Study Guide

Waiting for Godot

by Samuel Beckett

Waiting for Godot Essay - Critical Essays

Sample Essay Outlines

The following topics can be used for analytical papers on Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. The outlines provide starting points for your writing.

Topic #1
This is a play about “Waiting.” How is that evident throughout the play?

I. Thesis Statement: In this play, two characters wait for someone they call “Godot.” While they wait on stage, the audience waits in their seats.

II. Estragon and Vladimir wait by entertaining themselves with language.
A. The language of repetition
B. The language of double negatives
C. Vaudevillian “cross-talk”
D. Stichomythic play
E. Vladimir’s songs
1. A “round song” in B-1
2. A lullaby in B-2

III. Estragon and Vladimir wait by playing games.
A. In A-1 Vladimir says, “Come on, Gogo, return the ball”
1. Back and forth rallying as on tennis court
2. Words as balls
3. In B-4, Estragon says “Child’s play”
B. In B-2, Vladimir and Estragon play “Pass the hat”
C. In B-2, they play “Theater game.” Vladimir says, “We could play at Pozzo and Lucky”

IV. Estragon and Vladimir wait, as spectators of the “play within a play”
A. Evidence of breaking of “fourth wall”
B. Vladimir’s offstage antics
C. Arrival of Pozzo and Lucky

V. The audience waits with physical themes of “Silence,” and “Pause”
A. Beckett said “If they did it my way, they would empty and theater”
B. “Silence” follows dialogue
C. “Pause” follows interactions of the characters

VI. Conclusion: “Waiting” is the essence of this play

Topic #2
Beckett called his play a “tragicomedy.” What elements are there of tragedy? What elements are there of comedy? How are these elements interwoven?

I. Thesis Statement: There are tragic elements as well as comic elements in this play. Tragic elements are seen in the circumstances of the characters, their life where “Nothing happens and nothing can be done,” and the empty stage. The comic elements revolve around the games the characters invent, their interactions with each other, and the vaudevillian routines.

II. Tragic Elements
A. Circumstances of the characters
1. Vladimir and Estragon are homeless tramps
2. Lucky as slave to Pozzo
a. Lucky has a past that suggests he once could think, dance, recite and sing
b. Lucky as a victim—akin to tortured prisoner
c. Lucky loses his ability to speak
3. Pozzo goes blind
B. “Nothing happens and nothing can be done”
1. The lives of Vladimir and Estragon never change
a. They contemplate suicide
b. They continue to wait for Godot
c. They remain physically impaired
1. Vladimir’s bladder
2. Estragon’s feet
d. They do not age
2. Compared to Lucky
3. Compared to Pozzo
C. The empty stage
1. The tree
2. The mound
3. The sky
4. The moon

III. Comic Elements
A. Language games
B. Vaudevillian routines
C. “All fall down” at the end of B-3
D. Estragon’s pants at the end of B-5

IV. Interwoven elements of tragedy and comedy
A. Hopelessness becomes hopefulness
1. Vladimir and Estragon continue to hope that salvation will come
2. Pozzo and Lucky move on in spite of disabilities
B. Humorous colloquialisms express tragic states
C. Death does not arrive. The day passes
1. The dead willow of Act I sprouts leaves by Act II
2. The moon swiftly arrives at the end of both acts

V. Conclusion: This is a “tragicomedy” because elements of tragedy and comedy are clearly evident throughout the play

Topic #3
The characters in this play all function as part of what Beckett referred to as a...

(The entire section is 1628 words.)