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Why is Waiting for Godot called an absurd play?

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piu38 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Honors

Posted February 16, 2012 at 6:58 PM via web

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Why is Waiting for Godot called an absurd play?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 16, 2012 at 7:36 PM (Answer #1)

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The movement of literature referred to as the Theatre of the Absurd refers to plays that are a bleak, depressing picture of the condition and the style which acts as the medium for conveying this impression to the audience. Existentialist thinking is evident in this play by Beckett, which relates to the idea that the human life profoundly lacks any purpose or meaning and that we as humans dwell in a world which is either deeply hostile towards us or at best indifferent.

Plays that are part of the Theatre of the Absurd are stylistically marked by an abadonment of familiar conventions such as realistic characters, a clarity of plot and understandable dialogue. This helped the audience to experience the absurdity of the world that was presented before them. We can see how this play is an example of this movement by the way in which the characters are strange misfits who engage in complex and abstruse dialogue that seems to be full of non-sequiturs and illogical. This is of course given its most extreme expression in Lucky's monologue in the first act:

I resume alas alas on on in short in fine on on abode of stones who can doubt it I resume but not so fast I resume the skull to shrink.

Such a presentation of character and dialogue serve to confirm this masterpiece as an excellent example of the Theatre of the Absurd. At the end of the day, it is a play about two men who do very little except are left to wait in a meaningless situation endlessly. Beckett therefore reveals a very depressing view of human life.


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wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted February 17, 2012 at 1:35 AM (Answer #2)

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A distinction should be made: it is not an absurd play, but an absurdist play (and even that can be argued. Beckett's view of the universe is not absurd, but goalless. He dramatizes the consequences of Existential thinking. And just because he spent his life trying to "eff" the ineffable does not mean he proselytizes this view, only that he tried to find a way to express the view. Anyone who has read more of his work knows that his humor and word juggling had a very life--affirming tone. Read "Ohio Impromptu" for a profound statement of how the two sides of human existence, the physical and the mental, join together in a non-absurdist way
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prishi12 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted February 21, 2012 at 5:41 PM (Answer #3)

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The play has certain distinct features which make it different from other conventional plays like - plain and simple stage setting, tramps as protagonists, absence of conventional plot, asymmetrical structure of the play and much more.

Theatre of Absurd or Absurd Drama

In simple words, Absurd means having no rational or orderly relationship to human life or ridiculously unreasonable.

Theatre of Absurd is a form of drama that emphasizes the absurdity of human existence by employing disjointed, repetitious and meaningless dialogue, purposeless and confusing situations, and plots that lack realistic or logical development.

The Theatre of the Absurd was the major theatrical phenomenon of the 1950s. It was played out against the backdrop of the Cold War. The settings and characters are unhistorical, reflecting the metaphysical rather than social preoccupations of this type of drama. The absence of plot emphasizes the futility and monotony of human existence. Characters lack motivation, and are seen to spend their time either waiting for something to happen (a motif common to all three playwrights) or engaged in meaningless exchanges of words. Cause and effect are dissociated, making events appear arbitrary and unpredictable. Material objects and stage properties appear incongruous. Time is elastic and non-linear. The characteristic mood of these plays is tragicomic, inevitably so, because they express a nihilistic view of human existence whilst simultaneously denying man the dignity necessary to achieve genuine tragic stature.

Waiting for Godot reflects all of the above characteristic features of Theatre of Absurd. 

Waiting for Godot as an Absurd Drama-

In the play, the two protagonist, Vladimir and Estragon, wait endlessly and in vain for someone named Godot to arrive. Waiting for Godot follows two days in the lives of these two men in two acts. In both the acts, the two tramps are inexhaustible in inventing new ways of passing time and there is repetition of action. Their wait seems endless and nothing changes except the time.

Beckett’s Godot can be taken for anything or nothing. The play can be looked up as a metaphor for human situation at its most ‘absurd’. The play flout all the standards by which drama has been judged over centuries. Structurally, in contrast to a well-made play with a beginning and an end, Godot is an absurd drama that starts as an arbitrary point and also ends like that. The strength of the play lies in its opposition to the rules of convention.

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