Waiting for Godot is a play in which nothing happens.      Explain?

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Waiting for Godot is a short play. Otherwise it might grow tedious because it is true that nothing much happens. Samuel Beckett's purpose was, to use Shakespeare's words, "to hold the mirror up to nature." Beckett is showing the audience how they themselves are waiting, how everyone in the world (perhaps with some exceptions) is waiting for his or her Godot. The irony is that the people in the audience are looking at themselves without realizing it. The waiting is what happens. The play is about waiting for something to happen which is probably never going to happen.

Alexander Pope wrote:

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never is, but always to be blessed.

Henry James's wonderful short story "The Beast in the Jungle" is about a man who finds out that he has been waiting all his life for something to happen and what was happening was the wait itself. Beckett may have gotten the inspiration for his play from this story.

Godot is evidently a real person and most likely an important man. But why should he want to meet these two bums or do anything to help them? They are waiting for someone to help them because they are bums, and they are bums because they are waiting for someone to help them. If they had sense enough and gumption enough to look out for themselves, they wouldn't have to be waiting for Godot--and they wouldn't be bums.

dessiejay | Student

Vivian Mercier famously described Waiting for Godot as “a play in which nothing happens.” The short two-act play earns this description because it does not have the typical elements of a plot. It lacks rising action, climax and resolution.

Act 1 opens with the two main characters, Vladimir and Estragon, sitting by a tree and waiting for someone (or something) named Godot. They talk about different topics until a young boy arrives and tells them that Godot will not come until the next day. Act 2 essentially repeats the first act with a few changes. At the end of the play, the characters are in the same situation they begin. They are still sitting by tree and waiting for Godot. For the most part, nothing has happened in the their lives.

Just because “nothing happens” in Waiting for Godot does not mean the play is bad. It had a big impact on plays written from the 20th century and on. It introduced new literary techniques that influenced the work of later playwrights such as Tom Stoppard.