Waiting for Godot Summary
Waiting for Godot is a play in which two men, Estragon and Vladimir, wait for someone named Godot to arrive.
- Estragon and Vladimir meet near a country road. They consider suicide while waiting for Godot.
- Pozzo and his slave, Lucky, approach the men. Lucky delivers a speech about God and hell.
- A young boy delivers a message from Godot, promising he’ll come tomorrow.
- A different day, Estragon reports that Godot is coming, but instead, Lucky approaches with Pozzo. The boy returns to say that Godot will come tomorrow. Estragon and Vladimir decide they’ll hang themselves if Godot doesn’t come.
Last Updated on July 10, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 944
Waiting for Godot is a play written by Samuel Beckett and first performed in 1953. Beckett, an Irish playwright, wrote the play during a period of existentialist thought and post-World War II disillusionment. Waiting for Godot is a landmark of the Theater of the Absurd, a genre that emphasizes the existentialist themes of human existence, uncertainty, and the absurdity of life.
The play follows two tramps named Vladimir and Estragon, who wait at an unspecified place near a tree for their appointment with a man named Godot. The act of waiting weighs heavily upon them both as they look desperately for ways to fill up the time. Almost nothing is established as certain for them: they don’t know if they’re in the right place or if they are there at the right time. They don’t know what Godot looks like or what exactly they’re supposed to receive from him, or when—or if—he will ever come.
In the first act, the play opens with Estragon trying to extricate his feet from his boots. Vladimir arrives and asks for an embrace but is rejected by Estragon; in turn, Estragon begs Vladimir for help with his boots but is ignored by Vladimir, who accuses Estragon of only ever being concerned with his own suffering.
Vladimir recalls the story of the two thieves who were crucified along with Christ; he wonders why of the four accounts given by Evangelists, only two mention the presence of the thieves, and only one of them mentions a thief being saved. An uninterested Estragon suggests that they should go, but Vladimir reminds them that they have an appointment with Godot. To pass the time, Estragon suggests hanging themselves from the tree. They discuss it and balk at the idea when they consider that the bough might not be able to carry both of their weights.
The slaver Pozzo arrives, along with his menial Lucky, who is shown to be freighted with Pozzo’s possessions. The haughty Pozzo, eager for company, engages Vladimir and Estragon in conversation. The three discuss various things, including Pozzo’s plans to sell Lucky. To give themselves a bit of entertainment, they decide to make Lucky dance and then think. Lucky’s dance is his impression of being trapped in a net, while his speech is a long and difficult jumble of profanity and lucidity that seems to betray an academic background and a quasi-aphasic affliction. The three are horrified by the speech and eventually seize the opportunity to stop him. After that, Pozzo and Lucky both depart.
They are approached by a young boy who says that Godot won’t be able to arrive for the day. Vladimir interrogates the boy as if to familiarize himself with the boy as an individual. He asks the boy if he can really see them— him and Estragon. The boy affirms this and then leaves. An unhappy Estragon takes off his boots and resolves to leave them behind. They talk about separating, then they talk about leaving. But they don’t move.
In the second act, the scene opens with Vladimir pacing to and fro before stopping to sing to himself. Estragon enters with an air of despondency and rejects Vladimir’s attempts to engage him. But once Vladimir exerts his authority and they exchange longing looks, they embrace, and Estragon’s mood improves.
Vladimir asks Estragon to look at the tree, which seems to have grown leaves when it was barren just yesterday. Estragon denies having any memory of the place or of yesterday’s events and asserts that Vladimir must have been dreaming. Vladimir brings up Pozzo and Lucky and rolls up...
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one of Estragon’s pant legs to show the festering wound where Lucky kicked him. Growing tired from the conversation, Estragon goes to sleep before fearfully waking up from a nightmare and being embraced by Vladimir. They play all sorts of different social games to pass the time.
Pozzo and Lucky return, bound together by a much shorter leash; this is due to Pozzo’s having become blind during the interval. Lucky stops at the sight of the main duo, and Pozzo, still walking and still blind, stumbles into Lucky, and they both fall to the floor. From Pozzo, there are repeated cries for help, but Vladimir and Estragon ignore and mock him, choosing to amuse themselves with Pozzo’s situation instead of helping him. Once they get bored and decide to do something else, they finally help Pozzo to get on his feet.
Before Pozzo and Lucky depart, Vladimir asks to hear Lucky sing. Pozzo explains that this is no longer possible, as Lucky has lost his voice, to which Vladimir asks when. The line of questioning makes Pozzo furious, and he asserts that things end too quickly for the specific order of events to matter. Then he and Lucky leave.
Vladimir begins to wonder whether he is dreaming or asleep. He watches Estragon, who has actually gone to sleep and complains about the overabundance of time. He is approached by the boy with another message from Godot. Vladimir interrogates the boy about his identity and memory and learns that the boy doesn’t remember anything from yesterday. Growing desperate, he lunges and screams at the boy, leading the latter to run away in fear.
The sleeping Estragon awakens and asks Vladimir why he seems upset. Vladimir replies, “Nothing.” Estragon suggests leaving, but Vladimir reminds him that they still have to wait for Godot. Estragon says, “I can’t go on like this.” Vladimir replies, “That’s what you think.” They say they should go, but they don’t move.