What is significant about the action with the hats in Act II of Waiting for Godot?

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The significance of the hat-swapping in Act II is usually attributed to Beckett's admiration of the famous Laurel and Hardy routines in Vaudeville.  In a true representation of the Theatre of the Absurd, we are given a brief moment of true comic relief as we are immersed in this slapstick comedy.  This is evident even in reading the ever-popular online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, in its entry on Laurel and Hardy.  "Observers have found the archetypal Laurel and Hardy scenario (two tramp-like men bewildered by the simplest elements of life) to have much in common with the Theatre of the Absurd.  This is most manifested in the work of Samuel Beckett, himself a fan, and who was unquestionably influenced by the characters in works such as Waiting for Godot."  In addition, I find it interesting that it is Estragon who winds up with Lucky's hat, his special "thinking hat" from Act I, that I suspect is supposed to be a play on the "put on your thinking cap" idiom.  Perhaps this is the reason why Lucky is no longer able to talk when we see him again.  Ah, welcome to absurdist literature!