What do critics say about Waiting for Godot ?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For the most part, critics today see Beckett's work as a masterpiece.  Most have come to see it as a landmark of theatre, a work whose thematic importance is only matched by its artistic.  This was not always the viewpoint when it first opened.  European audiences saw much relevancy in Beckett's work.  There was general acclaim for the work and what it sought to represent.  At the same time, many in Europe were able to debate the thematic implications of the work in realms such as religion, ethics, and philosophy.  When the work came to America, reception was not as intensely positive.  The work struggled to find a niche with people wondering "if a joke" had been perpetrated.  American audiences had a tough time with Beckett's work, its staging, and the end thematic ideas.  Interestingly enough, the production at San Quentin prison earned a great deal of acclaim.  It seemed that while the general American public had a difficult time understanding the work, those incarcerated at San Quentin understood what the play was saying about waiting and hope.