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Generally, the play Waiting for Godot is said to be an absurd play. But -- as Hamlet...

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user1450001 | Student, Undergraduate | Valedictorian

Posted March 20, 2013 at 9:09 AM via web

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Generally, the play Waiting for Godot is said to be an absurd play. But -- as Hamlet has the element of revenge, Macbeth has an element of over-ambition, King Lear has the element of love and Othello, the element of jealousy --- Cant we think and say that Waiting for Godot has the element of HOPE?

(And as we all know, hope is an essential part of our lives.) 

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 20, 2013 at 9:31 PM (Answer #1)

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Just as those enumerated themes are primary in each respective play, Absurdism does seem to dominate Waiting for Godot. However, Hamlet's motivation is revenge. Macbeth's motivation is ambition. King Lear's motivation is love and the absence of love. Othello's motivation is jealousy. Each of these characters' motivations derives from a set of circumstances. Hamlet seeks revenge because his father is killed. Macbeth seeks power because the witches and his wife nudge him toward that desire. Othello becomes jealous because Iago tricks him. 

Vladimir and Estragon also react to their Absurd situation. But what motivates them to continue to strive against that absurdity? Maybe it is hope that Godot will eventually arrive. Maybe they feel that although Godot might not ever arrive, they at least have each other. So, at least they can suffer together and thus, there is hope in friendship or comfort in not suffering alone.

Since everything seems random, Vladimir and Estragon have nothing to count on other than each other and the seemingly futile hope of Godot's arrival. Then again, Vladimir and Estragon might continue to wait simply out of habit, much like an unhappy person who does nothing to change his/her lifestyle because change would be too uncomfortable. 

But one could certainly interpret that Vladimir and Estragon continue to wait because there is something about the human condition (at least for them, if not in general) in which hope functions not just to push humans toward ideals and dreams but also to face and endure suffering and/or absurd circumstances. 

Vladimir's and Estragon's waiting is comparable to Phil's waiting in the movie Groundhog Day. Phil continues to wait for his Godot: tomorrow. Being a Hollywood movie, tomorrow eventually comes thus ensuring a happy ending. But prior to that happy ending, Phil plays the waiting game, suffering all of the emotions Vladimir and Estragon must endure: denial, confusion, bewilderment, acceptance, etc. Like Vladimir and Estragon, Phil attempts suicide and fails. Eventually, Phil finds a way to triumph over his absurd situation by using the repetition to enrich the repetition. 

Vladimir and Estragon have a more uncertain ending. The Boy confirms that Godot will be there tomorrow. In the end, they try to leave but they can not. They reluctantly hold on to the hope that Godot will eventually come. But there are other ways of interpreting this play. Maybe their hope is actually to leave and be free of their dependence on Godot (perhaps representing God, authority, social expectations). 

The question concerning motivation: what makes them continue to wait and/or what prevents them from actually leaving? In either case, wanting to wait or wanting to leave, the motivation could be habit or hope. Or, as life is complex, maybe it is a bit of both. In Act 2, Vladimir offers a small insight: 

We have time to grow old. The air is full of our cries. (He listens.) But habit is a great deadener. 

Waiting for the sake of waiting is habit; nothing more. But in questioning their waiting, absurd as it is, at least they are constructive in actively questioning their absurd situation; perhaps in the hope to someday understand and use it to make their lives more meaningful. 

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