Is Waiting for Godot an Absurdist play?

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It is a temptation of scholars of modern drama to group all non-naturalist/realistic plays into the convenient category of “absurdist.”  But this term only applies to those dramas that enact the absurdity the playwrights see around them—they are absurd in their themes, in their view of the world. Ionesco, for example, in Rhinoceros, found a way to dramatize the absurdity of individuality vs. mass identification.  Waiting for Godot, on the other hand, dramatizes not the absurdity of the world, but its one ontological fallacy—that we have a purpose for existence, that we are waiting for a “reason to exist”.  This is not absurd on its face.  In style, too, an Absurdist play allows anything to happen next; the order of dramatized events need not follow a cause-effect pattern; look at Camus’ Caligula, in which the protagonist says “Famine starts tomorrow.”  Waiting for Godot follows all the “rules” of logic and physics in the actions it dramatizes—look, for example, at the discussion of Gogo and Didi regarding the possibility of hanging themselves from the tree branch.  As is so often the case, labeling a specific piece with a category name diminishes its uniqueness and dilutes the category.


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