Response to Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot
When I first read Waiting for Godot, quite a number of years ago now, I delighted in its absurdity. It amused me that a play which appears to be nothing more than 85 pages of alternating ridiculousness and nothingness, should be studied in depth. I recall trying to analyse it the same way we had with Macbeth or A Streetcar Named Desire previously, but it just wasn’t possible. It doesn’t have the distinctly formed characters with individual motivations that drive the plot; there is no Lady Macbeth’s self-serving scheming, or Blanche DuBois’ web of lies coming un-spun. More importantly, there is no beginning, no major conflict and no resolution.
Waiting for Godot cannot be analysed the usual way, because it doesn’t contain any of the usual elements. The play begins seemingly in the middle of a scene with no context, and ends almost the same way. In a very accurate summary, critic Vivian Mercier famously called it “a play in which nothing happens, twice”. Regardless, it has been wildly popular. Perhaps because on some level, everyone relates to the basic human experiences Beckett portrays. The two men spend the whole play waiting for something they know almost nothing about, and yet are convinced is going to come. It’s the idea of waiting for the unknown future, and doing what we can to kill time until it arrives, although, of course, it never will.