Waiting for Godot Additional Summary

Samuel Beckett


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Estragon tries to take off his boot but fails. Vladimir agrees with him that it sometimes appears that there is nothing one could do. They are glad to be reunited after a night apart. With Vladimir’s help, Estragon succeeds in removing his boot, which was causing him pain. Vladimir, also in pain, cannot laugh in comfort; he tries smiling instead, but it is not satisfactory.

Vladimir muses on the one Gospel account that says Christ saved one of the thieves. Estragon wants to leave, but they cannot leave because they are waiting for Godot. They become confused about the arrangements and wonder if they are waiting at the right time, in the right place, and on the right day. They quarrel briefly but then, as always, they reconcile.

Estragon and Vladimir consider hanging themselves from the nearby tree but decide that it would be safer to do nothing until they hear what Godot says. They do not know what they have asked Godot for. They conclude that they have forgone their rights. Vladimir gives Estragon a carrot, which he eats hungrily. They decide that although they are not bound to Godot, they are in fact unable to act.

Pozzo enters, driving Lucky, who is laden with luggage, by a rope around his neck. Estragon and Vladimir mistake Pozzo for Godot but accept him as Pozzo. Although he attempts to intimidate them, he is glad of their company. After ordering Lucky to bring him his stool and his coat, Pozzo gives Lucky the whip. Lucky obeys automatically. Vladimir and Estragon protest violently against Pozzo’s treatment of Lucky, but Pozzo deflects their outburst and the subject is dropped.

After smoking a pipe, Pozzo rises. He then decides he does not want to leave, but his pride almost prevents him from reseating himself. The tramps want to know why Lucky never puts down the luggage. Pozzo says that Lucky is trying to make Pozzo keep him. When Pozzo adds that he would sell Lucky rather than throw him out, Lucky weeps. Estragon tries to dry the servant’s tears, but Lucky kicks him away; Estragon then weeps. Pozzo philosophizes on this and says that Lucky has taught him all the beautiful things he knows but that the fellow has now become unbearable and is driving him mad. Estragon and Vladimir then abuse Lucky for mistreating his master.

Pozzo breaks into a monologue on the twilight, alternating between the lyrical and the commonplace and ending with the bitter thought that everything happens in the world when one is least prepared. He decides to reward Estragon and Vladimir for praising him by making Lucky entertain them. Lucky executes a feeble dance that Estragon mocks but fails to imitate.

Estragon states that there have been no arrivals, no departures, and no action, and that everything is terrible. Pozzo next decides that Lucky should think for them. For this Vladimir replaces...

(The entire section is 1168 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Waiting for Godot is an unremitting picture of despair and futility. It established a new direction for modern theater and made Samuel Beckett one of the foremost dramatists of that new trend in theater. In each act, two tramps, Vladimir and Estragon, longtime friends, appear at twilight on a desolate country road in the middle of nowhere to wait for an obscure figure named Godot, whom they have never seen, but whom they believe will rescue them from their otherwise empty and banal lives. The play may be understood as a metaphor for the human condition in the modern world.

Designed to cope with the banality and emptiness of their lives, this behavior is ritualistic. Every day they return to the same place to wait for the mysterious Godot. To pass the time and to fill the emptiness, they engage in comic banter and vaudevillian shtick. In act 1, just as the two tramps discuss whether they are tied to each other, this place, and to Godot, two others, Pozzo and Lucky, arrive, tied together by a long rope. Their arrival provides a grotesquely comic interlude that dramatizes the tramps’ condition. Bound together and inseparable, Pozzo and Lucky share a common fate: Neither can do without the other. Metaphysically, all these “ties” represent the desperation of humans bound to a meaningless existence they cannot abandon. Figuratively speaking, the tramps are at the end of their rope.

Aware that language has failed them, their thinking is disorganized and fragmented, their memories inconsistent and unreliable, and their lives insignificant and absurd, the tramps struggle to find a reason to go on living. Their lives are reduced to the barest essentials: They own nothing, eat only carrots and turnips, sleep in ditches, and wear frayed and worn-out clothing. Although Godot has never come, they continue to wait. The two acts appear to repeat themselves: The tramps arrive and engage in various banters; Pozzo and Lucky appear; and at the end of each act, a boy materializes, a messenger from Godot but never the same boy. As the curtain closes in both acts, the tramps...

(The entire section is 849 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Arguably, Waiting for Godot provides an optimum point of entry not only into Beckett’s enigmatic body of mature work but also into the antirational theater that emerged on the European continent during the decade following World War II, permanently altering the expectations of spectators (and playwrights) all over the world. In Beckett’s first performed and published play, as in contemporary (but quite different) plays by Eugène Ionesco, Arthur Adamov, Max Frisch, and Friedrich Dürrenmatt, plot is all but discarded as a necessary element of drama, the tension residing instead in metaphysical concerns and in interaction (or noninteraction) among the characters.

The play is set on a desolate roadside, requiring little in the way of scenery. Two aging tramps, Vladimir (Didi) and Estragon (Gogo), reminiscent of the film comics Laurel and Hardy gone to seed, exchange desultory conversation as they wait for the arrival of a man called Godot, who in fact never appears. Vladimir, like Laurel, is spare of build; Estragon, like Oliver Hardy, considerably stouter. “Nothing to be done,” says Estragon in the play’s first line, which in fact summarizes all the ensuing dialogue and action, although Estragon, at that moment, refers only to the act of taking off his shoes. Beckett’s lines, even when translated into English from the original French, tend thus to send ambivalent messages and meanings that continue to reverberate long after the curtain...

(The entire section is 571 words.)