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Waiting for Godot

by Samuel Beckett

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The following topics can be used for analytical papers on Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. The outlines provide starting points for your writing.

Topic #1

This is a play about “Waiting.” How is that evident throughout the play?


I. Thesis Statement: In this play, two characters wait for someone they call “Godot.” While they wait on stage, the audience waits in their seats.

II. Estragon and Vladimir wait by entertaining themselves with language.
A. The language of repetition
B. The language of double negatives
C. Vaudevillian “cross-talk”
D. Stichomythic play
E. Vladimir’s songs
1. A “round song” in B-1
2. A lullaby in B-2

III. Estragon and Vladimir wait by playing games.
A. In A-1 Vladimir says, “Come on, Gogo, return the ball”
1. Back and forth rallying as on tennis court
2. Words as balls
3. In B-4, Estragon says “Child’s play”
B. In B-2, Vladimir and Estragon play “Pass the hat”
C. In B-2, they play “Theater game.” Vladimir says, “We could play at Pozzo and Lucky”

IV. Estragon and Vladimir wait, as spectators of the “play within a play”
A. Evidence of breaking of “fourth wall”
B. Vladimir’s offstage antics
C. Arrival of Pozzo and Lucky

V. The audience waits with physical themes of “Silence,” and “Pause”
A. Beckett said “If they did it my way, they would empty and theater”
B. “Silence” follows dialogue
C. “Pause” follows interactions of the characters

VI. Conclusion: “Waiting” is the essence of this play

Topic #2

Beckett called his play a “tragicomedy.” What elements are there of tragedy? What elements are there of comedy? How are these elements interwoven?


I. Thesis Statement: There are tragic elements as well as comic elements in this play. Tragic elements are seen in the circumstances of the characters, their life where “Nothing happens and nothing can be done,” and the empty stage. The comic elements revolve around the games the characters invent, their interactions with each other, and the vaudevillian routines.

II. Tragic Elements
A. Circumstances of the characters
1. Vladimir and Estragon are homeless tramps
2. Lucky as slave to Pozzo
a. Lucky has a past that suggests he once could think, dance, recite and sing
b. Lucky as a victim—akin to tortured prisoner
c. Lucky loses his ability to speak
3. Pozzo goes blind
B. “Nothing happens and nothing can be done”
1. The lives of Vladimir and Estragon never change
a. They contemplate suicide
b. They continue to wait for Godot
c. They remain physically impaired
1. Vladimir’s bladder
2. Estragon’s feet
d. They do not age
2. Compared to Lucky
3. Compared to Pozzo
C. The empty stage
1. The tree
2. The mound
3. The sky
4. The moon

III. Comic Elements
A. Language games
B. Vaudevillian routines
C. “All fall down” at the end of B-3
D. Estragon’s pants at the end of B-5

IV. Interwoven elements of tragedy and comedy
A. Hopelessness becomes hopefulness
1. Vladimir and Estragon continue to hope that salvation will come
2. Pozzo and Lucky move on in spite of disabilities
B. Humorous colloquialisms express tragic states
C. Death does not arrive. The day passes
1. The dead willow of Act I sprouts leaves by Act II
2. The moon swiftly arrives at the end of both acts

V. Conclusion: This is a “tragicomedy” because elements of tragedy and comedy are clearly evident throughout the play

Topic #3

The characters in this play all function as part of what Beckett referred to as a “pseudocouple.” Discuss the validity of this statement.


I. Thesis Statement: Estragon and Vladimir function together as a couple. Pozzo and Lucky remain together as a couple. The boy, or messenger, has a brother so he is also part of a couple. Godot, who never arrives, is not a character in this play. He remains a “concept”, and so he is not coupled.

II. Estragon and Vladimir:
A. Dependence on each other
B. Validation of each other
C. Sparring partners
D. Knowledge of each other
E. Routines
F. Complementary infirmities
1. Vladimir’s bladder; Estragon’s feet
2. Vladimir’s bad breath; Estragon’s smelly feet
G. Complementary visual symbols
1. Vladimir’s hat, tree and sky
2. Estragon’s boots, mound, and ground

III. Pozzo and Lucky
A. Master-Slave relationship
B. Sado-masochistic relationship
C. Complementary patterns of aging
1. Pozzo’s blindness
2. Lucky’s inability to speak

IV. The boy and his brother
A. Employed by Godot
1. As messengers
2. As goatherd and shepherd
B. Good and evil
1. One is beaten
2. One is not

V. Godot remains unknown
A. Estragon and Vladimir project that he has consultants in A-2
B. The boy describes his physical attributes and behavioral patterns
C. He never appears, so he remains a concept
D. The concept is open-ended, and lends itself to numerous interpretations
1. Godot as God
2. Godot as Pozzo
3. Godot according to critics and scholars

VI. Conclusion: There is great validity to the idea of the “pseudocouple” in this play.

Topic #4

William Blake, an English poet who lived from 1757 to 1827, believed that man’s psyche consisted of four elements—imagination, reason, passion, and bodily sensation. While the ideal man could maintain a balance of these four elements, evil resulted from the fact that most men couldn’t. The characters in Waiting for Godot have been said to represent these four elements of the psyche. Discuss this idea.


I. Thesis Statement: The four elements of man’s psyche are represented by Pozzo (sensations), Lucky (thought), Vladimir (feeling), and Estragon (imagination). At times they are at peace with one another, and at time they are at war.

II. Pozzo Represents Sensations
A. Enslavement of Lucky
1. Cracking of whip.
2. Jerking of rope.
B. Material possesions
1. Heavy bag
2. Folding stool
3. Picnic basket
4. Overcoat
5. Whip
6. Rope around Lucky’s neck
7. Glasses
8. Pocket watch
9. Pipe and tobacco
10. Matches
11. Vaporizer
12. Handkerchief
13. Hat
C. Mannerisms and Affectations
1. Loud voice
2. Enormous laugh
3. Magnanimous gestures
4. Pomp and circumstance
D. Consumption of food
1. Drinking from wine bottle
2. Sucking on chicken bones

III. Lucky Represents Thought
A. Past Life
1. As Pozzo’s teacher
2. As a dancer
3. As a singer
4. As an orator
B. Present Existence
1. Pozzo’s slave
2. General deterioration of his body—weak and decrepit
3. Discontinuous movements—The Net
4. Lucky’s speech
a. Repeated phrases
b. Broken sentences
c. Manic confusion
d. Disjointed images

IV. Vladimir Represents Feeling
A. Closeness to Estragon
B. Religious Sentiments
1. Repentance
2. Four Evangelists
3. Salvation
C. Reaction to Pozzo’s Treatment of Lucky
D. Misery of Isolation
V. Estragon Represents Imagination
A. Past Life as a Poet
B. Sleeping and Dreaming
C. Suicidal Impulses
D. No Sense of Time
E. Memory Loss
F. Tragic and Endless Existence
G. Meaningless Life

VI. Pozzo and Lucky Function as a Couple

VII. Pozzo and Lucky Share Sado-Masochistic Relationship.

VIII. Vladimir and Estragon are Dependent on Each Other

IX. Vladimir and Estragon Quarrel Incessantly

X. Pozzo Attempts to Take Control

XI. All Fall Down
A. Equality After Lucky’s Speech
B. Silence and Pause

XII. Conclusion: Pozzo, Lucky, Vladimir, and Estragon can be compared to the four elements of the psyche. At times they are at peace with each other; and at times they are at war with each other.

Topic #5

In 1988, Frank Rich, a theatrical reviewer for The New York Times, wrote, “…no play could be more elemental in either form or content. ‘Godot’ speaks equally to prison inmates and university students because it reduces the task of existence to its humblest essentials: eating, excretion, sleeping, companionship, waiting anxiously for life to reach some point (whatever that point may be).” Discuss the validity of this statement as it relates to the setting of the play as well as to the main characters, Vladimir and Estragon.


I. Thesis Statement: In form and content, Waiting for Godot, demonstrates the simple existence of its main characters, Vladimir and Estragon. They exist on a bare stage with a mound and a tree while they wait for someone named Godot.

II. Simplicity of the setting
A. The play takes place on a country road.
1. There is a mound.
2. There is a tree.
a. Without leaves in Act I
b. With a few leaves in Act II
B. It is evening
1. Moon rises at the end of Act I
2. Sun sets and moon rises at the end of Act II

III. Simplicity of life for Vladimir and Estragon
A. Eating
1. Vladimir provides food from his pockets
a. Turnips
b. Carrots
c. Black radish
2. Estragon eats
a. Vladimir’s food
b. Pozzo’s chicken bones
B. Excretion
1. Vladimir has difficulty with his bladder
2. Vladimir relieves himself offstage
3. Estragon and Vladimir’s conversation
C. Sleeping
1. Estragon sleeps in a ditch
2. Estragon gets beaten by strangers
3. Estragon naps onstage
D. Companionship
1. Vladimir and Estragon complement each other.
2. They argue but remain together.
E. Waiting
1. They wait for Godot.
2. They wait for a change in their lives.

IV. Simplicity of Actions
A. Pozzo and Lucky come and go in Act I
B. Pozzo and Lucky come and go in Act II
C. Nothing changes for Vladimir and Estragon

V. Conclusion: Life for Vladimir and Estragon is broken down into its simplest form. It consists of eating, excretion, sleeping, companionship, and waiting. Nothing happens to them or to their surroundings.

Topic #6

It has been said that language is the essence of this play. Using Ruby Cohn’s terminology, discuss this statement.


I. Thesis Statement: Ruby Cohn discusses the language of Waiting for Godot in her book, Just Play: Beckett’s Theater. She creates categories for much of the dialogue of the characters.

II. The dialogue is repetitious.
A. Simple Doublets
B. Interrupted Doublets
C. Distanced Doublets
D. Echo Doublets
E. Triplets
F. Multiplets
G. Pounders
H. Volleys
I. Refrains
J. Repeated Negatives

III. Conclusion: The language in Waiting for Godot is repetitious. It can be analyzed according to the categories defined by Ruby Cohn, Beckett scholar and author.

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Critical Evaluation