By Samuel Beckett
“Nothing happens. Nobody comes, nobody goes. It’s awful.” How far do you agree?
Initially written in French in 1948 as “En Attendant Godot”, Samuel Beckett’s play was first staged in 1952, in Paris. It represents one of the most important movements of the twentieth century and is an example of the so-called “Theatre of the Absurd”, which had subsequently inspired numerous plays that were based on the idea of an illogical universe.
The plot of the play is fairly simple and is, in fact, purely a development of its title. Its description is rather ambiguous, for while one may think that no action whatsoever takes place throughout the play, another might suppose otherwise. Principally, the story includes two tramps waiting – at first hopefully, but in time with decreasing optimism – for an indefinite, anonymous figure called Godot. Estragon and Vladimir (the tramps) entertain themselves with a seemingly improvised, somewhat meaningless and never-ending dialogue. Each Act represents a day, hence two days are spent wallowing about, waiting. The ‘process’ of expectation is sometimes interrupted by intruders, such as Pozzo and Lucky – two highly grotesque and metaphorical personas, and an indistinct figure, a Boy, who announces to the tramps in person that Godot will not be arriving until the next day. Hopefully and at the same time despairingly, the tramps resume their vigil by the tree, waiting for Godot, as the curtain veils the stage.
The setting of the play is even plainer: an unknown muddy plateau with a tree, which could represent any space of land on Earth, just like the characters (with their unfortunately chosen names) could embody any soul of the human society. This is effectively the place where Godot is not. Beckett avoids any precision or characterization of the setting, stating only: “A country road. A tree. Evening.” This intentional lack of detail focuses the audience’s attention on the characters.