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Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett - Notes

Connor Heycocks

on 23 May 2014

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Surrealism - 1920s
Go beyond the realism and beyond perceptions of the outside world
Freud's ideas - delve deeper into the inner world of the subconscious mind
Intend to express the process of thought, the subconscious dream-state
Truth to be grasped intuitively
Play becomes a metaphor
Symbols used to evoke state and feeling
Glorified the energy and speed of the machine age
Multiple unrelated scenes in 1 setting
Amalgamated all the arts, circuses, music halls and multimedia
World proved to be insane
Replaced logic and reason with calculated madness
Questioned everything
Concept of 'nothing'
Simultaneous happening to increase chaos and madness
(Absurdity and irony of life and human existence)
Concern is the problems of human existence
How one exists as a 'true' human being
Freedom is ultimately an act of individual will and not subject to universal and abstract rules
Every individual is responsible for his own destiny
Uses sarcasm and satire to attack increasing industrialization and materialism
aimed to expose inner feelings and experiences of the characters rather than the outer reality
Visual Arts used to describe abstract sculptures
Translated into non-decorative and utilitarian look
Platforms, catwalks, steps, wheels and grotesque to show human condition
2 World Wars
People of the time felt disillusioned, exhausted and desolate
Replaced their faith in God with faith in technology - which failed

Human Condition
Scientific progress lead the atom bomb - disaster
Refocus theater on the nature of the fundamental human condition
Wanted to express feelings of helplessness and futility in a world which had no purpose
Start of the Absurdist Movement
Started in France and spread to America and Europe
WFG is an expression of how Beckett saw the wolrd
Socio-Political Background
involving both social and political factors.
People need to make sense of a chaotic and brutal world after WWII
Doubts were raised about reason and human's rationality
Theater of the Absurd
French writer - Jean Paul Satre
Explored the ultimate anguish and meaninglessness of life
Based on the proposition that life is both meaningless and incoherent
Aims to give true reflection of life - must explore the full range of absurdity
'Out of Harmony', Uncertainty and no objective Truth
Brought about as a reaction against realism
Ridiculousness, lack of purpose and lack of communication in life and problems
Values, knowledge and behavior seen as illogical
Displays how humans give meaning to things and construct fictions to help us survive in a chaotic universe
Morality is a human fabrication
Nothing is good, bad or immoral - they are just labels
Life is full of waiting and is very futile. The search for identity, planning for future but only thing guaranteed in life is birth and death
Chaos, war crimes, contradictions and change of decisions - we are on the ultimate search for truth
Title of the play:
Waiting for Godot
Concerned with the passing of time and process of waiting - not Godot
We assign our own meaning to the play
A form of God?
Beckett asked a French cyclist what she was waiting and said Godot.
Godilasse - French slang for boots
A character from anther play - Godeau
Born near Dublin in 1906 into a middle class home
Depressed growing up - 'little talent for happiness'
Hated long conversations
Moved to Paris in 1926, met James Joyce
Believed habit was the cancer of time
Traveled through France, England and Germany - as a tramp
Made Paris home in 1937
Got stabbed in a street by a man who said "i do not know why I stabbed him"
WWII - underground movement in Paris. returned to Paris in 1945
WFG - 'Strange little play in which nothing happens'
All his work was in French - won the literature nobel prize
Died in 1989
Existentialism influence and shows absurdity of existence
Aimed to show a lack of meaning - not cultivate a sense of meaninglessness
By exposing the absurdity, playwrights hoped the audience to seek a truer meaning in life
Audience compelled to react to the character's lack of surprise at what happens to them
Highly unrealistic situations - challenge to accept the human condition
Man alone in a meaningless world
Laughter of liberation, not tears of despair
Reflection of the failure to understand life and our lack of communication
Humor is the only way to cope with the illogicality of life
Explores the state of the human condition - Suffering
Exploration of waiting/time
Uncertainty of the hope of salvation
The fortuitousness of the bestowal of grace
Paradox of life and death - Death is an innate part of living
Hostility of the universe
Breakdown of communication of language
Hope is a creator and destroyer
Life is meaningless
Constant battle of filling time while we wait to die
Nothing is certain - only death
Role of fate and destiny
Illusion of friendship and compassion

Tragedy: serious topics in a serious manner. Deals with personal choices and moral values. Always suffering
Comedy: Deals with humorous topics in an amusing way. Ordinary people who exhibit faults and foibles
WFG: Deals with serious topics in a humorous way. Characters are tramps - nowhere near noble.
Waiting for redemption, but it never comes
Unrequited hope...
Helpless victims - they have no control over their destiny
Does not adhere to traditional structural forms
Unity of time, action and place are distorted
Dispensed linear plot
Repetition of dialogue and action
Circular, episodic structure - emphasizes lack of progress
Existentialist world - Actions do not lead to a conclusion and issues are not resolved
All events have equal insignificance and only resolution is death
Descending spiral that ends in futility - Absurdist structure
No logical structure, no progressive structure
Little or vague exposition
Humor is the greatest weapon in fighting the despair of existence
Little or no plot
More practical- yet is the thinker and worries about moral and philosophical questions
Tries to make sense of what is happening to them
Dislikes hearing about dreams
Enjoys familiar things (Carrot)
Stinking breath
Bladder problems
Head and mind

Remembers past events
Upset by Estragons's stories
Optimistic - voices hope that Godot will come and that his arrival will change things
Talks to the boy (Godot's messenger) and receives messages from him
Is he a leader?
Vladimir prevails on Estragon to wait for Godot
Protects Estragon
Sings him to sleep
Covers him with his coat
Claims to be a poet, yet is concerned with physical problem (legs, feet, hunger and colors of maps)
He has dreams and nightmares
Needs variety - more carrot's he eats, less he likes it
Stinking feet
Problematic feet
Forgets events as soon as they happens
Enjoys telling funny stories
Skeptical of Godot's arrival
Follower - usually asks what to do
Weaker - beaten up by the mysterious strangers at night
Estragon, Vladimir, Pozzo, Lucky and the 2 boys
Vladimir and Estragon are equals perhaps friends
They are complementary opposites
Dependent on eachother, they cannot part
Appear as leader and follower but are equals in society
Pozzo and Lucky are master and slave
Physically enforced symbols (rope and whip)
Interdependent for their mutual survival
The 2 boys are brothers
1 tends to the goats and 1 to the sheep
1 sleeps in the loft, 1 is beaten by Godot

They are all outcasts and derelicts
Characters are subordinate to the ideas
Representative of humanity
Do not create a real person on stage
Qualities are exaggerated and situations are intensified
Seldom have a character history
No past, given little indication of a future
Judged on what they do not who or what they are
They are just vehicles for expressing their thoughts on human condition
Mutual dependency
Act 1:
Sadistic master
Rich, powerful, pompous and certain of himself
Symbolises body and material things

Act 2:
Pozzo drives Lucky on a journey with no goal

Act 1:
Submissive slave
Carries luggage, whip (which he is beaten with by Pozzo), dances, thinks to order
Symbolizes mind and spiritual things

Act 2:
Comic Duos
Come in pairs
Doubler acts of vaudeville
Exists in Pozzo and Lucky (Master and Slave)
Duality creates a functional human being in a dysfunctional world
Mutually dependent
Actor must have a complementary nature of relationship
Focus is on the pair - not the individual
Silence is as greater means as communication as the spoken word
Meaningless conversations/habitual superficial comments - escape from the tedium of life
New words created to show people's attempts of communications - attempt is doomed to fail
Banal daily conversations mixed with poetic language (used to pass time)
Changes in linguistic style breaks mood
Satire is employed to mock the human condition
Contrasts are used to highlight issues - life and death
Language expresses no sentimentality about the human condition
Stichomythia - quick exchange of dialogue
Shared misery between characters
Repetitious style of dialogue is used to emphasize the cyclic nature of life
Ritualistic quality
Occasional forceful speeches focus on reality of human condition
Acting Style
Actors remain focused
React immediately to ques
Concentrate on the unfolding on stage
Intensity to every moment on stage
Techniques of clowning around and gags
Comic sound effects
Comic duos (Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin)
Well rehearsed dialogue
Grotesque pantomime
Circus routines
Circular movements and strict lines
Variety of pace and rhythm
Movement is not naturalistic but is well defined
Movement based on the endless trivial actions of everyday life

Country road, tree, mound, and moon - desolate, bleak, isolate and abandoned.
Costume - boots, hats, belt.
Carrot, turnip, chicken bones, pipe, whip, basket, rope and seat
Directors interpret the set differently and creatively
Performance Space:
The manner in which the stage is filled creates an environment for the play (mise-en-scene). Reinforces emptiness of the existentialist world - isolation
Stage becomes a metaphor for the world
Performance space reflects the oppressiveness of the lives of the characters
Absence of Godot is found most oppressive and restrictive about waiting
The rope: Joins Pozzo and Lucky, displays authority. The bond is unnatural but happens anyway, death, destruction, slavery
The whip: Control of lucky by Pozzo
Leaves on the tree: hope, time passing, desolation and degradation
Tree and bare environment: symbol of life and death, destructive and emptiness
Boots and Hats: travel, but they go nowhere, item to pass time. Materialism
Others: Moon - passing of time; the road: to nowhere, from nowhere
Done by: Conn Heycocks
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