Abstract illustration of two hats under a leafless tree in black and white

Waiting for Godot

by Samuel Beckett

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Act 1 Summary

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The entirety of Waiting for Godot is set on a country road, with a solitary tree in the backdrop. The play begins in the evening, with Estragon sitting on the ground, struggling to remove his boot. Vladimir enters and rejoices once he sees Estragon—however, the latter rebuffs Vladimir’s attempt to embrace him. Vladimir inundates Estragon with questions of where he spent the night and if he was beaten once more. He then reminisces about their time together, but Estragon stops him to ask for help with his boot. The two quarrel briefly. Estragon, without Vladimir’s help, manages to take off his boot.

Vladimir begins to tell Estragon the tale of Jesus and the two thieves. He finds it interesting that only one of the four Evangelists confirms that such an event ever happened, and yet it is the version most widely accepted. This does not interest Estragon, however, and he implores Vladimir that they should go. Vladimir reminds him that they cannot leave, as they are waiting for Godot. The two then start doubting if they are at the right place and time for their meeting. Estragon bids Vladimir to stop talking and takes a nap on the ground. Lonely, Vladimir wakes Estragon up yet refuses to let the latter tell him about the nightmare he had. He also does not let Estragon finish his joke about the Englishman in a brothel. To pass the time, Estragon suggests to Vladimir that they hang themselves. However, the two are unable to figure out if the tree is strong enough to hold their weight. Estragon asks Vladimir to remind him what their business is with Godot. Vladimir responds vaguely, and the two reason about the matter back and forth.

Estragon announces that he is hungry, and Vladimir volunteers a carrot from his pocket. Biting and sucking on the carrot, Estragon repeats his question of whether they are tied to Godot. Vladimir answers in the affirmative, and the two confirm that there is nothing they can do about it. Suddenly, they hear a loud cry and rush to the wings to hide.

Pozzo and his slave, Lucky enter, the latter carrying a heavy bag, folding stool, picnic basket, and greatcoat. When he spots Vladimir and Estragon, Pozzo tugs on the rope that is tied around Lucky’s neck, leading Lucky to halt abruptly and fall with his baggage. Vladimir moves to assist Lucky, but Pozzo warns him that Lucky is unfriendly with strangers. Estragon briefly mistakes Pozzo for Godot, and Pozzo is aghast that the two do not know who he is.

Pozzo, with Lucky’s assistance, settles down and starts consuming chicken and wine from the picnic basket. He reveals that he has been traveling alone for over six hours and that he is glad to find some company. Vladimir and Estragon discuss Lucky’s sorry state. Once Pozzo is finished eating, Estragon shamelessly asks for the chicken bones. While Vladimir is outraged at Pozzo’s treatment of Lucky, Estragon persists in asking why Lucky does not put down his bags. After smoking twice with his pipe, Pozzo answers that Lucky is trying to convince Pozzo not to get rid of him. He reveals that he plans to sell Lucky at the fair. Lucky begins to weep, and Estragon attempts to wipe the tears away—however, Lucky kicks him in the shins.

Pozzo pontificates on the constant quantity of tears and laughter in the world, then reveals that it was Lucky who once taught him such beautiful, philosophical things. It angers Vladimir that Pozzo wants to discard Lucky, but Pozzo bemoans that he cannot stand what Lucky has become. Suddenly, Pozzo realizes that his pipe is gone from his pockets and panics. Estragon beseeches Pozzo to sit down in an effort to calm him. After asserting that he must be on his way, Pozzo waxes poetic on the transient phases of the sky, faltering toward the end. In order to thank Vladimir and Estragon for their company, he proposes to entertain them with Lucky. Pozzo bids Lucky to dance, and the latter does so frantically. The three are unimpressed, and Vladimir tells Pozzo to command Lucky to think. After Vladimir places the thinking hat on Lucky’s head, Pozzo shouts at Lucky to think, along with a series of short commands.

Lucky proceeds with a lengthy and almost indecipherable speech, repeating certain academic-sounding nonsense phrases several times. At Pozzo’s behest, Vladimir seizes Lucky’s hat from his head, causing Lucky to fall. Pozzo throws the hat on the ground and kicks Lucky, ordering him to get up. He then enlists Vladimir’s and Estragon’s help to lift Lucky so that they may depart. Finally, the three get Lucky back on his feet. After searching in vain for the watch he’d misplaced, Pozzo proceeds to leave, bidding the two adieu.

Left to their own devices, Estragon once more invites Vladimir to leave, prompting the latter to remind him that they are waiting for Godot. Vladimir hints that they’ve met Pozzo and Lucky before and merely pretended not to know them. However, Estragon insists otherwise.

A timid voice calls out, and Vladimir bids a child approach. The boy addresses Vladimir as “Mr. Albert” and claims he brings a message from Godot. Estragon asks the boy what kept him so late, and the latter reveals that he was frightened of the two men from earlier. Vladimir then asks the boy if he is the same messenger from yesterday, to which the boy replies no.

The boy informs them that Mr. Godot will not be arriving this evening, but tomorrow. Vladimir proceeds to ask the boy a series of questions regarding the type of treatment he receives in Mr. Godot’s employ. Before he leaves, the boy asks what he is to tell Mr. Godot, to which Vladimir replies that he should simply say he saw them.

Vladimir and Estragon are left alone once more. Estragon places his boots at the edge of the stage and, once asked about it, reveals to Vladimir that he is leaving them there for someone with smaller feet. Barefoot, Estragon compares himself to Christ, leaving Vladimir incredulous. Vladimir tries to comfort Estragon that things will be better tomorrow and that they need only wait. Looking at the tree, Estragon bids Vladimir to remind him to bring rope tomorrow. He wonders aloud if they would be better off apart, but both concede that parting is not worthwhile now.

Vladimir and Estragon confirm to each other that they must go, but neither move. The curtain falls.

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Act 2 Summary