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