Discuss Waiting for Godot as a religious/biblical allusion play.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Beckett himself argued that the play was not to be read as a statement about God.  Yet, there is much here to suggest an overall statement about the nature of totality or transcendence is being rendered.  Put aside the concept of the word, "God," in "Godot."  When we examine the play of the characters waiting for something that ends up causing them paralysis in hoping for an arrival, there is some element of seeking out transcendence to substitute for human action.  Throughout the play, Vladimir and Estragon speak to taking action, articulate the condition of freedom in which they are immersed, yet this analysis and experience is stunted because of the need to "wait."  The implication here is that while individuals might possess the vocabulary or experiences to suggest otherwise, the faith in transcendence or an overarching meaning is one where individuals lose their capacity for taking action in the hopes of waiting.  It is this paralysis that Beckett might be criticizing.  Certainly, the idea of a divine power providing resolution to the pain of human consciousness, to the fragmented nature of mortality (something powerfully evoked through the form of the play), and the idea that there could be something to render answers so that human action is not needed are all elements that help to bring out a great deal of religious discourse from Beckett's work.  There is a profound post modern distrust of anything that can provide transcendental relief, as the belief in the play is that we can only hope to obtain figments and fragments that might be of use in guiding us.  In the end, though, we are left despondent in our isolation, without anything to provide immediate sanctuary.  The best we can do is simply that, the best we can do.  The answers, if there are any, are nothing more than exercises that consist of waiting for a dinner guest who will not arrive.

Lynn Ramsson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This question is slightly confusing, but there is a Biblical allusion in Act I of the play, and perhaps that is what you mean by a Biblical allusion play. At the beginning of Act I of Waiting for Godot, Vladimir asks Estragon: "Hope deferred maketh the something sick, who said that?"

The answer to Vladimir's question is in the Bible, and his quote is a direct allusion to a verse from the Book of Proverbs. Proverbs 13:12 reads: "Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life."

Estragon ignores Vladimir's question, but Vladimir goes on: "Sometimes I feel it coming all the same. Then I go all queer..." One reading of this line connects the Bible verse to Vladimir's question; perhaps Vladimir is referring to the desire that comes as a tree of life when he says he can feel "it" coming. That "it" makes him go all queer suggests that the tree of life, and all the hope and salvation the tree may represent, is not actually his desired outcome. He talks about feeling "relieved and at the same time... appalled," revealing that he feels a rather mixed reaction to the "tree of life" promised by the Bible verse.

thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First, one should note that Beckett himself has stated that he did not intend this as a religious allegory and so such an interpretation is somewhat problematic.

One might argue that the name Godot resembles the English word "God." The problem with this is that the play was originally written in French; the French word for God is "Dieu."

Next, the only major piece of scenery for the play is a single tree. This could be read as signifying the tree in the Garden of Eden.

The waiting to which the two men refer could be seen in parallel the the waiting of Christians for the Second Coming of Christ. As is the case with Godot, no one knows when that will happen, as it will come like a "thief in the night."

Finally, one could see Vladimir and Estragon as parallel with the two thieves crucified with Christ and the reversal in power of Lucky and Pozzo as reflecting Matthew 20:16: "So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen."