What is the dramatic significance of the song of Vladimir in Act 2 of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot?
At the start of Act II, Vladimir enters and moves about the stage where he observes Estragon’s boots and begins to sing. The song is about a dog that stole a crust of bread from a kitchen and is later killed by the cook. After the death of the dog, other dogs dug a grave for their dead colleague and wrote its story on the tombstone to serve as historic information for other dogs in the future.
Vladimir keeps repeating this song until Estragon enters the stage. The dog in Vladimir’s song seems to represent Estragon, the crust of bread represents joy or fulfillment, the cook represents life and the ladle its reality, the other dogs that dig the grave represent Vladimir and other wretched human beings and the tombstone represents the end of life and captures the story of the dead when they were alive.
The song is important because it was basically telling their story of hardship and although Vladimir was not completely happy with the situation he was seemingly resigned to the reality. The two men are suicidal because of their suffering but they are willing to wait for Godot the mysterious individual hoping for salvation.
When Vladimir enters in Act II, he is singing what turns out to be a very dark song. In verses that repeat, the song tells the story of a dog who steals a crust of bread and is beaten to death. When Estragon enters shortly after Vladimir stops singing, it turns out that Estragon has also been beaten, like the dog in the song. He is angry at Vladimir and says, "That finished me. I said to myself, He's all alone, he thinks I'm gone for ever, and he sings." Estragon feels that Vladimir's singing means that Vladimir is callous and does not care about his beating. Therefore, a song, which is supposed to be a source of joy, becomes a source of contention and anger.
Later in the same act, Estragon is trying to sleep when Vladimir again begins singing "bye, bye, bye..." into his ear. The song is annoying and jarring rather than peaceful. The dramatic significance of the song is that it creates something dark and irritating out of something that is supposed to be joyful. Vladimir's songs also have repetitive elements, so they enforce the repetition and endless cycles in the action of the play.
The significance of Vladimir's song comes mostly from the circular nature of the song. It seems that if Estragon doesn't enter, the song will continue forever. The dog is killed, and the other dogs dig a tomb and erect a tombstone that tells the story.
This circular song then reinforces Beckett's idea of the loss of individuality. The individuality of the original dog is lost to the repetition of the routine.
The song also creates more conflict between Vladimir and Estragon. When Estragon arrives and hears Vladimir singing, he recognizes that Vladimir is happy, even in Estragon's absence.