How does the use of repetition in the play Waiting for Godot help in bringing out the elements of absurdist theatre?

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iandavidclark3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Before answering how repetition brings out qualities of absurdist theatre in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, it helps to get a better understanding of what absurdist theatre entails. Absurdist theatre has many qualities, but the ones that will serve us the most here are the ideas that, 1) there is an inherent futility in human being's efforts on Earth and, 2) nothing meaningful can happen, so nothing much happens in the play. 

Now, let's see how these qualities apply to repetition in Godot. The play has two acts that mirror one another. Both acts begin with Vladimir and Estragon engaging in nonsensical conversation, and then Pozzo and Lucky arrive, and then, after Lucky and Pozzo leave, a young boy arrives and informs Vladimir and Estragon that Godot won't be coming by on that particular day, but should be arriving soon. Both acts end with Vladimir and Estragon vowing to "go" and then not moving. Basically, though there are of course differences between the two parts of the play, the first and second acts share the same overarching structure. This repetitive nature gradually gives the audience the feeling that nothing is happening, i.e., nothing is being accomplished. We end up right where we started. This quality in turn gives rise to a feeling of futility, as if there isn't much point in acting at all. In other words, Beckett's use of repetition in structure is one of the primary ways that he constructs a feeling of futility and lack of inherent meaning, which are two fundamental aspects of absurdist theatre. 


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Waiting for Godot

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