On January 5, 1953, the audience members at the Théâtre de Babylone in Paris entered a showing of Samuel Beckett’s En Attendant Godot, expecting to see a conventional play. However, faced with a play that lacked the key elements of Aristotelian models, viewers were torn between confusion and intrigue, and En Attendant Godot consequently became one of the most popular productions in France. When Beckett translated it into English a year later, christening it Waiting for Godot, it became a hit among British and American audiences too. Waiting for Godot chronicles two men, Vladimir and Estragon, who stand in a lonely landscape by a tree and, as the title suggests, wait for Godot, but this simple premise has a catch – it is the only premise.
All day, every day, Vladimir and Estragon do nothing but pass the time as they endlessly await Godot, and the only break from this dreary monotony is when two other characters, Pozzo and Lucky, pass through. The repetitive, inane discourse between the four characters initially irritates the audience, with good reason. After all, the seemingly illogical behavior of the characters rankles the usually more reasonable people watching or reading the play, who ask themselves: why don’t they just leave?
However, as the play progresses, it becomes clear that they cannot leave. Even if they threaten to, there is some invisible force that keeps them tethered to the faint hope that Godot will arrive, even as it becomes increasingly obvious that he will not. As annoyed as one might be with Vladimir and Estragon’s behavior, one cannot help but draw parallels between their situation and that of humanity – after all, whether they are aware of it or not, everyone holds a secret hope or desire that they maintain despite clear evidence that it will never come to fruition.
In the end, these men illustrate to the audience that humans as a whole, no matter what their differences may be, will continually strive for that which will never come without ever realizing its impossibility. As Vladimir and Estragon long for Godot, Pozzo for power, and Lucky for freedom, it is clear that they all are really searching for meaning in a world that has none to offer.
– Mahak M.
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.