Waiting for Godot: An Absurd Play by Beckett
Samuel Beckett is a revolutionary playwright. He is an iconoclast and an image breaker. He has shattered conventions and pioneered a new kind of drama. His drama is above categories of tragedy and comedy. It is called absurd drama. His plays show the situation in which we are. They expose us in our existential predicament.
Waiting for Godot is an absurd drama. In fact, absurd drama presents human life and human situation as absurd. This type of drama is free from traditional plot, story or division into acts and scenes. Here we get few characters. They have symbolic significance. Dialogues are very short and crisp. Nothing significant happens on the stage. It prefers existential themes. Things are not explained but they are merely hinted at. One can find all these features in Waiting for Godot.
Lack of action is one of the major characteristics of an absurd play. There is nothing significant in the play. So is the case with Waiting for Godot. In this play nothing significant happens except waiting and waiting. The waiting also becomes meaningless because no Godot arrives. As soon as the play opens, we find Estragon, a tramp. He is trying to remove his shoes.The first comment of this character is, “Nothing doing.” This comment echoes throughout the play. Thus in the world of Godot even the minimal action is impossible.
In an absurd play, the characters generally lose their identity. In Waiting for Godot, we find tramps as characters. They lose their identity in Act II. Their relationship is in doubt. They spend the night apart. Life to them is an endless rain of blows. Estragon and Vladimir have lost their identity. The other pair of characters Pozzo and Lucky become blind and dumb respectively. Suicide is a recurrent temptation.
Waiting for Godot deals with the absurdity of man’s existence in this universe. When the play starts Estragon and Vladimir agree that they have nothing to do. They think that they have lost each other. They admit that struggle has been of no use. Sometimes they feel that they should jump from a tower and kill themselves. On another occasion they want to hang themselves immediately with a tree. The existence of Pozzo and Lucky is also absurd. They become blind and dumb respectively.
The last part of the play is again full of absurd situations. Estragon says to Vladimir that they must hang themselves. Vladimir replies that there is no rope to do so. Estragon says that the cord of the trousers will serve this purpose. As soon as he removes the cord, the trousers fall to his knees. They test the strength of the cord. The cord breaks into two. They decide to go. As Estragon says, “Let’s go”, the curtain falls.
This last part of the play symbolizes human situation. We do not know why and for whom the tramps are waiting. Like them we are also waiting for something. We are also living in the same situation in which these two characters are living.
The setting of the play is bare. We find only one tree in the first Act, It is without leaves. In the second Act this tree attains some new leaves. The whole background is absurd. It reminds us of man’s loneliness and alienation. There is suffering, agony, anxious wait, futility and all sorts of absurdity.
Thus from the points of view of structure, theme, motif, characters, setting and language, Waiting for Godot is an absurd drama. It mocks at the futility of man’s life and its meaninglessness. Life as well as death is treated as a joke. God is made a non-entity. There is nothing to do in man’s life.