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Waiting for Godot

by Samuel Beckett

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Waiting for Godot in Musical Terms

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Waiting for Godot has been and may always be a difficult work to read or view. However, much of the difficulty that readers and audiences have had with the play seems to have come from false expectations. If audiences come to a production expecting a traditional theatre experience featuring a clear plot, realistic characters, and conventional dialogue, they are doomed to frustration and may not be able to adjust and simply experience what the play does have to offer.

The traditional play tells a story and the movement of a story is usually in a more-or-less forward line from beginning to end. The movement in Beckett's play, however, is more like a circle. The play has a beginning, but the beginning seems somewhat arbitrary because what happened before the beginning does not seem to be important. The play has an end, but the end seems to recall the beginning and create a sense of circularity rather than the traditional sense of closure that conventional stories generally provide. So Beckett's play could perhaps be described as "all middle." This, of course, reinforces the Absurdist or Existentialist idea of human life as having no clear purpose or direction, of life being an interminable waiting for a sense of purpose or closure that is not likely to ever arrive. Seen clearly, life seems to these thinkers as something we simply do while we are waiting to die, and the illusions human beings create to give their lives a sense of teleology or purpose will not finally sustain the thoroughly reflective twentieth-century human being.

In a way, these Existentialist ideas in Waiting for Godot are encapsulated in the first image and line of the play. As the lights rise on the stage, the audience sees Estragon in a bleak landscape, sitting on a low mound, struggling to remove his boot. He tries, gives up, rests exhausted, tries again, gives up again, repeats the process, and finally says, "nothing to be done." That, in a sense, is the whole play in a nutshell. In an indifferent universe, human beings struggle with the simplest of activities, are tempted to give up, but can do nothing to alter their fate except persist. It can be said, as Hugh Kenner did in his A Reader's Guide to Samuel Beckett, that the rest of the play simply repeats this observation: "insofar as the play has a 'message,'" said Kenner, "that is more or less what it is: 'Nothing to be done.' There is no dilly-dallying; it is delivered in the first moments, with the first spoken words, as though to get the didactic part out of the way." The rest of the play could be seen as a set of "variations" on this theme, much as a jazz or classical musical composition announces a theme or motif and then enlarges upon that theme, modifying it and adding additional themes and motifs until the composition has succeeded in fully presenting its mood, tone, or idea. In the opening moments of Waiting for Godot this kind of musical quality is most obvious when Vladimir finally repeats Estragon's opening line, saying himself, "Nothing to be done." At the end of the second page of the script and then near the end of the third, Vladimir's repetition of this opening line echoes like a musical refrain and establishes the main idea of Beckett's play.

To adjust the expectations one brings to the reading or viewing of Waiting for Godot it may be useful to think of the play as something like a musical composition. Linda Ben-Zvi explained in her Samuel Beckett that Beckett "bemoaned the fact that his characters could not be portrayed as musical sounds—a simultaneity of sounds played at one time: 'how nice that would be, linear, a lovely Phythagorean chant-chant solo of cause and effect.'" Ben-Zvi went on to observe that "the theatre, while it still may not explain characters, can do what prose cannot: present the 'chain-chant' directly to audiences who are free to react without the necessity of explanation, who can apprehend life being presented." In his The Theatre of the Absurd Martin Esslin quoted Herbert Blau, the director of the 1957 San Quentin production, who attempted to prepare the convict audience for the play by comparing it "to a piece of jazz music 'to which one must listen for whatever one may find in it.'" Peter Hall, the director for the first London production, reported in an interview on the BBC's Third Programme that neither he nor his actors really understood the play but that he "was immediately struck by the enormous humanity and universality of the subject, and also by the extraordinary rhythms of the writing, and it was these rhythms and almost musical flexibility of the lyricism which communicated itself to me and which I tried to pass on to the actors.'' And in a famous letter (quoted in Steven Connor's Waiting for Godot and Endgame: Samuel Beckett) to director Alan Schneider, who was preparing a production of Endgame, Beckett wrote: "my work is a matter of fundamental sounds (no joke intended) made as fully as possible, and I accept responsibility for nothing else. If people want to have headaches among the overtones, let them. And provide their own aspirin."

Thinking of the play in terms of a jazz or classical musical composition can solve a number of the problems readers and audiences traditionally have with Waiting for Godot. The play's apparent "meandering" quality is accounted for, as well as its obvious repetition and circularity. The quick, stichomythic exchanges between Vladimir and Estragon, as well as their abrupt shifts in topics become as important for their sound and rhythm as they do for their sense, full as they are of crescendos and diminuendos. The numerous pauses and silences also become crucial as they contribute to the dialogue's rhythm. Like a "quartet" the play is a series of voices, all different but all eventually complementary, elaborate variations on the theme of "nothing to be done." Beckett's primary concerns are with mood and tone, using rhythms in language and numerous examples of repetition to create something very much like melody.

Even Lucky's monologue, which exists as the play's greatest frustration when one is expecting traditional "sense" in dialogue, becomes more meaningful when one hears the "sound" of it. When we first see Lucky, he is a pathetic figure sagging under a tremendous load of baggage, tethered by a cruel rope to a whip-wielding figure still offstage. Working silently, like an automaton, Lucky is disgustingly abused but still subservient to a Pozzo who is obviously inflated and unworthy of Lucky's devotion. When Lucky weeps at the mention of his being sold at the fair, he is a moving symbol of human misery, but when he kicks the solicitous Estragon we feel his anger and wonder at the apparent inappropriateness of his response. All of our complex feelings about this figure are gathering momentum, just as perhaps his are, and these feelings find their most powerful expression in the culminating moment of Lucky's monologue. The monologue is breathless, one long shouted sentence without punctuation, as if to express in his heroic effort to "think" all of his suffering, degradation, and yet determination to survive. In the theatre it can be a moment of transcendence, not so much because of what the words "mean" (there are brief flashes of "sense") but because of how the words "sound." James Knowlson recounted in his Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett that in the 1984 San Quentin Drama Workshop production of the play, "a small, bald-headed actor named J. Pat Miller" played Lucky at a number of performances and "built the speech into so overwhelming and searing a performance that Beckett, hearing him for the first time, sat totally transfixed, tears welling up in his eyes. After the rehearsal, he told Miller that he was the best Lucky he had ever seen."

As another example of how essentially musical the play is, consider the way sound communicates the difference between Pozzo's two appearances in the play. In the first act Pozzo is mostly volume and bluster as he attempts to dominate everyone around him. In the second act, he is a small voice simply crying "help" repeatedly. From his entrance and fall where he lies helpless on the ground, Pozzo cries "help" or "pity" eleven times while the foreground sound is of Vladimir and Estragon debating what to do. Pozzo is thus like a recurrent sound from the percussion section until he offers to pay Vladimir and Estragon to help him up. As Vladimir attempts to help Pozzo up, Vladimir is dragged down and then joins in the refrain of "help" until all three of them are on the ground. Obviously comic, the scene also generates an enormously effective pathos. At one point Pozzo and Vladimir cry "help'' in successive lines as Estragon threatens to leave, with the richness of the theatrical experience lying mostly in the different way those two calls for help sound.

Beckett was a poet in the theatre, more interested in the evocative quality of his words than their declarative quality. Declarative language is easier to understand but evaporates very quickly. In simple, declarative language we can say that Shakespeare's Hamlet is a sensitive young man who is so hurt by his father's death and his mother's hasty remarriage that he contemplates suicide in his famous "to be or not to be" speech. But the lasting value and pleasure of that speech lies not in the mere identification of its declarative meaning. Its lasting power lies in the elusive but evocative quality of its images, diction, and rhythms. In all of his art, Beckett sought to emphasize the evocative quality of his language by reducing the appeal of its declarative aspects. Thus, Waiting for Godot purposely frustrates the audience's dependence on declarative language in order to force it to pay more attention to the dialogue's evocative quality. Thus, in the simplest of exchanges we can find great poetry. For example, Vladimir gives Estragon a carrot in Act I and while Estragon chews on it Vladimir asks, "How's the carrot?" Estragon replies simply, "It's a carrot," and Vladimir adds, "So much the better, so much the better. [Pause.] What was it you wanted to know?'' Here there are rhythms and tones in the dialogue that not only mirror the sense of the lines but can even stand in for them. The rising tone of Vladimir's question, so full of hope, is countered by the gently falling tones of Estragon's response. Hope and expectation fall back to the earth in simple fact. Life is what it is. Nothing more and nothing less. And the repetition of Vladimir's "so much the better'' is as crucial as the phrase itself, as is the pause that follows. "What was it you wanted to know?" is the sound of "resuming" after recognizing that there is "nothing to be done."

Source: Terry Niehms, in an essay for Drama for Students, Gale, 1997

Contemporary Playwrights: Samuel Beckett

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The action of most plays can be summed up in a few sentences, but not the action of Godot. Vivian Mercier's summary of the plot is: "Nothing happens, twice." But how can we describe the nothing that happens? The act of waiting is itself a contradictory combination of doing nothing and doing something. Vladimir and Estragon don't actually do anything and they are agreed right from the beginning that there's nothing they can do. "Nothing to be done" is the play's opening line and although Estragon is talking about his boot, which he's trying to take off, Vladimir's answer immediately makes the line we've just heard into a general pronouncement about their situation in life:

I'm beginning to come round to that opinion All my life I've tried to put it from me, saying, Vladimir, be reasonable, you haven't yet tried everything. And I resumed the struggle.

But now that he has tried everything, or thinks he has, at least everything he's capable of trying, there's nothing left to do except wait for Godot. Which is the same as doing nothing, except that if you're waiting, you aren't free to go. Estragon keeps forgetting that and wanting to go, and each time Vladimir has to stop him. They have the same exchange of lines each time, like a refrain:

Let's go
We can't
Why not?
We're Waiting for Godot

They wait for Godot both days that we see them and they're going to come back to wait for him again the next day, and no doubt the day after that and we can be fairly sure they were waiting for him on the previous day and the day before that and the day before that. Godot will never come but they'll never be sure that he's not coming because there will always seem to be some reason for hoping that he'll come tomorrow. And there'll always be the possibility that he came today and that they failed to recognize him. Perhaps Pozzo was Godot. It's even been suggested (by Norman Mailer in Advertisements for Myself) that Lucky was Godot. But in any case Vladimir and Estragon are trapped. There's nothing to force them to stay but there's no incentive to make them go. The only way out is death and the only relief is night. They keep talking about suicide but they're incapable of taking any action or even of really wanting to. So in effect waiting for Godot is waiting for your life to be over, waiting for night to fall, waiting for the play to end.

The tensions of the normal play are constructed around the interaction of the characters and the ignorance of the audience about what's going to happen next. In Waiting for Godot they soon get to know that nothing is going to happen next and that there's no chance of any development of character through relationships. The characters are not characters in this sense. There are many passages where it couldn't matter less who says which line:

ESTRAGON: They talk about their lives
VLADIMIR: To have lived is not enough for them.
ESTRAGON: They have to talk about it
VLADIMIR: To be dead is not enough for them
ESTRAGON: It is not sufficient (Silence)
VLADIMIR: They make a noise like feathers.
ESTRAGON: Like leaves.
VLADIMIR: Like ashes.
ESTRAGON: Like leaves.

But although it's not a play in the conventional sense, it's very much a play in the literal sense of the word "play." Having nothing to do with their time, Vladimir and Estragon are rather like children who have time to play games and have to play games to pass the time. "What shall we do now?" is in effect what they're always saying to each other and some of their improvisations are very much like what children might think of to do. They play a game of being Pozzo and Lucky, they play at being very polite to each other, at abusing each other, at making it up, and they stagger about on one leg trying to look like trees. The audience is involved most directly when they look out in horror at the auditorium, but in fact the audience is involved in the game all the way through because Beckett is playing around with the fact of having actors on a stage playing parts, and playing around with the idea of a play. Instead of working to keep the audience guessing about what's going to happen next, he manages to give the impression of having written the play without himself knowing how he was going to go on. We feel that it's not only Vladimir and Estragon but also Beckett himself welcoming Pozzo and Lucky's second entrance as providing a diversion just at the right moment. There is an air of improvisation about the writing, and though the final script is one that wouldn't allow any improvisation from the actors — it calls for great precision in performance — it has an engaging resemblance to the patter of a well-read conjurer. The tricks are simple ones but the rapid changes of conversational gear are masterly. Anything that appears so spontaneous must have been well rehearsed. And for Beckett, of course, the rehearsal was Mercier and Camier.

But what about the tricks? The most important trick in the style and structure of Waiting for Godot is the old music-hall trick of protracted delay. No question can be answered and no action can be taken without a maximum of interlocution, incomprehension and argument. You never go straight to a point if you can possibly miss it, evade it, or start a long discussion about a short cut. Vladimir and Estragon ask Pozzo why Lucky doesn't put down the bags. Pozzo is delighted at having a question to answer but it takes two pages of digression, repetition, incomprehension, cross-purpose dialogue and farcical preparations like spraying his throat before he actually answers it. Then a few minutes later, he wants to sit down, but he doesn't want to sit down until someone has asked him to sit, so Estragon offers to ask him, he agrees, Estragon asks him, he refuses, pauses, and in an aside asks Estragon to ask him again, he asks him again and finally he sits.

There is also a great deal of vaudeville business with hats and boots and prat-falls. The bowler-hats that all four characters wear belong to the tradition of Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy. Vladimir has a comic walk and a comic disability that makes him rush off to pee in the wings each time he's made to laugh, and Lucky has elaborate comic business with all the things he has to carry, dropping them, picking them up and putting them down. Although there's very little action, there's an enormous number of actions which the actors have to perform, and in which they're instructed meticulously by stage directions:

(Lucky weeps.)
ESTRAGON: He's crying
POZZO: Old dogs have more dignity
(He offers his handkerchief to Estragon.)
Comfort him, since you pity him.
(Estragon hesitates.)
Come on.
(Estragon takes the handkerchief.)
Wipe away his tears, he'll feel less forsaken
(Estragon hesitates.)
VLADIMIR: Here, give it to me, I'll do it
(Estragon refuses to give the handkerchief.
Childish gestures.)
POZZO: Make haste, before he stops
(Estragon approaches Lucky and makes to wipe his eyes. Lucky kicks him violently in the shins. Estragon drops the handkerchief, recoils, staggers about the stage howling with pain.)
(Lucky puts down bag and basket, picks up the
handkerchief, gives it to Pozzo, goes back to his place, picks up bag and basket.)

Another important trick is the way Beckett uses interruption. Almost everything in the play gets interrupted—Lucky's big speech, Estragon's story about the Englishman in the brothel, and Vladimir interrupts his own song about dogs digging a dog a tomb. But it's a song that circles back on itself, so, as with Lucky's speech, we welcome the interruption because we feel that otherwise it would have gone on for ever.

All in all, though, the play's brisk rhythm depends less on the frequent interruptions than on the shortness of the speeches. There are very few long speeches and these are judiciously placed at the points where they are most useful as a variation on the basic staccato. The average length of the speeches in Waiting for Godot must be less than in any other play that's ever been written. Together with the rapid changes of topic, this builds up an impression of great speed. If Vladimir and Estragon are doing nothing, at least they're doing it fast....

With all the provocative gaps that there are in Waiting for Godot between the matter and the manner, between the half-statements and the half-meanings, it invites so much comment that it's easy to leave the most important point of all relatively unstressed—that it's consistently so very funny. In production, of course, there's a danger of getting bogged down in portentousness and letting the effervescence go out of the dialogue if the pace is too slow. But the script provides the possibility of an evening in the theatre which is never less than entertaining and often very much more.

Source: Ronald Hayman, in his Contemporary Playwrights: Samuel Beckett, Heinemann Educational Books, 1968, pp. 4-8, 21.

Why They Wait for Godot

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Now that Waiting for Godot, a two-act tract with four men, one boy and countless interpretations, has been repatriated to Europe as part of the United States drama program at the Brussels World's Fair, an international signal has gone out to extol or deride the most controversial play since World War II, of which its author, Samuel Beckett, said: "I didn't choose to write a play. It just happened that way."

Other things that have happened since the play's stormy Paris debut in 1952—called by Jean Anouilh "as important as the premiere of Pirandello in 1923"—include a ban against any stories or advertising of the show in Spain; near-cancellation in the Netherlands averted by the furious resistance of the cast; successful runs in almost every important city of Europe. And on sophisticated Broadway, where it arrived in 1956, it created one of the most extraordinary phenomena in American show business. For, after the final curtain on many nights, the audience remained and, joined by interested literary figures and laymen, debated the play's meaning and merit. In these debates clergymen were sometimes pitted against each other on whether Godot was religious or atheistic. Its continued viability is proved by twenty productions of Godot given this year in as many states.

On the surface there is little in this plotless drama to rouse the multitudes. It seems little more than a tale about two derelicts who wait vainly, on a bleak set that features a gnarled tree, for a Mr. Godot to appear and lessen their misery. While they wait, they hold long conversations, generally in short sentences, about their physical, mental and spiritual troubles. Their anxiety is diverted and intensified by the antics of a bully and his slave, and by a boy who twice brings them the message: "Mr. Godot told me to tell you he won't come this evening, but surely tomorrow."

Occasionally the pace of Godot is changed by comic turns, done by the two derelicts, that range from old-fashioned pratfalls to kicks. The longest speech in the play, a stream-of-consciousness outpouring, is delivered by the slave, who is otherwise mute.

That the force of arguments about Godot has not waned appreciably was shown earlier this month at its latest New York revival by the San Francisco Actor's Workshop, which has since taken the play to Brussels. At many of the performances spectators were asked to write comments on Godot. At least one-quarter of the 200-odd returns were unfavorable, another third bewildered or undecided, and the rest favorable. Those for Godot used such adjectives as stimulating, provoking, enlightening, superb, excellent, magnificent, poetic. Ranged against Godot were senseless, boring, vulgar, sacrilegious, hideous, repulsive, decadent. And even some who liked the play thought it unwise to send it to Brussels to represent the nation's regional theatre—the theatre outside New York City.

Almost as interesting as the reasons for argument about Godot are the lures that bring crowds to see it. Many undoubtedly come because they love the theatre and the play has caused a stir. Others are intellectuals who are curious about a play that is said to have a deeper meaning than that in most dramas. Finally, there are those who are drawn by a sort of egghead snobbery.

Godot has been much easier to blame or praise than to explain. One difficulty for its defendants is that the play's Irish-born author, who created the work in French, has not helped them in the few comments he has made about Godot. Thus, when a publisher wrote to him asking for his explanation of the play's symbols, he replied: "As far as I know, there are none. Of course, I am open to correction." And when Sir Ralph Richardson, the British star, asked him if Godot represented God, he replied: "If by Godot I had meant God, I would have said God, not Godot."

Thornton Wilder, leader of the pro-Godotians who scrutinize the play's sixty-one pages with the fiery reverence of cabala students, calls the play "a picture of total nihilism'' and a "very admirable work." But, adds Mr. Wilder whose Pulitzer-prize-winning The Skin of Our Teeth also caused a furor, "I don't try to work out detailed symbolism. I don't think you're supposed to." Michael Myerberg, who first produced the play in this country, says: "It very much reflects the hopelessness and dead end we've run into. What he's trying to say is: 'All we have is ourselves—each other—and we may as well make the best of it.'"

Bert Lahr, who was in the original Broadway production as Estragon, the derelict who does not know why he's waiting, originally did not know what the play meant. Now he has some unusual interpretations.

"The play," he says, "is very complex and has many analyses. But mine is as good as the rest. The two men are practically one—one is the animal side, the other the mental. I was the animal. So far as Pozzo and Lucky [master and slave] are concerned, we have to remember that Beckett was a disciple of Joyce and that Joyce hated England. Beckett meant Pozzo to be England, and Lucky to be Ireland."

Mr. Lahr recalls vividly the post-performance seminars: "I remember one night a lady jumped out of her seat screaming: 'What's the difference? What's the difference? We were entertained, weren't we!'" Then there was a woman who came to his dressing room one night. The actor held out his hand to greet her, but all she did was to say: "Oh, Mr. Lahr—" and run off crying.

"No, I haven't read anything by Beckett since that play," says Lahr. "I'm not that erudite."

E. G. Marshall, whose performance as the other derelict, Vladimir, was as memorable as Mr. Lahr's, attended only one after-theatre symposium. "Then I ran like a frightened deer. I listened to them and thought: 'My God. Is that what the play means?' Every time a mouth opened, out came a different interpretation. That's no good for an actor."

In reaching his own interpretation, Mr. Marshall went through a process somewhat different from Mr. Lahr's. "The first time I read the play I thought it was wonderful. That was about a couple of years before I was in it. Then I saw it in London. It was a hit there. But I thought: 'What the hell did I ever see in that play? It's so boring. It's probably nice to read, but it won't play.'

"Then Mike Myerberg asked me to be in it here. I went through an evolutionary process. At first we actors used to have violent arguments about what the play meant. And then we'd have violent agreements. Eventually, I saw it in black-and-white terms, I was the intellectual in the play. The play, we agreed, was a positive play, not negative, not pessimistic. As I saw it, with my blood and skin and eyes, the philosophy is: 'No matter what— atom bombs, hydrogen bombs, anything—life goes on. You can kill yourself, but you can't kill life.'

"I don't know if it's a great play. But it is a real theatre piece. Not something that has to be molded and hacked to fit in a theatre. The theatre today is too flaccid, too passive, too dull. It is good to have it stirred up by a play like this. I think Waiting for Godot will remain in the theatre and will mean something to succeeding casts and to succeeding audiences."

Members of the San Francisco troupe have a variety of ideas about the play. One calls it "a play of despair in which a man is seeking salvation, frustrated in finding it, and incapable of coping with waiting." Another says: "This is a fairly modern state of mind, existential, in which man tries to remove despair and find some strength." A third recalls: "At first I thought it trite. Then I realized that Beckett is a tremendous humanitarian. He does not condemn humanity at any time. He asks mankind to look at itself." A fourth sees Lucky, the slave, as "the sensitive artist in modern society."

Those who admire the play for its beauty cite the following speech by Vladimir, when he is urging Estragon to help the fallen Pozzo, the bully:

Let us do something while we have the chance! It is not every day that we are needed. Others would meet the case equally well, if not better. To all mankind they were addressed, those cries for help still ringing in our ears! But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not. Let us make the most of it, before it is too late! Let us represent worthily for once the foul brood to which a cruel fate consigned us! What do you say? (Estragon says nothing.) It is true that when with folded arms we weigh the pros and cons we are no less a credit to our species. The tiger bounds to the help of his congeners without the least reflection, or else he slinks away into the depths of the thickets. But that is not the question. And we are blessed in this, that we happen to know the answer. Yes, in this immense confusion one thing is clear. We are Waiting for Godot to come.

Those who see Beckett as a satiric sage cite the following: "There's man all over for you, blaming on his boots the faults of his feet." Or: "We always find something . . . to give us the impression we exist." Or: "The tears of the world are a constant quantity. For each one who begins to weep somewhere else another stops. The same is true of the laugh. Let us not then speak ill of our generation, it is not any unhappier than its predecessors. Let us not speak well of it either. Let us not speak of it at all. It is true the population has increased."

Despite its triumphs in Paris, where it was called En Attendant Godot, and London, Waiting for Godot had to wait for production in the United States and very nearly died on the doorstep. When Myerberg first saw the script, he dismissed it as impossible to produce. Six months later, in London, he changed his mind, while watching a performance. At first he tried it in Miami. It failed dismally. One estimate is that more than half the opening-night audience failed to return after the intermission. But Myerberg, a stubborn man and a gambler, assembled the cast of Lahr, Marshall, Kurt Kasznar and Alvin Epstein, with Herbert Berghof as director.

With considerable showmanship, he brought it to Broadway, preceding its opening on April 8, 1956, with an advertisement in this paper which reads: "This is a play for the thoughtful and discriminating theatre-goer. We are, therefore, offering it for a limited engagement of only four weeks. I respectfully suggest that those who come to the theatre for casual entertainment do not buy a ticket to this attraction."

The show extended its run to twice the original four weeks. Author Beckett, in one of his rare comments, wrote to the producer: "It is gratifying to learn that the bulk of your audiences was made up of young people. This was also the case in Paris, London and throughout Germany. I must, after all, be less dead than I thought."

Though Beckett might be gratified that the San Francisco troupe doing his play in Brussels is also young, he may not think as much of the reason that prompted the company to choose his play. It happened to be the least costly play in the troupe's repertory and the State Department was footing no bill for transportation. The San Francisco company, however, has learned to make ends meet during its trying existence since it was formed in 1952. Nearly all of its ninety-two members—only ten have gone abroad —have to support themselves with other work. Productions are usually presented only on week-ends.

Mr. Beckett, too, has faced some tough times. Born in 1906, a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, where he later took his M.A. and lectured in French, he began wandering around Europe in 1932, settling finally in Paris. He remained in France during World War II, but moved to the Unoccupied Zone. During 1945-46 he was a storekeeper and interpreter with the Irish Red Cross in bombarded Normandy. Before he wrote En Attendant Godot, he did a collection of short stories, More Pricks Than Kicks, a collection of poems, Echo's Bones: a trilogy of novels—Molloy, Malone Meurt and L'Inuomable. Since Godot he has been represented in the theatre by Endgame, a play that has not notably increased his following.

Since Beckett is curious about what the young think of Godot, the 8-year-old who plays the part of the boy with the San Francisco troupe was asked his interpretation of the play. He replied:

''Two men are waiting for Godot. They want to hang themselves. Lucky and Pozzo come in, Lucky is the slave and Pozzo is the master. Then I come in. I give them a message. Then I go off. So next day they still want to hang themselves. Pozzo is blind. I come in with the same message."

"What do you think," the boy was asked, "happens to the two men afterward?''

''I think,'' he replied, after a short pause, "that at the way, way, way end, they hang themselves."

"Do you think," the boy was asked, "there is a Godot?"

"No. There is no Godot," he replied, then picked up his toy battleship and wandered off.

Source: Murray Schumach, "Why They Wait for Godot'' in the New York Times Magazine, September 21, 1958, pp. 36, 38, 41.

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Critical Overview