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Waiting For Godot Presentation

analysis of ideas and context of the play

paul maullin

on 10 March 2013

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Transcript of Waiting For Godot Presentation

Waiting For Godot Interpretation Setting Characters Plot synopsis Language Symbols
Motifs STRUCTURE Aristotle -Three Unities
1. Unity of place
2. Unity of story
3.Unity of time Comedy
Absurdism Samuel Beckett BIO "Nothing to be done" Do Act 1 and 2 take place in the same place?
There is also a road. Does the road lead anywhere?
Pozzo and Lucky travel the road and then return in Act 2. Did they arrive at their destination?
There is only one scene throughout both acts. Two men are waiting on a country road by a tree. The script calls for Estragon to sit on a low mound. In the first act the tree is bare. In the second, a few leaves have appeared despite the script specifying that it is the next day.

Didi and Gogo are only trapped because they still cling to the concept that freedom is possible; freedom is a state of mind, so is imprisonment. As in other aspects of the play, the setting breaks the audience expectations of what you would expect to see in a 'typical realist' play. Things such as heavy furniture, indoor setting with three out of four walls, doors, windows, etc.
Beckett also seems to playing with the question of the artificial set. At one point Vladimir walks to the back of the stage to urinate. Estragon indicates that it is falling off the edge, as if the edge of the stage represents the edge of the world itself. The two men are trapped within the confines of the physical stage as well as their own minds and an absurd universe. THE plot of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot is simple to relate. Two tramps are waiting by a sickly looking tree for the arrival of M. Godot. They quarrel, make up, contemplate suicide, try to sleep, eat a carrot and gnaw on some chicken bones. Two other characters appear, a master and a slave, who perform a grotesque scene in the middle of the play. A young boy arrives to say that M. Godot will not come today, but that he will come tomorrow. The play is a development of the title, Waiting for Godot. He does not come and the two tramps resume their vigil by the tree, which between the first and second day has sprouted a few leaves, the only symbol of a possible order in a thoroughly alienated world. The two tramps of Beckett, in their total disposition and in their antics with hats and tight shoes, are reminiscent of Laurel and Hardy [Beckett was a big fan] and the American burlesque comedy team. Pozzo and Lucky, the master and slave, are half vaudeville characters and half marionettes. The purely comic aspect of the play involves traditional routines that come from the entire history of farce, from the Romans and the Italians, and the red-nosed clown of the modern circus. The action, describes a circle. Each day is the return to the beginning. Nothing is completed because nothing can be completed. The despair in the play, is the fact that the two tramps cannot not wait for Godot, and the corollary fact that he cannot come. It's close adherence to the three unities is a clue to the play's dramaturgy. The unity of place is a muddy plateau with one tree, a kind of gallows which invites the tramps to consider hanging themselves. This place is any place. It is perhaps best characterised as being the place where Godot is not. The unity of time is two days, but it might be any sequence of days in anyone's life. Time is equivalent to what is announced in the title: the act of waiting. Time is really immobility, although a few minor changes do take place during the play: the tree grows leaves and one of the characters, Pozzo, becomes blind. The act of waiting is never over, and yet it mysteriously starts up again each day. In scene after scene the permanent absurdity of the world is stressed. In the scene, for example, between the master and the slave, Lucky is held on a leash by Pozzo. He carries a heavy suitcase without ever thinking of dropping it. He is able to utter his long incoherent speech only when he has his hat on and when Pozzo commands him to think. Many ingenious theories have been advanced to provide satisfactory interpretations for the characters of Beckett's play. Religious or mythical interpretations prevail. The two tramps Estragon (Gogo) and Vladimir (Didi) may be Everyman and his conscience. Gogo is less confident and at one moment is ready to hang himself. Vladimir is more hopeful, more even in temperament. One thinks of the medieval debate between the body and the soul, between the intellectual and the nonrational in man. Certain of their speeches about Christ might substantiate the theory that they are the two crucified thieves. Pozzo would seem to be the evil master, the exploiter. But perhaps he is Godot, or an evil incarnation of Godot. The most obvious interpretation of Godot is that he is God, but Beckett tended to deny this. The fundamental imagery of the play is Christian. Even the tree recalls the Tree of Knowledge and the Cross. The life of the tramps at many points in the text seems synonymous with the fallen state of man. Their strange relationship is a kind of marriage. Samuel Barclay Beckett was born -- on April 13, 1906 in Foxrock, south of Dublin.
Beckett studied for his Bachelor's degree in French and Italian at Trinity College, Dublin, in the years 1923-27. By the end of the 1920s Beckett had begun to publish his own work. For a short time, Beckett taught Romance languages, but the appeal of academia was short-lived. After acquiring his Master's degree from Trinity, Beckett settled in Paris in 1937. On his way home with some friends one night in January 1938, Beckett was stabbed by a pimp in the street. The blade just missed his heart, but one of his lungs was perforated During his stay in hospital recovering from the attack, one of Beckett's visitors was Suzanne Descheveaux-Dumesnil, a thirty-seven-year-old French woman whom he had met before socially. They married in 1961. French became his written language, and the problem of expressing -- expressing anything -- became central to his aesthetic.
In 1940 France was invaded by the Nazis. When the German occupation began, Beckett was ostensibly neutral as an Irishman, but he joined the resistance. He was almost caught on a number of occasions.
When Waiting for Godot first appeared on the stage in the small Babylone Theatre in Paris in 1953, the world of theatre was changed. The reaction was negative, particularly in Britain but gradually became established as a classic. Death and sorrow are responses to experience. Beckett kept vigil by both his mother, who died in 1950, and his brother Frank, who fell victim to lung cancer in 1954. Both passings weighed very heavily on Beckett's heart, and he would remember them particularly in the ghostly voices of his later fiction and drama, in the dread of waiting and the search for comfort.
Fame and accolades began to come in the 1960s. He won the nobel prize in 1969, and died in 1989. Religious Political Existential Psychological Autobiographical Theatre of the Absurd Vladimir Estragon Pozzo Lucky The Boys Godot The play's main characters are Gogo (Estragon) and Didi (Vladimir) who are two destitute tramps-homeless, rootless, penniless, frequently beaten. They are physically suffering from various ailments, frequently confused, disoriented and forgetful, but not deranged. They are long-time friends, who are passing the time together, waiting together, though Gogo periodically wonders whether it might not be better for them to part.
There are no physical descriptions of either of the two characters; however, the text indicates that Vladimir is likely the heavier of the pair. The bowlers and other broadly comic aspects of their personas have reminded modern audiences of Laurel and Hardy, who occasionally played tramps in their films. Vladimir stands through most of the play whereas Estragon sits down numerous times and even dozes off. "Estragon is inert and Vladimir restless. Vladimir looks at the sky and muses on religious or philosophical matters. Estragon "belongs to the stone", preoccupied with mundane things, what he can get to eat and how to ease his physical aches and pains; he is direct, intuitive. He finds it hard to remember but can recall certain things when prompted. The play's symbolic resonances since we can't wholly avoid thinking in these terms) should seem immediate and obvious. Did is talking about "salvation" as the play opens, and "Godot" may come to represent "God" in many viewers' minds, or perhaps the absence of God. The waiting tramps are "faithful" in their perseverance, as the Christian interpretation goes….Didi's kindness and friendship is Christian charity…. BUT to interpret the play this way, critic Martin Esslin explains, you'd have to ignore the ever-present uncertainty of the supposed appointment with Godot, not to mention Godot's seeming unreliability. You'd have to bury your awareness of the futility of the hope attached to this fruitless waiting that the play enacts. If Godot is God, then the condition of waiting for God is made to seem essentially absurd NIHILISM and EXISTENTIALISM

Nihilism is a radical philosophy of meaninglessness. Wikipedia tells us that it is a "belief in nothing." The world and all the humans in it exist without meaning, purpose, truth, or value. Any system of belief, or artistic expression, that denies or drains away meaning can be described as "nihilistic." Nietzsche famously accused Christianity of being a nihilistic religion because it drained meaning away from earthly life and kept its followers focused on a hope-for afterlife. His declaration that "God is dead" reverberated throughout the 20th century.

It's not too hard to understand why nihilistic philosophy, which eventually gave way to a very un-nihilistic existentialism, threatened to overwhelm us in the mid-20th century. The waning of religious faith which really began in the Enlightenment and grew even stronger with the steady rise in our faith in the sciences was helped along by Nietzsche and the Holocaust. The devastation of WWI put a huge damper on the liberal ideals of secular social progress, and revolutionary movements like communism lost a lot of steam in the wake of Stalin's totalitarianism. Hitler had plunged Europe into barbarism and genocide, justifying mass murder as the "civilized thing to do." Atomic bombs demonstrated how fragile and insignificant human life could be. In the prosperous West, a kind of spiritual emptiness descended. Under these conditions, nihilistic philosophy and art flourished. What do you expect from a set when you go to the theatre? How does Beckett's set defy your expectations? What's the purpose, do you think, of his unconventional approach to setting?
As precise as Beckett is in his set directions, and as spare as the stage is obviously supposed to be, there is still plenty of room for individual directors to interpret the setting in various ways. Who is Godot? The most obvious theory is that he [it] is God. Beckett always denied this, but this might have been because he wanted to deny the obvious interpretation. If Godot s God then he is a fickle and cruel God, more the God of the Hebrews and the old testament than the merciful one of the new testament.
Perhaps he keeps the men waiting because we can never know God, and we can never meet God in the flesh. Another interpretation would be that Godot symbolises death itself. Vladimir and Estragon must wait because we all must wait for the inevitable. In this context Estragon's desire for suicide makes a sense because it is the only way they will finally stop waiting.
Godot may also symbolise that part of our lives that always involves waiting. The mundane daily acts of waiting in Dentist's and bus stops for buses that never come, or things we would rather avoid. Who is Pozzo? some critics have said he might even be Godot, and the two heroes fail to recognise him when they see him. We first meet him in the role of master and slavedriver. He seems cruel, harsh and indifferent to suffering. He talks about the two men being on 'his' land. He is literally and metaphorically connected to Lucky so their characters must be considered in unity.
At first Pozzo is clearly the master, his abusive language, his physical control over Lucky, his superior language all seem to indicate his superior position. But then consider Act 2. When he returns he is blind, lost and pitiful. He has lost all of his arrogance. In this context, he has now become dependent on Lucky. Lucky is leading him. He is also more philosophical and has one of the most important speeches in the play, when he talks about ,'They give birth astride the grave' he is voicing one of the themes of the play. Who is Lucky? Lucky must be considered in connection to Pozzo. He is the seeming slave in their relationship. The rope and the abuse seem to make that obvious. But in Beckett appeearances can be deceptive. He is almost completely silent except for his long mad monologue in the middle of the play. and in the second act the roles are almost reversed when Pozzo becomes blind. He now leads the master, but then why doesn't he simply walk away from Pozzo? This seems to indicate that they are in a dependent relationship, as are Vladimir and Estagon.
Like Vladimir and Estragon, are they the same person? If so, what does each part represent?
Are we potentially masters and slaves at the same time?

One provocative interpretation of Lucky is that he represents the figure of Christ. Lucky, chained with a rope, is the humiliated prisoner, much like Jesus was the prisoner of the Romans after Judas turned him in. Estragon beats, curses, and spits on Lucky exactly as the Roman treated Jesus when preparing him for crucifixion. Lucky carries the burden of Pozzo's bags like a perpetual cross, and he is being led to a public fair where he will be mocked and sold. Lucky slowly chokes as the rope cuts into his neck; crucifixion suffocated Jesus.
["Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot as Criticism of Christianity." 123HelpMe.com. 24 Jan 2010 ] What do the two boys represent. Are they in fact two boys, or the same boy returning? They seem to be two as one tends the sheep and one tends the goats. Once again we see a dualism. However, the cast list specifies one boy.
Vladimir <> Estragon. Pozzo < > Lucky. Boy 1 < > Boy 2.
Godot allows them to work for him, although he does beat one boy. We learn from the second boy that Godot 'does nothing, sir,' and he has a white beard. The Christian interpretation of the play would see the boys in the role of angels. TASK:
Choose either Vladimir & Estragon or Pozzo & Lucky.
Write a character analysis of your chosen pair.
1. Write an analysis of each individual as well as their relationship.
2. Write about the six ways the playwright shows us the character and their relationship.
3. Use quotations to show examples.
4. Write a personal interpretation of your characters. It can be just one or both of them.
5. Be prepared to present this for a 5 minute presentation in class next week. See Handout -analysis of Lucky monologue Tree Shoes Hats Mound Duality Nightfall
and Moon Carrot/Turnip Lucky'sDance Belongs to Vladimir. Constantly looking in it for meaning. May symbolise man's dependence on external things for meaning. Clothes themselves may protect us, but they also hide things. The hat also symbolises a covering for the head, and Vladimir is something of an intellectual. There is also Lucky's hat, which is needed for his thinking, as in 'putting on your thinking cap'.
what then do we make of Vladimir taking Lucky's hat in Act 2. Does it change him? Duality is all over the play. There’s Vladimir and Estragon, the two thieves, the Boy and his brother, Pozzo and Lucky, Cain and Abel, and of course the two acts of the play itself. There is also the arbitrary 50/50 nature of life. One thief is saved and other damned, but for no clear reason. If Vladimir and Estragon try to hang themselves, the bough may or may not break. One man may die, one man may live. Godot may or may not come to save them. Religious significance. Jesus was crucified on the cross [The tree]
The tree of knowledge in 'Genesis' that led to the expulsion of Adam and Eve. If we think of the two men as the thieves crucified next to Jesus, the tree becomes their symbolic cross. The two men are not sure it is the right tree.
In Act 1 Vladimir says "Hope deferred maketh the something sick, who said that?" Vladimir is referring to the biblical proverb that goes a little something like this: "Hope deferred makes the heart sick; but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life." (Proverbs 13:12) But no desires are ever fulfilled for the two men. While Vladimir and Estragon wait for Godot, they also wait for nightfall. For some reason (again, arbitrary and uncertain), they don’t have to wait for him once the night has fallen. The classic interpretation is that night = dark = death. The falling of night is as much a reprieve from daily suffering as death is from the suffering of a lifetime. Carrots and turnips are in one sense just a gag reel for Vladimir and Estragon’s comic bits.
But it could be a hint as to the differences between the way Vladimir and Estragon live their lives. Vladimir’s subsequent comment, an addendum to his carrot claim, is that he "get[s] used to the muck as [he goes] along." He resigns himself to banality. Estragon, on the other hand, wearies as time passes Estragon seems condemned to forever take his boots on and off, as does Vladimir with his hat. This is another great combination of the tragic and the comic; the situation is hilarious for its absurdity, but dismal at the same time. Lucky's dance shows the decline that has befallen him. He could dance a variety of steps in his youth The mound is Estragon's symbolic part of the stage A country road, over the span of two nights. Unknown time and place. Do the men in Waiting for Godot have any sort of character arcs? Do they evolve at all, or learn anything, or change in any way from the beginning to the end of the play?
Why discuss philosophical ideas in a work of fiction instead of a treatise?
If it’s true that nothing or less than nothing happens in Waiting for Godot, how is it that we manage to be entertained as the audience/reader?
Do you think the play would function differently if the characters were all female instead of male?
Do Vladimir and Estragon stand around killing time because they’re waiting for Godot, or is waiting for Godot itself just an act to fill the void, a bit like art?
If Waiting for Godot is moralistic in nature, what is the moral? How does the play instruct us to lead our lives? Are these lessons subjective and personal for each viewer, or objective and universal? QUESTIONS
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