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Waiting for Godot

En Attendant Godot

beckett play day human

the first play by Samuel Beckett; it was published in French as En Attendant Godot in 1952, staged in French in Paris in 1953, and performed in Beckett's own English translation in 1955. One of the key works of the twentieth century, it is set on and around a country road and involves two days in the life of Estragon and Vladimir, both tramps and both awaiting the arrival of the mysterious title character. He never appears, notwithstanding the promises of a small boy who enters at the end of each act, claiming to be his emissary. Meanwhile, Vladimir (the more optimistic and energetic) and Estragon (the more pessimistic and self-pitying) pass the time by playing verbal games, reminiscing, bickering, philosophizing inconsequentially, speculating about the future, and reacting to two other characters: the arrogant Pozzo and his slave, Lucky. Each act ends with the same exchange: ‘well, shall we go?’; ‘yes, let's go’, followed by the stage direction, ‘they do not move’. Beckett's aim is evidently to represent in symbolic terms the inscrutability of the universe, the uncertainties of human existence, and the vanity of human effort, which explains why the play is regarded as a seminal contribution to The Theatre of the Absurd. Though humour is often present, it is of a kind that shows the folly as much as the resilience of human beings. Again, though Beckett himself said that the play is ‘striving all the time to avoid definition’, the thrust seems well summed up by Pozzo, who has been inexplicably struck blind between his two appearances: ‘One day we were born, one day we shall die, the same day, the same second…they give birth astride of a grave, the light glimmers an instant, and then it's night once more.’

[back] Jeffrey Wainwright Biography - (1944– ), The Important Man, Poetry of the Committed Individual, Poetry Introduction: 3

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