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Waiting for Godot
WaitingForGodot.JPG
1st English edition (Grove Press) translated by the author
Written by Samuel Beckett
Characters Vladimir
Estragon
Pozzo
Lucky
The Boys
Mute Godot
Date premiered 5 January 1953 (1953-01-05)
Place premiered Théâtre de Babylone, Paris
Original language French

Waiting for Godot (pronounced /ˈɡɒdoʊ/) is a play by Samuel Beckett, in which two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, wait for someone named Godot. Godot's absence, as well as numerous other aspects of the play, have led to many different interpretations since the play's premiere. The play is often considered one of the most prominent works in the Theatre of the Absurd movement.

Voted "the most significant English language play of the 20th century",[1] Waiting for Godot is Beckett's translation of his own original French version, En attendant Godot, and is subtitled (in English only) "a tragicomedy in two acts".[2] The original French text was composed between 9 October 1948, and 29 January 1949.[3] The première was on 5 January 1953 in the Théâtre de Babylone. The production was directed by Roger Blin, who also played the role of Pozzo.

Contents

Plot synopsis

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Act I

Waiting for Godot follows two days in the lives of a pair of men who divert themselves while they wait expectantly and unsuccessfully for someone named Godot to arrive. They claim him as an acquaintance but in fact hardly know him, admitting that they would not recognise him were they to see him. To occupy themselves, they eat, sleep, converse, argue, sing, play games, exercise, swap hats, and contemplate suicide — anything "to hold the terrible silence at bay".[4]

The play opens with the character Estragon struggling to remove his boot from his foot. Estragon eventually gives up, muttering, "Nothing to be done." His friend Vladimir takes up the thought and muses on it, the implication being that nothing is a thing that has to be done and this pair is going to have to spend the rest of the play doing it.[5] When Estragon finally succeeds in removing his boot, he looks and feels inside but finds nothing. Just prior to this, Vladimir peers into his hat. The motif recurs throughout the play.

The pair discuss repentance, particularly in relation to the two thieves crucified alongside Jesus, and that only one of the Four Evangelists mentions that one of them was saved. This is the first of numerous Biblical references in the play, which may be linked to its putative central theme of the search for and reconciliation with God, as well as salvation: "We're saved!" they cry on more than one occasion when they feel that Godot may be near.

Presently, Vladimir expresses his frustration with Estragon's limited conversational skills: "Come on, Gogo, return the ball, can't you, once in a way?" Estragon struggles in this regard throughout the play, and Vladimir generally takes the lead in their dialogue and encounters with others. Vladimir is at times hostile towards his companion, but in general they are close, frequently embracing and supporting one another.

Estragon peers out into the audience and comments on the bleakness of his surroundings. He wants to depart but is told that they cannot because they must wait for Godot. The pair cannot agree, however, on whether or not they are in the right place or that this is the arranged day for their meeting with Godot; indeed, they are not even sure what day it is. Throughout the play, experienced time is attenuated, fractured or eerily non-existent.[6] The only thing that they are fairly sure about is that they are to meet at a tree: there is one nearby.

Estragon dozes off, but Vladimir is not interested in hearing about his dream after rousing him. Estragon wants to hear an old joke about a brothel, which Vladimir starts but cannot finish, as he is suddenly compelled to rush off and urinate. He does not finish the story when he returns, asking Estragon instead what else they might do to pass the time. Estragon suggests that they hang themselves, but they quickly abandon the idea when it seems that they might not both die: this would leave one of them alone, an intolerable notion. They decide to do nothing: "It's safer," explains Estragon,[7] before asking what Godot is going to do for them when he arrives. For once it is Vladimir who struggles to remember: "Oh ... nothing very definite," is the best that he can manage.[7]

When Estragon declares that he is hungry, Vladimir provides a carrot, most of which, and without much relish, the former eats. The diversion ends as it began, Estragon announcing that they still have nothing to do.

Their waiting is interrupted by the passing through of Pozzo and his heavily-laden slave Lucky. "A terrible cry"[8] from the wings heralds the initial entrance of Lucky, who has a rope tied around his neck. He crosses half the stage before his master appears holding the other end. Pozzo barks orders at his slave and frequently calls him a "pig", but is civil towards the other two. They mistake him at first for Godot and clearly do not recognise him for the self-proclaimed personage he is. This irks him, but, while maintaining that the land that they are on is his, he acknowledges that "[t]he road is free to all".[9]

Deciding to rest for a while, Pozzo enjoys a pre-packed meal of chicken and wine. Finished, he casts the bones aside, and Estragon jumps at the chance to ask for them, much to Vladimir's embarrassment, but is told that they belong to the carrier. He must first, therefore, ask Lucky if he wants them. Estragon tries, but Lucky only hangs his head, refusing to answer. Taking this as a "no", Estragon claims the bones.

Vladimir takes Pozzo to task regarding his mistreatment of his slave, but his protestations are ignored. When the original pairing tries to find out why Lucky does not put down his load (at least not unless his master is prevailing on him to do something else), Pozzo explains that Lucky is attempting to mollify him to prevent him from selling him. At this, Lucky begins to cry. Pozzo provides a handkerchief, but, when Estragon tries to wipe his tears away, Lucky kicks him in the shins.

Before he leaves, Pozzo asks if he can do anything for the pair in exchange for the consort that they have accorded him. Estragon tries to ask for some money, but Vladimir cuts him short, explaining that they are not beggars. They nevertheless accept an offer to have Lucky dance and think.

The dance is clumsy and shuffling, and everyone is disappointed. Lucky's "think", induced by Vladimir's putting his hat on his head, is a lengthy and disjointed verbal stream of consciousness.[10] The soliloquy begins relatively coherently but quickly dissolves into logorrhoea and only ends when Vladimir rips off Lucky's hat.

Once Lucky has been revived, Pozzo has him pack up his things and, together, they leave. At the end of the act (and its successor), a boy arrives, purporting to be a messenger sent from Godot, to advise the pair that he will not be coming that "evening but surely tomorrow."[11] During Vladimir's interrogation of the boy, he asks if he came the day before, making it apparent that the two men have been waiting for an indefinite period and will likely continue to wait ad infinitum. After the boy departs, they decide to leave but make no attempt to do so, an action repeated in Act II, as the curtain is drawn.

Act II

Act II opens with Vladimir singing a recursive round about a dog which serves to illustrate the cyclical nature of the play's universe, and also points toward the play's debt to the carnivalesque, music hall traditions, and vaudeville comedy (this is only one of a number of canine references and allusions in the play). There is a bit of realisation on Vladimir's part that the world they are trapped in evinces convoluted progression (or lack thereof) of time. He begins to see that although there is notional evidence of linear progression, basically he is living the same day over and over. Eugene Webb writes of Vladimir's song that [12] "Time in the song is not a linear sequence, but an endlessly reiterated moment, the content of which is only one eternal event: death."[13]

Once again Estragon maintains he spent the night in a ditch and was beaten – by "ten of them"[14] this time – though once again he shows no sign of injury. Vladimir tries to talk to him about what appears to be a seasonal change in the tree and the proceedings of the day before, but he has only a vague recollection. Vladimir tries to get Estragon to remember Pozzo and Lucky but all he can call to mind are the bones and getting kicked. Vladimir realises here an opportunity to produce tangible evidence of the previous day's events. With some difficulty he gets Estragon to show him his leg. There is a wound which is beginning to fester. It is then Vladimir notices that Estragon is not wearing any boots.

He discovers the pair of boots, which Estragon insists are not his. Nevertheless, when he tries them on they fit. There being no carrots left, Vladimir offers Estragon the choice between a turnip and a radish. He opts for the radish but it is black and he hands it back. He decides to try and sleep again and adopts the same fetal position as the previous day. Vladimir sings him a lullaby.

Vladimir notices Lucky's hat, and he decides to try it on. This leads to a frenetic hat swapping scene. They play at imitating Pozzo and Lucky, but Estragon can barely remember having met them and simply does what Vladimir asks. They fire insults at each other and then make up. After that, they attempt some physical jerks which don't work out well, and even attempt a single yoga position, which fails miserably.

Pozzo and Lucky then arrive, with Pozzo now blind and insisting that Lucky is dumb. The rope is now much shorter and Lucky – who has acquired a new hat – leads Pozzo, rather than being driven by him. Pozzo has lost all notion of time, and assures them he cannot remember meeting them the day before, and that he does not expect to remember the current day's events when they are over.

They fall in a heap at one point. Estragon sees an opportunity to extort more food or to exact revenge on Lucky for kicking him. The issue is debated at length. Pozzo offers them money but Vladimir sees more worth in their entertainment value since they are compelled to wait to see if Godot arrives anyway. Eventually though, they all find their way onto their feet.

Whereas the Pozzo in Act I is a windbag, since he has become blind he appears to have gained some insight. His parting words – which Vladimir expands upon later – eloquently encapsulate the brevity of human existence: "They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it's night once more."[15]

Lucky and Pozzo depart. The same boy returns to inform them not to expect Godot today, but he would arrive the next day. The two again consider suicide but their rope, Estragon's belt, breaks in two when they tug on it. Estragon's trousers fall down, but he doesn't notice till Vladimir tells him to pull them up. They resolve to bring a more suitable piece and hang themselves the next day, if Godot fails to arrive.

Again, they agree to leave but neither of them makes any move to go.

Characters

Beckett refrained from elaborating on the characters beyond what he had written in the play. He once recalled them when Sir Ralph Richardson "wanted the low-down on Pozzo, his home address and curriculum vitae, and seemed to make the forthcoming of this and similar information the condition of his condescending to illustrate the part of Vladimir ... I told him that all I knew about Pozzo was in the text, that if I had known more I would have put it in the text, and that was true also of the other characters."[16]

Vladimir and Estragon

When Beckett started writing he did not have a visual image of Vladimir and Estragon. They are never referred to as tramps in the text. Roger Blin advises: "Beckett heard their voices, but he couldn't describe his characters to me. [He said]: 'The only thing I'm sure of is that they're wearing bowlers.'"[17] "The bowler hat was of course de rigueur for male persons in many social contexts when Beckett was growing up in Foxrock (when he first came back with his beret ... his mother suggested that he was letting the family down by not wearing a bowler), and [his father] commonly wore one."[18]

There are no physical descriptions of either of the two characters; however, the text indicates that Vladimir is likely the heavier of the pair. The bowlers and other broadly comic aspects of their personas have reminded modern audiences of Laurel and Hardy, who occasionally played tramps in their films. "The hat-passing game in Waiting For Godot and Lucky's inability to think without his hat on are two obvious Beckett derivations from Laurel and Hardy - a substitution of form for essence, covering for reality," wrote Gerald Mast in The Comic Mind: Comedy and the Movies (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2nd ed. 1979). Beckett also alludes to the comedy team specifically in his novel Watt (1953), when a healthy shrub is described at one point as "a hardy laurel".

Vladimir stands through most of the play whereas Estragon sits down numerous times and even dozes off. "Estragon is inert and Vladimir restless."[19] Vladimir looks at the sky and muses on religious or philosophical matters. Estragon "belongs to the stone",[20] preoccupied with mundane things, what he can get to eat and how to ease his physical aches and pains; he is direct, intuitive. He finds it hard to remember but can recall certain things when prompted, e.g. when Vladimir asks: "Do you remember the Gospels?"[21] Estragon tells him about the coloured maps of the Holy Land and that he planned to honeymoon by the Dead Sea; it is his short-term memory that is poorest and points to the fact that he may, in fact, be suffering from Alzheimer's disease.[22] Al Alvarez writes: "But perhaps Estragon's forgetfulness is the cement binding their relationship together. He continually forgets, Vladimir continually reminds him; between them they pass the time."[23] They have been together for fifty years but when asked – by Pozzo – they don't reveal their actual ages.

Vladimir's life is not without its discomforts too but he is the more resilient of the pair. "Vladimir's pain is primarily mental anguish, which would thus account for his voluntary exchange of his hat for Lucky's, thus signifying Vladimir's symbolic desire for another person's thoughts."[24]

Throughout the play the couple refer to each other by pet names, "Didi" and "Gogo" although one of the boys addresses Vladimir as "Mister Albert". Beckett originally intended to call Estragon, Lévy but when Pozzo questions him he gives his name as "Magrégor, André"[25] and also responds to "Catulle" in French or "Catullus" in the first Faber edition. This became "Adam" in the American edition. Beckett's only explanation was that he was "fed up with Catullus".[26]

Vivian Mercier – famous for describing Waiting for Godot as a play which "has achieved a theoretical impossibility—a play in which nothing happens, that yet keeps audiences glued to their seats. What's more, since the second act is a subtly different reprise of the first, he has written a play in which nothing happens, twice." (Irish Times, 18 February 1956, p. 6.)[27] – once questioned Beckett on the language used by the pair: "It seemed to me ... he made Didi and Gogo sound as if they had earned Ph.D.s. 'How do you know they hadn't?' was his reply."[28] They clearly have known better times, a visit to the Eiffel Tower and grape-harvesting by the Rhône; it is about all either has to say about their pasts. In the first stage production, which Beckett oversaw, both are "more shabby-genteel than ragged ... Vladimir at least is capable of being scandalised ... on a matter of etiquette when Estragon begs for chicken bones or money."[29]

Pozzo and Lucky

Mehdi Bajestani, as Lucky, (from a production by Naqshineh Theatre).

Although Beckett refused to be drawn on the backgrounds of the characters this has not stopped actors looking for their own motivation. Jean Martin had a doctor friend called Marthe Gautier, who was working at the Salpêtrièe Hospital, and he said to her: "'Listen, Marthe, what could I find that would provide some kind of physiological explanation for a voice like the one written in the text?' [She] said: 'Well, it might be a good idea if you went to see the people who have Parkinson's disease.' So I asked her about the disease ... She explained how it begins with a trembling, which gets more and more noticeable, until later the patient can no longer speak without the voice shaking. So I said, 'That sounds exactly what I need.'"[30] "Sam and Roger were not entirely convinced by my interpretation but had no objections."[31] When he explained to Beckett that he was playing Lucky as if he were suffering from Parkinson's, Beckett said, "'Yes, of course.' He mentioned briefly that his mother had had Parkinson's, but quickly moved on to another subject."[32]

When Beckett was asked why Lucky was so named, he replied, "I suppose he is lucky to have no more expectations..."[33]

Although it has been contended that "Pozzo and Lucky are simply Didi and Gogo writ large"[34] there is a different kind of dynamic at work here. Pozzo may be mistaken for Godot by the two men but, as far as Lucky goes, Pozzo is his Godot, another way in which he is lucky. Their association is not as clear cut as it first seems however for "upon closer inspection, it becomes evident that Lucky always possessed more influence in the relationship, for he danced, and more importantly, thought – not as a service, but in order to fill a vacant need of Pozzo: he committed all of these acts for Pozzo. As such, since the first appearance of the duo, the true slave had always been Pozzo."[24] Pozzo credits Lucky with having given him all the culture, refinement, and ability to reason that he possesses. His rhetoric has been learned by rote. Pozzo's 'party piece' on the sky is a case in point: as his memory crumbles he finds himself unable to continue under his own steam.

We learn very little about Pozzo besides the fact that he is on his way to the fair to sell his slave, Lucky. He presents himself very much as the Ascendancy landlord, bullying and conceited. His pipe is made by Kapp and Peterson, Dublin's best-known tobacconists (their slogan was 'The thinking man's pipe') which he refers to as a "briar" but which Estragon calls a "dudeen" emphasising the differences in their social standing. He confesses to a poor memory but it is more a result of an abiding self-absorption. "Pozzo is a character who has to overcompensate. That's why he overdoes things ... and his overcompensation has to do with a deep insecurity in him. These were things Beckett said, psychological terms he used."[35]

Pozzo controls Lucky by means of an extremely long rope which he jerks and tugs if Lucky is the least bit slow. Lucky is the absolutely subservient slave of Pozzo and he unquestioningly does his every bidding with "dog-like devotion".[36] He struggles with a heavy suitcase without ever thinking of dropping it. Lucky speaks only once in the play and it is a result of Pozzo's order to "think" for Estragon and Vladimir. Pozzo and Lucky had been together for sixty years and, in that time, their relationship has deteriorated. Lucky has always been the intellectually superior but now, with age, he has become an object of contempt: his "think" is a caricature of intellectual thought and his "dance" is a sorry sight. Despite his horrid treatment at Pozzo's hand however, Lucky remains completely faithful to him. Even in the second act when Pozzo has inexplicably gone blind, and needs to be led by Lucky rather than driving him as he had done before, Lucky remains faithful and has not tried to run away; they are clearly bound together by more than a piece of rope in the same way that Didi and Gogo are "[t]ied to Godot".[37] Beckett's advice to the American director Alan Schneider was: "[Pozzo] is a hypomaniac and the only way to play him is to play him mad."[19]

"In his [English] translation ... Beckett struggled to retain the French atmosphere as much as possible, so that he delegated all the English names and places to Lucky, whose own name, he thought, suggested such a correlation."[38]

The Boys

The cast list specifies only one boy.

The boy in Act I, a local lad, assures Vladimir that this is the first time he has seen him. He says he was not there the previous day. He confirms he works for Mr Godot as a goatherd. His brother, whom Godot beats, is a shepherd. Godot feeds both of them and allows them to sleep in his hayloft.

The boy in Act II also assures Vladimir that it was not he who called upon them the day before. He insists that this too is his first visit. When Vladimir asks what Godot does the boy tells him, "He does nothing, sir."[39] We also learn he has a white beard – possibly, the boy is not certain. This boy also has a brother who it seems is sick but there is no clear evidence to suggest that his brother is the boy that came in Act I or the one who came the day before that.

As messengers from Godot, those who take a Christian interpretation of the play naturally cast the boys in the role of angels.[citation needed]

Godot

The identity of Godot has been the subject of much debate. "When Colin Duckworth asked Beckett point-blank whether Pozzo was Godot, the author replied: 'No. It is just implied in the text, but it's not true.'"[40]

"When Roger Blin asked him who or what Godot stood for, Beckett replied that it suggested itself to him by the slang word for boot in French, godillot, godasse because feet play such a prominent role in the play. This is the explanation he has given most often."[41]

"Beckett said to Peter Woodthorpe that he regretted calling the absent character 'Godot', because of all the theories involving God to which this had given rise.[42] "I also told [Ralph] Richardson that if by Godot I had meant God I would [have] said God, and not Godot. This seemed to disappoint him greatly."[43] That said, Beckett did once concede, "It would be fatuous of me to pretend that I am not aware of the meanings attached to the word 'Godot', and the opinion of many that it means 'God'. But you must remember – I wrote the play in French, and if I did have that meaning in my mind, it was somewhere in my unconscious and I was not overtly aware of it."[44] This is an interesting remark, especially considering that "Beckett has often stressed the strong unconscious impulses that partly control his writing; he has even spoken of being 'in a trance' when he writes."[45]

Unlike elsewhere in Beckett's work, no bicycle appears in this play, but Hugh Kenner in his essay "The Cartesian Centaur" [46] reports that Beckett once, when asked about the meaning of Godot, mentioned "a veteran racing cyclist, bald, a 'stayer,' recurrent placeman in town-to-town and national championships, Christian name elusive, surname Godeau, pronounced, of course, no differently from Godot." Waiting for Godot is clearly not about track cycling, but is said that Beckett himself did wait for French cyclist Roger Godeau (1920-2000; a professional cyclist from 1943 to 1961), outside the velodrome in Roubaix.

What if Godot were to arrive? The Christian reading of the play suggests that were this to happen only one of the two tramps would benefit. Of the two thieves crucified along with Jesus only one was saved, of the two boys who work for Godot only one appears safe from beatings, "Beckett said, only half-jokingly, that one of Estragon's feet was saved";[47] it is perhaps better for the pair of them that he does not come.

The name "Godot" is pronounced in Britain and Ireland with the emphasis on the first syllable, /ˈɡɒdoʊ/); in North America it is usually pronounced with an emphasis on the second syllable, /ɡəˈdoʊ/. Beckett himself said the emphasis should be on the first syllable, and that the North American pronunciation is a mistake. [1] The T is silent.

Setting

There is only one scene throughout both acts. Two men are waiting on a country road by a tree. The script calls for Estragon to sit on a low mound but in practice – as in Beckett's own 1975 German production – this is usually a stone. In the first act the tree is bare. In the second, a few leaves have appeared despite the script specifying that it is the next day. The minimal description calls to mind "the idea of the lieu vague, a location which should not be particularised".[48]

Alan Schneider once suggested putting the play on in a round – Pozzo has often been commented on as a ringmaster[49] – but Beckett dissuaded him: "I don't in my ignorance agree with the round and feel Godot needs a very closed box." He even contemplated at one point having "faint shadow of bars on stage floor" but, in the end, decided against this level of what he called "explicitation".[50] In his 1975 Schiller-Theatre production there are times when Didi and Gogo appear to bounce off something "like birds trapped in the strands of [an invisible] net", in James Knowlson's description. Didi and Gogo are only trapped because they still cling to the concept that freedom is possible; freedom is a state of mind, so is imprisonment.

Interpretations

"Because the play is so stripped down, so elemental, it invites all kinds of social and political and religious interpretation," wrote Normand Berlin in a tribute to the play in Autumn 1999, "with Beckett himself placed in different schools of thought, different movements and 'ism's. The attempts to pin him down have not been successful, but the desire to do so is natural when we encounter a writer whose minimalist art reaches for bedrock reality. 'Less' forces us to look for 'more,' and the need to talk about Godot and about Beckett has resulted in a steady outpouring of books and articles."[51][52]

Throughout Waiting for Godot, the reader or viewer may encounter religious, philosophical, classical, psychoanalytical and biographical — especially wartime — references. There are ritualistic aspects and elements taken directly from vaudeville[53] and there is a danger in making more of these than what they are: that is, merely structural conveniences, avatars into which the writer places his fictional characters. The play "exploits several archetypal forms and situations, all of which lend themselves to both comedy and pathos."[54] Beckett makes this point emphatically clear in the opening notes to Film: "No truth value attaches to the above, regarded as of merely structural and dramatic convenience."[55] He made another important remark to Lawrence Harvey, saying that his "work does not depend on experience — [it is] not a record of experience. Of course you use it."[56]

Beckett tired quickly of "the endless misunderstanding". As far back as 1955, he remarked, "Why people have to complicate a thing so simple I can't make out."[57] He was not forthcoming with anything more than cryptic clues, however: "Peter Woodthrope [who played Estragon] remembered asking him one day in a taxi what the play was really about: 'It's all symbiosis, Peter; it's symbiosis,' answered Beckett."[58]

Beckett directed the play for the Schiller-Theatre in 1975. Although he had overseen many productions, this was the first time that he had taken complete control. Walter Asmus was his conscientious young assistant director. The production was not naturalistic. Beckett explained,

It is a game, everything is a game. When all four of them are lying on the ground, that cannot be handled naturalistically. That has got to be done artificially, balletically. Otherwise everything becomes an imitation, an imitation of reality [...]. It should become clear and transparent, not dry. It is a game in order to survive."[59]

Over the years, Beckett clearly realised that the greater part of Godot's success came down to the fact that it was open to a variety of readings and that this was not necessarily a bad thing. Beckett himself sanctioned "one of the most famous mixed-race productions of Godot, performed at the Baxter Theatre in the University of Cape Town, directed by Donald Howarth, with [...] two black actors, John Kani and Winston Ntshona, playing Didi and Gogo; Pozzo, dressed in checked shirt and gumboots reminiscent of an Afrikaner landlord, and Lucky ('a shanty town piece of white trash'[60]) were played by two white actors, Bill Flynn and Peter Piccolo [...]. The Baxter production has often been portrayed as if it were an explicitly political production, when in fact it received very little emphasis.[citation needed] What such a reaction showed, however, was that, although the play can in no way be taken as a political allegory, there are elements that are relevant to any local situation in which one man is being exploited or oppressed by another."[61]

Political

"It was seen as an allegory of the cold war"[62] or of French resistance to the Germans. Graham Hassell writes, "[T]he intrusion of Pozzo and Lucky [...] seems like nothing more than a metaphor for Ireland's view of mainland Britain, where society has ever been blighted by a greedy ruling élite keeping the working classes passive and ignorant by whatever means."[63]

The pair is often played with Irish accents, as in the Beckett on Film project. This, some feel, is an inevitable consequence of Beckett's rhythms and phraseology, but it is not stipulated in the text. At any rate, they are not of English stock: at one point early in the play, Estragon mocks the English pronunciation of "calm" and has fun with "the story of the Englishman in the brothel".[64]

Psychological

Freudian

"Bernard Dukore develops a triadic theory in Didi, Gogo and the absent Godot, based on Freud's trinitarian description of the psyche in The Ego and the Id (1923) and the usage of onomastic techniques. Dukore defines the characters by what they lack: the rational Go-go embodies the incomplete ego, the missing pleasure principle: (e)go-(e)go. Di-di (id-id) — who is more instinctual and irrational — is seen as the backward id or subversion of the rational principle. Godot fulfils the function of the superego or moral standards. Pozzo and Lucky are just re-iterations of the main protagonists. Dukore finally sees Beckett's play as a metaphor for the futility of man's existence when salvation is expected from an external entity, and the self is denied introspection."[65]

Jungian

"The four archetypal personalities or the four aspects of the soul are grouped in two pairs: the ego and the shadow, the persona and the soul's image (animus or anima). The shadow is the container of all our despised emotions repressed by the ego. Lucky, the shadow serves as the polar opposite of the egocentric Pozzo, prototype of prosperous mediocrity, who incessantly controls and persecutes his subordinate, thus symbolising the oppression of the unconscious shadow by the despotic ego. Lucky's monologue in Act I appears as a manifestation of a stream of repressed unconsciousness, as he is allowed to "think" for his master. Estragon's name has another connotation, besides that of the aromatic herb, tarragon: "estragon" is a cognate of oestrogen, the female hormone (Carter, 130). This prompts us to identify him with the anima, the feminine image of Vladimir's soul. It explains Estragon's propensity for poetry, his sensitivity and dreams, his irrational moods. Vladimir appears as the complementary masculine principle, or perhaps the rational persona of the contemplative type."[66]

Philosophical

Existential

Broadly speaking, existentialists hold that there are certain fundamental questions that every human being must come to terms with if they are to take their subjective existences seriously and with intrinsic value. Questions such as death, the meaning of human existence and the place of (or lack of) God in that existence are among them. By and large, the theories of existentialism assert that conscious reality is very complex and without an "objective" or universally known value: the individual must create value by affirming it and living it, not by simply talking about it or philosophizing it in the mind. The play may be seen to touch on all of these issues.

Much of Beckett's work —including Godot— is often considered by philosophical and literary scholars to be part of the movement of the Theatre of the Absurd, a form of theatre which stemmed from the Absurdist philosophy of Albert Camus. Absurdism itself is a branch off of the traditional assertions of existentialism, and posits that, while inherent meaning might very well exist in the universe, human beings are incapable of finding it due to some form of mental or philosophical limitation. Thus humanity is doomed to be faced with the Absurd, or the absolute absurdity of existence in lack of intrinsic purpose.

Ethical

Just after Didi and Gogo have been particularly selfish and callous, the boy comes to say that Godot is not coming. The boy (or pair of boys) may be seen to represent meekness and hope before compassion is consciously excluded by an evolving personality and character, and in which case may be the youthful Pozzo and Lucky. Thus Godot is compassion and fails to arrive every day, as he says he will. No-one is concerned that a boy is beaten.[67] In this interpretation, there is the irony that only by changing their hearts to be compassionate can the characters fixed to the tree move on and cease to have to wait for Godot.

Biblical

Much can be read into Beckett's inclusion of the story of the two thieves from Luke 23:39–43 and the ensuing discussion of repentance. It is easy to see the solitary tree as representative of the Christian cross or, indeed, the tree of life. Similarly, because Lucky describes God as having a white beard, and Godot, if the boy's testimony is to be believed, also has a white beard, many see God and Godot as one and the same. Vladimir's "Christ have mercy upon us!"[68] could be taken as evidence that that is at least what he believes.

This reading is given further weight early in the first act when Estragon asks Vladimir what it is that he has requested from Godot:

VLADIMIR: Oh ... nothing very definite.

ESTRAGON: A kind of prayer.

VLADIMIR: Precisely.

ESTRAGON: A vague supplication.

VLADIMIR: Exactly.[69]

Much of the play, steeped as it is in scriptural allusion, deals with the subject of religion. The boy claims to be a goatherd, while his brother, he says, is a shepherd: in the Bible, goats represent the damned and sheep those who have been saved.

According to Anthony Cronin, "[Beckett] always possessed a Bible, at the end more than one edition, and Bible concordances were always among the reference books on his shelves."[70] Beckett himself was quite open on the issue: "Christianity is a mythology with which I am perfectly familiar so I naturally use it."[71] As Cronin (one of his biographers) points out, his biblical references "may be ironic or even sarcastic".[72]

"In answer to a defence counsel question in 1937 (during a libel action brought by his uncle) as to whether he was a Christian, Jew or atheist, Beckett replied, 'None of the three'".[73] Looking at Beckett's entire œuvre, Mary Bryden observed that "the hypothesised God who emerges from Beckett's texts is one who is both cursed for his perverse absence and cursed for his surveillant presence. He is by turns dismissed, satirised, or ignored, but he, and his tortured son, are never definitively discarded."[74]

Autobiographical

Waiting for Godot has been described as a "metaphor for the long walk into Roussillon, when Beckett and Suzanne slept in haystacks [...] during the day and walked by night [... or] of the relationship of Beckett to Joyce."[75] The earliest drafts contain significant personal references, but these were later excised.[citation needed]

Homoerotic

That the play calls on only male actors, with scarcely a reference to women, has caused some to look upon Vladimir and Estragon's relationship as quasi-marital: "they bicker, they embrace each other, they depend upon each other [.... T]hey might be thought of as a married couple."[76] In Act One, Estragon speaks gently to his partner, approaching him slowly and laying a hand on his shoulder. After asking for his hand in turn and telling him not to be stubborn, he suddenly embraces him but backs off just as quickly, complaining, "You stink of garlic!"[77]

When Estragon reminisces about his occasional glances at the Bible and remembers how prettily coloured were the maps of the Dead Sea, he remarks, "That's where we'll go, I used to say, that's where we'll go for our honeymoon. We'll swim. We'll be happy."[78] Furthermore, the temptation to achieve post-mortem erections arises in the context of a world without females. Estragon in particular is "[h]ighly excited", in contrast with Vladimir, who chooses this moment to talk about shrieking mandrakes.[77] His apparent indifference to his partner's arousal may be viewed as a sort of playful teasing.

Another possible instance of homoeroticism has been discerned in the segment in which Estragon "sucks the end of it [his carrot]",[79] although Beckett describes this as a meditative action.[79]

Beckett's objection to female actors

Beckett was not open to most interpretative approaches to his work. He famously objected when, in the 1980s, several women's acting companies began to stage the play. "Women don't have prostates," said Beckett,[80] a reference to the fact that Vladimir frequently has to leave the stage to urinate.

In 1988, Beckett took a Dutch theatre company, De Haarlemse Toneelschuur to court over this issue. "Beckett [...] lost his case. But the issue of gender seemed to him to be so vital a distinction for a playwright to make that he reacted angrily, instituting a ban on all productions of his plays in The Netherlands."[81] In 1991, however, "Judge Huguette Le Foyer de Costil ruled that the production would not cause excessive damage to Beckett's legacy", and the play was duly performed by the all-female cast of the Brut de Beton Theater Company at the prestigious Avignon Festival.[82]

The Italian Pontedera Theatre Foundation won a similar claim in 2006 when it cast two actresses in the roles of Vladimir and Estragon, albeit in the characters' traditional roles as men.[83] At the 1995 Acco Festival, director Nola Chilton staged a production with Daniella Michaeli in the role of Lucky[84], and a 2001 production at Indiana University staged the play with women playing Pozzo and the Boy.[citation needed] Some argue that this overt act against Beckett's intent would be a similar act to a man performing The Vagina Monologues.

History

"[I]t was Beckett's escape from the increasingly despotic interiority of the fictional trilogy; in Beckett's own phrasing, 'I began to write Godot as a relaxation, to get away from the awful prose I was writing at the time.'"[85] It was inspired, according to Beckett himself, by a painting by Caspar David Friedrich. Ruby Cohn recalls seeing the painting, Man and Woman Contemplating the Moon of 1824, along with Beckett who "announced unequivocally, 'This was the source of Waiting for Godot, you know.'"[86] "He may well have confused two paintings since, at other times, he drew the attention of friends to Two Men Contemplating the Moon from 1819, in which two men dressed in cloaks and viewed from the rear are looking at a full moon framed by the black branches of a large, leafless tree."[87] In either case both paintings are similar enough that what he attested to could apply equally to either. However, some sources point to conversations between Suzanne Deschevaux-Dumesnil and Beckett in Roussillon as the inspiration for the work. Beckett admitted such in a New York Post interview by Jerry Tallmer [2].

"[O]n 17 February 1952 ... an abridged version of the play was performed in the studio of the Club d'Essai de la Radio and was broadcast on [French] radio ... [A]lthough he sent a polite note that Roger Blin read out, Beckett himself did not turn up."[88] Part of his introduction reads:

I don't know who Godot is. I don't even know (above all don't know) if he exists. And I don't know if they believe in him or not – those two who are waiting for him. The other two who pass by towards the end of each of the two acts, that must be to break up the monotony. All I knew I showed. It's not much, but it's enough for me, by a wide margin. I'll even say that I would have been satisfied with less. As for wanting to find in all that a broader, loftier meaning to carry away from the performance, along with the program and the Eskimo pie, I cannot see the point of it. But it must be possible ... Estragon, Vladimir, Pozzo, Lucky, their time and their space, I was able to know them a little, but far from the need to understand. Maybe they owe you explanations. Let them supply it. Without me. They and I are through with each other.[89]

The Minuit edition appeared in print on 17 October 1952 in advance of the play's first full theatrical performance. On 4 January 1953, "[t]hirty reviewers came to the générale of En attendant Godot before the public opening ... Contrary to later legend, the reviewers were kind ... Some dozen reviews in daily newspapers range[d] from tolerant to enthusiastic ... Reviews in the weeklies [were] longer and more fervent; moreover, they appeared in time to lure spectators to that first thirty-day run"[90] which began on 5 January 1953 at the Théâtre de Babylone, Paris. Early public performances were not, however, without incident: during one performance "the curtain had to be brought down after Lucky's monologue as twenty, well-dressed, but disgruntled spectators whistled and hooted derisively ... One of the protesters [even] wrote a vituperative letter dated 2 February 1953 to Le Monde."[91]

The cast comprised Pierre Latour (Estragon), Lucien Raimbourg (Vladimir), Jean Martin (Lucky) and Roger Blin (Pozzo). The actor due to play Pozzo found a more remunerative role and so the director – a shy, lean man in real life – had to step in and play the stout bombaster himself with a pillow amplifying his stomach. Both boys were played by Serge Lecointe. The entire production was done on the thinnest of shoestring budgets; the large battered valise that Martin carried "was found among the city's refuse by the husband of the theatre dresser on his rounds as he worked clearing the dustbins,"[92] for example.

A particularly significant production – from Beckett's perspective – took place in Lüttringhausen Prison near Wuppertal in Germany. An inmate obtained a copy of the French first edition, translated it himself into German and obtained permission to stage the play. The first night had been on 29 November 1953. He wrote to Beckett in October 1954: "You will be surprised to be receiving a letter about your play Waiting for Godot, from a prison where so many thieves, forgers, toughs, homos, crazy men and killers spend this bitch of a life waiting ... and waiting ... and waiting. Waiting for what? Godot? Perhaps."[93] Beckett was intensely moved and intended to visit the prison to see a last performance of the play but it never happened. This marked "the beginning of Beckett's enduring links with prisons and prisoners ... He took a tremendous interest in productions of his plays performed in prisons ... He even gave Rick Cluchey a former prisoner from San Quentin financial and moral support over a period of many years."[94] Cluchey played Vladimir in two productions in the former Gallows room of the San Quentin California State Prison, which had been converted into a 65-seat theatre and, like the German prisoner before him, went on to work on a variety of Beckett's plays after his release.

The English-language premiere was on 3 August 1955 at the Arts Theatre, London, directed by the 24-year-old Peter Hall Again, the printed version preceded it (New York: Grove Press, 1954) but Faber's "mutilated" edition did not materialise until 1956. A "corrected" edition was subsequently produced in 1965. "The most accurate text is in Theatrical Notebooks I, (Ed.) Dougald McMillan and James Knowlson (Faber and Grove, 1993). It is based on Beckett's revisions for his Schiller-Theatre production (1975) and the London San Quentin Drama Workshop, based on the Schiller production but revised further at the Riverside Studios (March 1984)."[95]

Like all of Beckett's translations, Waiting for Godot is not simply a literal translation of En attendant Godot. "Small but significant differences separate the French and English text. Some, like Vladimir's inability to remember the farmer's name (Bonnelly[96]), show how the translation became more indefinite, attrition and loss of memory more pronounced."[97] A number of biographical details were removed, all adding to a general "vaguening"[98] of the text which he continued to trim for the rest of his life.

In the nineteen-fifties, theatre was strictly censored in the UK, to Beckett's amazement since he thought it a bastion of free speech. The Lord Chamberlain insisted that the word "erection" be removed, "'Fartov' became 'Popov' and Mrs Gozzo had 'warts' instead of 'clap'".[99] Indeed, there were attempts to ban the play completely. For example, Lady Dorothy Howitt wrote to the Lord Chamberlain, saying: "One of the many themes running through the play is the desire of two old tramps continually to relieve themselves. Such a dramatisation of lavatory necessities is offensive and against all sense of British decency."[100] "The first unexpurgated version of Godot in England ... opened at the Royal Court on 30 December 1964."[101]

The London run was not without incident. The actor Peter Bull, who played Pozzo, recalls the reaction of that first night audience:

"Waves of hostility came whirling over the footlights, and the mass exodus, which was to form such a feature of the run of the piece, started quite soon after the curtain had risen. The audible groans were also fairly disconcerting ... The curtain fell to mild applause, we took a scant three calls (Peter Woodthorpe reports only one curtain call[102]) and a depression and a sense of anti-climax descended on us all."[103]

The critics were less than kind but "[e]verything changed on Sunday 7 August 1955 with Kenneth Tynan's and Harold Hobson's reviews in The Observer and The Sunday Times. Beckett was always grateful to the two reviewers for their support ... which more or less transformed the play overnight into the rage of London."[104] "At the end of the year, the Evening Standard Drama Awards were held for the first time ... Feelings ran high and the opposition, led by Sir Malcolm Sargent, threatened to resign if Godot won [The Best New Play category]. An English compromise was worked out by changing the title of the award. Godot became The Most Controversial Play of the Year. It is a prize that has never been given since."[105]

The first production of the play in the United States was at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Coconut Grove, Florida on 3 January 1956.[106]. It starred Tom Ewell as Vladimir and Bert Lahr as Estragon.

Beckett resisted offers to film the play, although it was televised in his lifetime. When Keep Films made Beckett an offer to film an adaptation in which Peter O'Toole would feature, Beckett tersely told his French publisher to advise them: "I do not want a film of Godot."[107] The BBC broadcast a production of Waiting for Godot on 26 June 1961, a version for radio having already been transmitted on 25 April 1960. Beckett watched the programme with a few close friends in Peter Woodthorpe's Chelsea flat. He was unhappy with what he saw. "My play," he said, "wasn't written for this box. My play was written for small men locked in a big space. Here you're all too big for the place."[108]

Although not his favourite amongst his plays – perhaps because of the way it came to overshadow everything else he wrote – it was the work which brought Beckett fame and financial stability and as such it always held a special place in his affections. "When the manuscript and rare books dealer, Henry Wenning, asked him if he could sell the original French manuscript for him, Beckett replied: 'Rightly or wrongly have decided not to let Godot go yet. Neither sentimental nor financial, probably peak of market now and never such an offer. Can't explain.'"[109]

A 2009 Broadway revival of the play, starring Nathan Lane and Bill Irwin, was nominated for 3 Tony Awards: Best Revival of a Play, Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play (John Glover), and Best Costume Design of a Play (Jane Greenwood).[110] It received rave reviews, and was a huge success for the Roundabout Theatre. Variety called it a "transcendent" production.

On 30 April 2009 a production of Waiting for Godot was launched in London's West End, at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. The production stars Sir Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart as the two lead roles. The pair bring a rapport to the characters of Vladimir and Estragon that has won much critical acclaim [111]. In 2009, The Daily Telegraph reported that Patrick Stewart saw the ghost of John Baldwin Buckstone standing in the wings during a performance at the Haymarket.[112]

The 2009 run was so successful that the play is returning to the Theatre Royal Haymarket from January 21st 2010 for 11 weeks.

Related works

  • Racine's Bérénice is a play "in which nothing happens for five acts."[113] In the preface to this play Racine writes: "All creativity consists in making something out of nothing." Beckett was an avid scholar of the 17th century playwright and lectured on him during his time at Trinity. "Essential to the static quality of a Racine play is the pairing of characters to talk at length to each other."[48]
  • The title character of Balzac's 1851 play Mercadet is waiting for financial salvation from his never seen business partner, Godeau. Although Beckett was familiar with Balzac's prose; he is insistent that he learned of this play after finishing Waiting for Godot. Coincidentally, in 1949, Balzac's play was closely adapted to film as The Lovable Cheat (starring Buster Keaton, whom Beckett greatly admired).
  • The unity of place, the particular site on the edge of a marsh which the two tramps cannot leave, recalls Sartre's striking use of the unity of place in his 1944 play, No Exit. There it is hell in the appearance of a Second Empire living room that the three characters cannot leave. The curtain line of each play underscores the unity of place, the setting of which is prison. The Let's go! of Godot corresponds to the Well, well, let's get on with it....! of No Exit. Sartre's hell is projected by use of some of the quid pro quos of a bedroom farce, whereas the unnamed plateau – the platter Didi and Gogo are served up on in the French version – evokes an empty vaudeville stage.
  • Many critics regard the protagonists in Beckett's novel Mercier and Camier as prototypes of Vladimir and Estragon. "If you want to find the origins of Godot," he told Colin Duckworth once, "look at Murphy."[114] Here we see the agonised protagonist yearning for self-knowledge, or at least complete freedom of thought at any cost, and the dichotomy and interaction of mind and body. It is also a book that dwells on mental illness something that affects all the characters in Godot. In defence of the critics, Mercier and Camier wander aimlessly about a boggy, rain-soaked island that, although not explicitly named, is Beckett's native Ireland. They speak convoluted dialogues similar to Vladimir and Estragon's, joke about the weather and chat in pubs, while the purpose of their odyssey is never made clear. The waiting in Godot is the wandering of the novel. "There are large chunks of dialogue which he later transferred directly into Godot."[115]

Works inspired by Godot

  • An unauthorised sequel was written by Miodrag Bulatović in 1966: Godo je došao (Godot Arrived). It was translated from the Serbian into German (Godot ist gekommen) and French. The playwright presents Godot as a baker who ends up being condemned to death by the four main characters. Since it turns out he is indestructible Lucky declares him non-existent. Although Beckett was noted for disallowing productions that took even slight liberties with his plays, he let this pass without incident but not without comment. Ruby Cohn writes: "On the flyleaf of my edition of the Bulatović play, Beckett is quoted: 'I think that all that has nothing to do with me.'"[116]
  • An unauthorised prequel, of sorts, formed Part II of Ian McDonald's 1991 novel King of Morning, Queen of Day (partly written in Joycean style). Two main characters are clearly meant to be the original Vladimir and Estragon.
  • Another unauthorised sequel was written by Daniel Curzon in the late 1990s: Godot Arrives.
  • A radical transformation was written by Bernard Pautrat, performed at Théâtre National de Strasbourg in 1979-1980: Ils allaient obscurs sous la nuit solitaire (d'après 'En attendant Godot' de Samuel Beckett). The piece was performed in a disused hangar. "This space, marked by diffusion, and therefore quite unlike traditional concentration of dramatic space, was animated, not by four actors and the brief appearance of a fifth one (as in Beckett's play), but by ten actors. Four of them bore the names of Gogo, Didi, Lucky and Pozzo. The others were: the owner of the Citroën, the barman, the bridegroom, the bride, the man with the Ricard [and] the man with the club foot. The dialogue, consisting of extensive quotes from the original, was distributed in segments among the ten actors, not necessarily following the order of the original."[117]
  • French playwright Matei Vişniec (of Romanian origin), wrote his famous play Old Clown Wanted, inspired by Waiting for Godot.
  • Matei Vişniec's play, "The Last Godot", in which Samuel Becket and Godot are characters, ends with the first lines in Waiting for Godot.
  • The film Waiting for Guffman, in which Guffman never arrives.
  • Godot is a character in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations, a mysterious character whose real name, identity, and prior life are unknown at the beginning of the game.
  • In the Bollywood film Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, a man is waiting outside an airport with a card saying "GODOT". He is an old man, which shows that he has probably been waiting for a very long time.
  • The music video for k.d. lang's song "Constant Craving" depicts a crowd watching a 1950s production of Waiting for Godot.
  • Sesame Street's recurring skit 'Monsterpiece Theater' has Grover and Telly Monster 'Waiting For Elmo'. Host Alistair Cookie describes it as 'a modern masterpiece. A play so modern and so brilliant, it make absolutely no sense to anybody'. After about two minutes of waiting, talking about waiting, and wondering what happens if Elmo doesn't show up, the tree they are standing by gets fed up, walks off and decides to join a production of 'Oklahoma!'. Since Elmo said he would meet them by that one tree, the monsters panic and hurriedly follow it.
  • Turkish playwright Ferhan Şensoy's play Güle Güle Godot (Bye Bye Godot) tells about the people of an unnamed country where there is a big problem of water and there is a misgovernor named Godot. The people of the country are waiting for Godot to leave, because they desire to have a country where they are able to select their own governor.

References

  1. ^ Berlin, N., "Traffic of our stage: Why Waiting for Godot?" in The Massachusetts Review, Autumn 1999
  2. ^ Ackerley, C. J. and Gontarski, S. E., (Eds.) The Faber Companion to Samuel Beckett (London: Faber and Faber, 2006), p. 620.
  3. ^ Ackerley and Gontarski 2006, p. 172.
  4. ^ The Times, 31 December 1964. Quoted in Knowlson, J., Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), p. 57.
  5. ^ Beckett objected strongly to the sentence being rendered: "Nothing Doing". (Knowlson, J., Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), p. 567)
  6. ^ The character Pozzo, however, prominently wears and takes note of a watch that he is wearing.
  7. ^ a b Beckett 1988, p. 18.
  8. ^ Beckett 1988, p. 21.
  9. ^ Beckett 1988, p. 23.
  10. ^ Roger Blin, who acted in and directed the premier of Waiting for Godot, teasingly described Lucky to Jean Martin (who played him) as "a one-line part". (Cohn, R., From Desire to Godot (London: Calder Publications; New York: Riverrun Press, 1998), p. 151)
  11. ^ Beckett 1988, p. 50.
  12. ^ See Clausius, C., 'Bad Habits While Waiting for Godot' in Burkman, K. H., (Ed.) Myth and Ritual in the Plays of Samuel Beckett (London and Toronto: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1987), p 139
  13. ^ Webb, E., The Plays of Samuel Beckett (Seattle: Univ. of Washington Press, 1974)
  14. ^ Beckett, S., Waiting for Godot, (London: Faber and Faber, [1956] 1988), p 59
  15. ^ Beckett, S., Waiting for Godot, (London: Faber and Faber, [1956] 1988), p 89
  16. ^ SB to Barney Rosset, 18 October 1954 (Syracuse). Quoted in Knowlson, J., Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), p 412
  17. ^ Quoted in Le Nouvel Observateur (26 September 1981) and referenced in Cohn, R., From Desire to Godot (London: Calder Publications; New York: Riverrun Press), 1998, p 150
  18. ^ Cronin, A., Samuel Beckett The Last Modernist (London: Flamingo, 1997), p 382
  19. ^ a b Letter to Alan Schneider, 27 December 1955 in Harmon, M., (Ed.) No Author Better Served: The Correspondence of Samuel Beckett and Alan Schneider (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), p 6
  20. ^ Kalb, J., Beckett in Performance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p 43
  21. ^ Beckett, S., Waiting for Godot, (London: Faber and Faber, [1956] 1988), p 12
  22. ^ See Brown, V., Yesterday's Deformities: A Discussion of the Role of Memory and Discourse in the Plays of Samuel Beckett, pp 35-75 for a detailed discussion of this.
  23. ^ Alvarez, A. Beckett 2nd Edition (London: Fontana Press, 1992)
  24. ^ a b Gurnow, M., No Symbol Where None Intended: A Study of Symbolism and Allusion in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot
  25. ^ Fletcher, J., 'The Arrival of Godot' in The Modern Language Review, Vol. 64, No. 1 (Jan., 1969), pp. 34-38
  26. ^ Duckworth, C., (Ed.) 'Introduction' to En attendant Godot (London: George Harrap, 1966), pp lxiii, lxiv. Quoted in Ackerley, C. J. and Gontarski, S. E., (Eds.) The Faber Companion to Samuel Beckett, (London: Faber and Faber, 2006), p 183
  27. ^ Mercier, V., 'The Uneventful Event' in The Irish Times, 18 February 1956
  28. ^ Mercier, V., Beckett/Beckett (London: Souvenir Press, 1990), p 46
  29. ^ Mercier, V., Beckett/Beckett (London: Souvenir Press, 1990), pp 47,49
  30. ^ Jean Martin on the World Première of En attendant Godot in Knowlson, J. & E., (Ed.) Beckett Remembering – Remembering Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 2006), p 117
  31. ^ Wilmer S. E., (Ed.) Beckett in Dublin (Dublin: Lilliput Press, 1992), p 28
  32. ^ Jean Martin to Deirdre Bair, 12 May 1976. Quoted in Bair, D., Samuel Beckett: A Biography (London: Vintage, 1990), p 449
  33. ^ Duckworth, C., The Making of Godot, p 95. Quoted in Bair, D., Samuel Beckett: A Biography (London: Vintage, 1990), p 407
  34. ^ Friedman, N., 'Godot and Gestalt: The Meaning of Meaningless' in The American Journal of Psychoanalysis 49(3) p 277
  35. ^ Kalb, J., Beckett in Performance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p 175
  36. ^ Mercier, V., Beckett/Beckett (London: Souvenir Press, 1990), p 53
  37. ^ Beckett, S., Waiting for Godot, (London: Faber and Faber, [1956] 1988), p 21
  38. ^ Barney Rosset to Deidre Bair, 29 March 1974. Referenced in Bair, D., Samuel Beckett: A Biography (London: Vintage, 1990), p 464
  39. ^ Beckett, S., Waiting for Godot, (London: Faber and Faber, [1956] 1988), p 91
  40. ^ Colin Duckworth's introduction to En attendant Godot (London: George G Harrap & Co, 1966), lx. Quoted in Cohn, R., From Desire to Godot (London: Calder Publications; New York: Riverrun Press, 1998), p 150
  41. ^ Bair, D., Samuel Beckett: A Biography (London: Vintage, 1990), p 405
  42. ^ Interview with Peter Woodthrope 18 February 1994. Referenced in Knowlson, J., Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), p 785 n 166
  43. ^ SB to Barney Rosset, 18 October 1954 (Syracuse). Quoted in Knowlson, J., Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), p 412
  44. ^ Bair, D., Samuel Beckett: A Biography (London: Vintage, 1990), p 591
  45. ^ Mercier, V., Beckett/Beckett (London: Souvenir Press, 1990), p 87
  46. ^ Kenner, H., The Cartesian Centaur, (Perspective, 1959)
  47. ^ Ackerley, C. J. and Gontarski, S. E., (Eds.) The Faber Companion to Samuel Beckett, (London: Faber and Faber, 2006)
  48. ^ a b Cronin, A., Samuel Beckett The Last Modernist (London: Flamingo, 1997), p 60
  49. ^ Hampton, W., Theater Review: Celebrating With 'Waiting for Godot' New York Times, 11 June 2007
  50. ^ [http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/english/people/academic/barrydrliz/berlinlecture/
  51. ^ Berlin 1999.
  52. ^ Genest, G., 'Memories of Samuel Beckett in the Rehearsals for Endgame, 1967' in Ben-Zvi, L., (Ed.) Women in Beckett: Performance and Critical Perspectives (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992), p x
  53. ^ The game of changing hats is an echo of the Marx Brothers' film Duck Soup, which features almost exactly the same headgear-swapping action. See Knowlson, J., Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), p. 609.
  54. ^ Cronin, A., Samuel Beckett The Last Modernist (London: Flamingo, 1997), p. 391.
  55. ^ Beckett, S., The Grove Centenary Edition, Vol III (New York: Grove Press, 2006), p. 371.
  56. ^ An undated interview with Lawrence Harvey. Quoted in Knowlson, J., Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), pp. 371, 372.
  57. ^ SB to Thomas MacGreevy, 11 August 1955 (TCD). Quoted in Knowlson, J., Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), p. 416.
  58. ^ Interview with Peter Woodthrope, 18 February 1994. Quoted in Knowlson, J., Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), pp. 371, 372.
  59. '^ Quoted in Asmus, W., 'Beckett directs Godot in Theatre Quarterly, Vol V, No 19, 1975, pp. 23, 24. Quoted in Knowlson, J., Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), p. 607.
  60. ^ Irving Wardle, The Times, 19 February 1981.
  61. ^ Knowlson, J., Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), pp 638,639
  62. ^ Peter Hall in The Guardian, 4 January 2003
  63. '^ Hassell, G., What's On' London, 2nd - 9 July 1997.
  64. ^ Beckett 2008, p. 8.
  65. ^ Sion, I., "The Zero Soul: Godot's Waiting Selves In Dante's Waiting Rooms" in Transverse No 2, November 2004, p. 70.
  66. ^ Sion, I., 'The Shape of the Beckettian Self: Godot and the Jungian Mandala' in Consciousness, Literature and the Arts Volume 7 Number 1, April 2006. See also Carter, S., 'Estragon's Ancient Wound: A Note on Waiting for Godot' in Journal of Beckett Studies 6.1, p. 130.
  67. ^ On the other hand, Didi only learns of this in asking the boy's brother how Godot treats him, which may in itself be seen as a show of compassion.
  68. ^ Beckett, S., Waiting for Godot, (London: Faber and Faber, [1956] 1988), p. 92.
  69. ^ Beckett 2006, pp. 10-11.
  70. ^ Cronin, A., Samuel Beckett The Last Modernist (London: Flamingo, 1997), p. 21.
  71. '^ Duckworth, C., Angels of Darkness: Dramatic Effect in Samuel Beckett with Special Reference to Eugène Ionesco (London: Allen, 1972), p. 18. Quoted in Herren, G., Nacht und Träume as Beckett's Agony in the Garden' in Journal of Beckett Studies, 11(1)
  72. ^ Cronin, A., Samuel Beckett The Last Modernist (London: Flamingo, 1997), pp. 20, 21.
  73. ^ Knowlson, J., Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), p. 279. Referenced in Bryden, M., 'Beckett and Religion' in Oppenheim, L., (Ed.) Palgrave Advances in Samuel Beckett Studies (London: Palgrave, 2004), p. 157.
  74. ^ Bryden, M., Samuel Beckett and the Idea of God (Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave MacMillan, 1998), introduction.
  75. ^ Bair, D., Samuel Beckett: A Biography (London: Vintage, 1990), pp. 409, 410, 405.
  76. ^ Boxall, P., "Beckett and Homoeroticism" in in Oppenheim, L., (ed.) Palgrave Advances in Samuel Beckett Studies (London: Palgrave, 2004).
  77. ^ a b Beckett 2006, p. 9.
  78. ^ Beckett 2006, p. 4.
  79. ^ a b Beckett 2006, p. 13.
  80. ^ Meeting with Linda Ben-Zvi, December 1987. Quoted in "Introduction" to Ben-Zvi, L., (ed.) Women in Beckett: Performance and Critical Perspectives (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992), p. x.
  81. ^ Knowlson, J., Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), p. 695.
  82. ^ "Judge Authorizes All-Female Godot" in New York Times, 6 July 1991.
  83. ^ "Beckett estate fails to stop women waiting for Godot" in The Guardian, 4 February 2006.
  84. ^ Acco Festival of Alternative Israeli Theatre, 1995 Archive
  85. ^ Cohn, R., From Desire to Godot (London: Calder Publications; New York: Riverrun Press, 1998), p 138
  86. ^ Ruby Cohn to James Knowlson, 9 August 1994. Quoted in Knowlson, J., Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), p 378
  87. ^ Knowlson, J., Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), p 378
  88. ^ Knowlson, J., Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), pp 386,394
  89. ^ Ruby Cohn on the Godot Circle in Knowlson, J. & E., (Ed.) Beckett Remembering – Remembering Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 2006), p 122
  90. ^ Cohn, R., From Desire to Godot (London: Calder Publications; New York: Riverrun Press), 1998, pp 153,157
  91. ^ Knowlson, J., Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), pp 387, 778 n 139
  92. ^ Interview with Jean Martin, September 1989. Referenced in Knowlson, J., Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), pp 386,387
  93. ^ Letter from an unnamed Lüttringhausen prisoner, 1 October 1956. Translated by James Knowlson. Quoted in Knowlson, J., Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), p 409
  94. ^ Knowlson, J., Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), pp 410,411
  95. ^ Ackerley, C. J. and Gontarski, S. E., (Eds.) The Faber Companion to Samuel Beckett (London: Faber and Faber, 2006), pp 620,621
  96. ^ A farmer in Roussillon, the village where Beckett fled during World War II; he never worked for the Bonnellys, though he used to visit and purchase eggs and wine there. See Cronin, A., Samuel Beckett The Last Modernist (London: Flamingo, 1997), p 333
  97. ^ Ackerley, C. J. and Gontarski, S. E., (Eds.) The Faber Companion to Samuel Beckett, (London: Faber and Faber, 2006), pp 622,623
  98. ^ An expression coined by Beckett in which he make the "meaning" less and less clear at each draft. A detailed discussion of Beckett's method can be found in Pountney, R., Theatre of Shadows: Samuel Beckett's Drama 1956-1976 (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1988) although it concentrates on later works when this process had become more refined.
  99. ^ Bair, D., Samuel Beckett: A Biography (London: Vintage, 1990), p 471
  100. ^ Letter released under the Freedom of Information Act. Quoted by Peter Hall in 'Godot Almighty', The Guardian, Wednesday 24 August 2005
  101. ^ Bair, D., Samuel Beckett: A Biography (London: Vintage, 1990), p 613
  102. ^ Peter Woodthorpe on the British première of Waiting for Godott in Knowlson, J. & E., (Ed.) Beckett Remembering – Remembering Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 2006), p 122
  103. '^ Bull, P., I know the face but ..., quoted in Casebook on 'Waiting for Godot, pp 41,42. Quoted in Knowlson, J., Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), p 414
  104. ^ Knowlson, J., Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), p 415
  105. ^ Peter Hall looks back at the original Godot, Samuel-Beckett.net
  106. ^ Cohan, Carol, Broadway By the Bay, (Miami, Florida: The Pickering Press, 1987). p 6.
  107. ^ SB to Jérôme Lindon, 18 April 1967. Quoted in Knowlson, J., Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), p 545
  108. ^ Interview with Peter Woodthrope 18 February 1994. Referenced in Knowlson, J., Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), pp 487,488
  109. ^ SB to Henry Wenning, 1 January 1965 (St Louis). Quoted in Knowlson, J., Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), p 527
  110. ^ http://www.tonyawards.com/en_US/nominees/index.html
  111. ^ http://www.thealligatoronline.com/?blog/81
  112. ^ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/theatre-news/6087811/Patrick-Stewart-saw-ghost-performing-Waiting-for-Godot.html
  113. ^ Mercier, V., Beckett/Beckett (London: Souvenir Press, 1990), p 74
  114. ^ Cooke, V., (Ed.) Beckett on File (London: Methuen, 1985), p 14
  115. ^ Bair, D., Samuel Beckett: A Biography (London: Vintage, 1990), p 376
  116. ^ Bulatović, M., Il est arrive (Paris: Seuil, 1967). Quoted in Cohn, R., From Desire to Godot (London: Calder Publications; New York: Riverrun Press, 1998), p 171
  117. ^ Murch, A. C., 'Quoting from Godot: trends in contemporary French theatre' in Journal of Beckett Studies, No 9, Spring 1983

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Samuel Beckett article)

From Wikiquote

One is what one is, partly at least.
We are all born mad. Some remain so.

Samuel Beckett (1906-04-131989-12-22) was an Irish playwright, novelist, poet and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. He wrote mainly in English and French.

Contents

Sourced

  • The only sin is the sin of being born.
    • As quoted in "Samuel Beckett Talks About Beckett" by John Gruen, in Vogue, (December 1969), p. 210
    • Compare "The tragic figure represents the expiation of original sin, of the original and eternal sin of him and all his 'soci malorum,' the sin of having been born. 'Pues el delito mayor / Del hombre es haber nacido.'" from his essay Proust, quoting Pedro Calderón de la Barca's La vida es sueño (Life is a Dream).
  • If by Godot I had meant God I would have said God, and not Godot.
    • As quoted in The Essential Samuel Beckett: An Illustrated Biography, by Enoch Brater (revised edition, 2003) ISBN 0-500-28411-3, p.75
  • It means what it says.
    • Said about Waiting for Godot, from Jonathan Croall, The Coming of Godot (2005) ISBN 1-840-02595-6, p.91
  • I grow gnomic. It is the last phase.
    • The Letters of Samuel Becket 1929–1940 (2009), p. 209
  • I think the next little bit of excitement is flying. I hope I am not too old to take it up seriously, nor too stupid about machines to qualify as a commercial pilot. I do not feel like spending the rest of my life writing books that no one will read. It is not as though I wanted to write them.
    • The Letters of Samuel Beckett 1929–1940 (2009), p. 362

Watt (1943)

Grove Press, 1959, ISBN 0-394-17216-7
  • The long blue days, for his head, for his side, and the little paths for his feet, and all the brightness to touch and gather. Through the grass the little mosspaths, bony with old roots, and the trees sticking up, and the flowers sticking up, and the fruit hanging down, and the white exhausted butterflies, and the birds never the same darting all day long into hiding. And all the sounds, meaning nothing. Then at night rest in the quiet house, there are no roads, no streets any more, you lie down by a window opening on refuge, the little sounds come that demand nothing, ordain nothing, explain nothing, propound nothing, and the short necessary night is soon ended, and the sky blue again all over the secret places where nobody ever comes, the secret places never the same, but always simple and indifferent, always mere places, sites of a stirring beyond coming and going, of a being so light and free that it is as the being of nothing.
    • Part I (p. 39)
  • We are no longer the same, you wiser but not sadder, and I sadder but not wiser, for wiser I could hardly become without grave personal inconvenience, whereas sorrow is a thing you can keep adding to all your life long, is it not, like a stamp or an egg collection, without feeling very much the worse for it, is it not.
    • Part I (p. 50)
  • For the only way one can speak of nothing is to speak of it as though it were something, just as the only way one can speak of God is to speak of him as though he were a man, which to be sure he was, in a sense, for a time, and as the only way one can speak of man, even our anthropologists have realized that, is to speak of him as though he were a termite.
    • Part II (p. 77)
  • But he had turned, little by little, a disturbance into words, he had made a pillow of old words, for his head.
    • Part II (p. 117)
  • But he had hardly felt the absurdity of those things, on the one hand, and the necessity of those others, on the other (for it is rare that the feeling of absurdity is not followed by the feeling of necessity), when he felt the absurdity of those things of which he had just felt the necessity (for it is rare that the feeling of necessity is not followed by the feeling of absurdity).
    • Part II (p. 133)
  • Consider: the darkening ease, the brightening trouble; the pleasure pleasure because it was, the pain pain because it shall be; the glad acts grown proud, the proud acts growing stubborn; the panting and trembling towards a being gone, a being to come; and the true true no longer, and the false true not yet. And to decide not to smile after all, sitting in the shade, hearing the cicadas, wishing it were night, wishing it were morning, saying, No, it is not the heart, no, it is not the liver, no, it is not the prostate, no, it is not the ovaries, no, it is muscular, it is nervous.
    • Part III (p. 201)
  • Bid us sigh on from day to day,
    And wish and wish the soul away,
    Till youth and genial years are flown,
    And all the life of life is gone.
    • Addenda (p. 248)

The Expelled (1946)

  • Memories are killing. So you must not think of certain things, of those that are dear to you, or rather you must think of them, for if you don’t there is the danger of finding them, in your mind, little by little.
  • They were most correct, according to their god.
  • I have always been amazed at my contemporaries’ lack of finesse, I whose soul writhed from morning to night, in the mere quest of itself.
  • I felt ill at ease with all this air about me, lost before the confusion of innumerable prospects.
  • Yes, I don’t know why, but I have never been disappointed, and I often was in the early days, without feeling at the same time, or a moment later, an undeniable relief.
  • Poor juvenile solutions, explaining nothing. No need then for caution, we may reason on to our heart’s content, the fog won’t lift.
  • Does one ever know oneself why one laughs?
  • The short winter’s day was drawing to a close. It seems to me sometimes that these are the only days I have ever known, and especially that most charming moment of all, just before night wipes them out.
  • I don’t know why I told this story. I could just as well have told another. Perhaps some other time I’ll be able to tell another. Living souls, you will see how alike they are.
  • They never lynch children, babies, no matter what they do they are whitewashed in advance

The Calmative (1946)

  • All I say cancels out, I’ll have said nothing.
  • It’s to me this evening something has to happen, to my body as in myth and metamorphosis, this old body to which nothing ever happened, or so little, which never met with anything, wished for anything, in its tarnished universe, except for the mirrors to shatter, the plane, the curved, the magnifying, the minifying, and to vanish in the havoc of its images.
  • I marshalled the words and opened my mouth, thinking I would hear them. But all I heard was a kind of rattle, unintelligible even to me who knew what was intended.
  • How tell what remains ? But it’s the end. Or have I been dreaming, am I dreaming ? No no, none of that, for dream is nothing, a joke, and significant what is worse.
  • To think that in a moment all will be said, all to do again.

The End (1946)

  • I didn’t feel well, but they told me I was well enough. They didn’t say in so many words that I was as well as I would ever be, but that was the implication.
  • The earth makes a sound as of sighs and the last drops fall from the emptied cloudless sky. A small boy, stretching out his hands and looking up at the blue sky, asked his mother how such a thing was possible. Fuck off, she said.
  • My appearance still made people laugh, with that hearty jovial laugh so good for the health.
  • It was long since I had longed for anything and the effect on me was horrible.
  • I felt weak, perhaps I was.
  • A mask of dirty old hairy leather, with two holes and a slit, it was too far gone for the old trick of please your honour and God reward you and pity upon me. It was disastrous.
  • I tried to groan, Help! Help! But the tone that came out was that of polite conversation.
  • Normally I didn’t see a great deal. I didn’t hear a great deal either. I didn’t pay attention. Strictly speaking I wasn’t there. Strictly speaking I believe I’ve never been anywhere.
  • Do you ever think? The voice, God forbid.
  • I knew it would soon be the end, so I played the part, you know, the part of-how shall I say, I don’t know.
  • To contrive a little kingdom, in the midst of the universal muck, then shit on it, ah that was me all over.
  • The memory came faint and cold of the story I might have told, a story in the likeness of my life, I mean without the courage to end or the strength to go on.

Molloy (1951)

  • Don't wait to be hunted to hide, that's always been my motto.
  • But is it true love, in the rectum? That’s what bothers me sometimes.
  • And once again I am I will not say alone, no, that's not like me, but, how shall I say, I don't know, restored to myself, no, I never left myself, free, yes, I don't know what that means but it's the word I mean to use, free to do what, to do nothing, to know, but what, the laws of the mind perhaps, of my mind, that for example water rises in proportion as it drowns you and that you would do better, at least no worse, to obliterate texts than to blacken margins, to fill in the holes of words till all is blank and flat and the whole ghastly business looks like what is, senseless, speechless, issueless misery.
  • To restore silence is the role of objects.
  • To him who has nothing it is forbidden not to relish filth.
  • And truly it little matters what I say, this or that or any other thing. Saying is inventing. Wrong, very rightly wrong. You invent nothing, you think you are inventing, you think you are escaping, and all you do is stammer out your lesson, the remnants of a pensum one day got by heart and long forgotten, life without tears, as it is wept.
  • The fact is, it seems, that the most you can hope is to be a little less, in the end, the creature you were in the beginning, and the middle.
  • My life, my life, now I speak of it as of something over, now as of a joke which still goes on, and it is neither, for at the same time it is over and it goes on, and is there any tense for that ? Watch wound and buried by the watchmaker, before he died, whose ruined works will one day speak of God, to the worms.
  • All the things you would do gladly, oh without enthusiasm, but gladly, all the things there seems no reason for your not doing, and that you do not do! Can it be we are not free? It might be worth looking into.
  • It sometimes happens and will sometimes happen again that I forget who I am and strut before my eyes, like a stranger.
  • Anything worse than what I do, without knowing what, or why, I have never been able to conceive, and that doesn’t surprise me, for I never tried. For had I been able to conceive something worse than what I had I would have known no peace until I got it, if I know anything about myself.
  • In me there have always been two fools, among others, one asking nothing better than to stay where he is and the other imagining that life might be slightly less horrible a little further on.
  • Yes, there were times when I forgot not only who I was, but that I was, forgot to be.
  • What do you expect, one is what one is, partly at least.
  • To know nothing is nothing, not to want to know anything likewise, but to be beyond knowing anything, to know you are beyond knowing anything, that is when peace enters in, to the soul of the incurious seeker.
  • Having heard, or more probably read somewhere, in the days when I thought I would be well advised to educate myself, or amuse myself, or stupefy myself, or kill time, that when a man in a forest thinks he is going forward in a straight line, in reality he is going in a circle, I did my best to go in a circle, hoping in this way to go in a straight line. For I stopped being half-witted and became sly, whenever I took the trouble… and if I did not go in a rigorously straight line, with my system of going in a circle, at least I did not go in a circle, and that was something.
  • What I assert, deny, question, in the present, I still can. But mostly I shall use the various tenses of the past. For mostly I do not know, it is perhaps no longer so, it is too soon to know, I simply do not know, perhaps shall never know.
  • I don’t like animals. It’s a strange thing, I don’t like men and I don’t like animals. As for God, he is beginning to disgust me.
  • Unfathomable mind, now beacon, now sea.
  • I was not made for the great light that devours, a dim lamp was all I had been given, and patience without end, to shine it on the empty shadows. I was a solid in the midst of other solids.
  • I get up, go out, and everything is changed. The blood drains from my head, the noise of things bursting, merging, avoiding one another, assails me on all sides, my eyes search in vain for two things alike, each pinpoint of skin screams a different message, I drown in the spray of phenomena.
  • To decompose is to live too, I know, I know, don't torment me, but one sometimes forgets. And of that life too I shall tell you perhaps one day, the day I know that when I thought I knew I was merely existing and that passion without form or stations will have devoured me down to the rotting flesh itself and that when I know that I know nothing, am only crying out as I have always cried out, more or less piercingly, more or less openly. Let me cry out then, it's said to be good for you. yes let me cry out, this time, then another time perhaps, then perhaps a last time.
  • There is a little of everything, apparently, in nature, and freaks are common.
  • Not to want to say, not to know what you want to say, not to be able to say what you think you want to say, and never to stop saying, or hardly ever, that is the thing to keep in mind, even in the heat of composition.
  • Tears and laughter, they are so much Gaelic to me.

Malone Dies (1951)

  • Let me say before I go any further that I forgive nobody. I wish them all an atrocious life and then the fires and ice of hell and in the execrable generations to come an honoured name.
  • Or I might be able to catch one, a little girl for example, and half strangle her, three quarters, until she promises to give me my stick, give me soup, empty my pots, kiss me, fondle me, smile to me, give me my hat, stay with me, follow the hearse weeping into her handkerchief, that would be nice. I am such a good man, at bottom, such a good man, how is it that nobody ever noticed it?

Waiting for Godot (1952)

2 Acts. Premiere in Paris. First published in French and translated by the author himself into English.

Act I

Estragon: Nothing to be done.
Vladimir: I'm beginning to come round to that opinion.


Vladimir: You should have been a poet.
Estragon: I was (Gesture towards his rags.) Isn't that obvious?


Vladimir: Come on, Gogo, return the ball, can't you, once in a while?
Estragon: (with exaggerated enthusiasm). I find this really most extraordinarily interesting.


Estragon: Let's go.
Vladimir: We can't.
Estragon: Why not?
Vladimir: We're waiting for Godot.
Estragon: (despairingly). Ah!


Estragon: What about hanging ourselves?
Vladimir: Hmm. It'd give us an erection.
Estragon: (highly excited). An erection!
Vladimir: With all that follows. Where it falls mandrakes grow. That's why they shriek when you pull them up. Did you not know that?
Estragon: Let's hang ourselves immediately!


Pozzo: 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. (He laughs.) Let us not then speak ill of our generation, it is not any unhappier than its predecessors. (Pause.) Let us not speak well of it either. (Pause.) Let us not speak of it at all.


Vladimir: That passed the time.
Estragon: It would have passed in any case.
Vladimir: Yes, but not so rapidly.


Boy: (in a rush). Mr. Godot told me to tell you he won't come this evening but surely tomorrow.


Estragon: Well, shall we go?
Vladimir: Yes, let's go. (They do not move.)

Act II

Vladimir: (sententious.) To every man his little cross. (He sighs.) Till he dies. (Afterthought.) And is forgotten.


Vladimir: Let us not waste our time in idle discourse! (Pause. Vehemently.) Let us do something while we have the chance! It is not every day that we are needed. Not indeed that we personally 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!


Estragon: (aphoristic for once). We are all born mad. Some remain so.


Pozzo: I woke up one fine day as blind as Fortune. (Pause.) Sometimes I wonder if I'm not still asleep.


Pozzo: The blind have no notion of time. The things of time are hidden from them too.


Pozzo: (suddenly furious). Have you not done tormenting me with your accursed time! It's abominable! When! When! One day, is that not enough for you, one day he went dumb, one day I went blind, one day we'll go deaf, one day we were born, one day we shall die, the same day, the same second, is that not enough for you? (Calmer.) They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it's night once more.


Vladimir: Was I sleeping, while the others suffered? Am I sleeping now? Tomorrow, when I wake, or think I do, what shall I say of today? That with Estragon my friend, at this place, until the fall of night, I waited for Godot? That Pozzo passed, with his carrier, and that he spoke to us? Probably. But in all that what truth will there be? (Estragon, having struggled with his boots in vain, is dozing off again. Vladimir looks at him.) He'll know nothing. He'll tell me about the blows he received and I'll give him a carrot. (Pause.) Astride of a grave and a difficult birth. Down in the hole, lingeringly, the grave digger puts on the forceps. We have time to grow old. The air is full of our cries. (He listens.) But habit is a great deadener. (He looks again at Estragon.) At me too someone is looking, of me too someone is saying, He is sleeping, he knows nothing, let him sleep on. (Pause.) I can't go on! (Pause.) What have I said?


Estragon: I can't go on like this.
Vladimir: That's what you think.

The Unnamable (1954)

  • The tears stream down my cheeks from my unblinking eyes. What makes me weep so? From time to time. There is nothing saddening here. Perhaps it is liquefied brain.
  • Deplorable mania, when something happens, to inquire what.
  • In order to obtain the optimum view of what takes place in front of me, I should have to lower my eyes a little. But I lower my eyes no more. In a word, I only see what appears close beside me, what I best see I see ill.
  • What they were most determined for me to swallow was my fellow creatures. In this they were without mercy. I remember little or nothing of these lectures. I cannot have understood a great deal. But I seem to have retained certain descriptions, in spite of myself. They gave me courses on love, on intelligence, most precious, most precious. They also taught me to count, and even to reason. Some of this rubbish has come in handy on occasions, I don’t deny it, on occasions which would never have arisen if they had left me in peace. I use it still, to scratch my arse with.
  • These things I say, and shall say, if I can, are no longer, or are not yet, or never were, or never will be, or if they were, if they are, if they will be, were not here, are not here, will not be here, but elsewhere.
  • To go on means going from here, means finding me, losing me, vanishing and beginning again, a stranger first, then little by little the same as always, in another place, where I shall say I have always been, of which I shall know nothing, being incapable of seeing, moving, thinking, speaking, but of which little by little, in spite of these handicaps, I shall begin to know something, just enough for it to turn out to be the same place as always, the same which seems made for me and does not want me, which I seem to want and do not want, take your choice, which spews me out or swallows me up, I’ll never know, which is perhaps merely the inside of my distant skull where once I wandered, now am fixed, lost for tininess, or straining against the walls, with my head, my hands, my feet, my back, and ever murmuring my old stories, my old story, as if it were the first time.
  • I, of whom I know nothing, I know my eyes are open, because of the tears that pour from them unceasingly.
  • All this business of a labour to accomplish, before I can end, of words to say, a truth to recover, in order to say it, before I can end, of an imposed task, once known, long neglected, finally forgotten, to perform, before I can be done with speaking, done with listening, I invented it all, in the hope it would console me, help me to go on, allow me to think of myself as somewhere on a road, moving, between a beginning and an end, gaining ground, losing ground, getting lost, but somehow in the long run making headway.
  • Dear incomprehension, it’s thanks to you I’ll be myself, in the end.
  • At no moment do I know what I’m talking about, nor of whom, nor of where, nor how, nor why, but I could employ fifty wretches for this sinister operation and still be short of the fifty-first, to close the circuit, that I know, without knowing what it means.
  • The essential is to go on squirming forever at the end of the line, as long as there are waters and banks and ravening in heaven a sporting god to plague his creatures, per pro his chosen shits.
  • What a joy to know where one is, and where one will stay, without being there. Nothing to do but stretch out comfortably on the rack, in the blissful knowledge you are nobody for all eternity. A pity I should have to give tongue at the same time, it prevents it from bleeding in peace, licking the lips.
  • How all becomes clear and simple when one opens an eye on the within, having of course previously exposed it to the without, in order to benefit by the contrast.
  • What can it matter to me, that I succeed or fail ? The undertaking is none of mine, if they want me to succeed I’ll fail, and vise versa, so as not to be rid of my tormentors.
  • Bah, the latest news, the latest news is not the last.
  • Ah if only this voice could stop, this meaningless voice which prevents you from being nothing, just barely prevents you from being nothing and nowhere, just enough to keep alight this little yellow flame feebly darting from side to side, panting, as if straining to tear itself from its wick, it should never have been lit, or it should never have been fed, or it should have been put out, put out, it should have been let go out.
  • Yes, in my life, since we must call it so, there were three things, the inability to speak, the inability to be silent, and solitude, that’s what I’ve had to make the best of.
  • This place, if I could describe this place, no place around me, there’s no end to me, I don’t know what it is, it isn’t flesh, it doesn’t end, it’s like air…
  • Perhaps it's done already, perhaps they have said me already, perhaps they have carried me to the threshold of my story, before the door that opens on my story, that would surprise me, if it opens, it will be I, it will be the silence, where I am, I don't know, I'll never know, in the silence you don't know, you must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on.

Texts for Nothing (1955)

  • Tears, that could be the tone, if they weren't so easy, the true tone and tenor at last.
  • My keepers, why keepers, I'm in no danger of stirring an inch, ah I see, it's to make me think I'm a prisoner, frantic with corporeality, rearing to get out and away.
  • Here's my life, why not, it is one, if you like, if you must, I don't say no, this evening. There has to be one, it seems, once there is speech, no need of a story, a story is not compulsory, just a life, that's the mistake I made, one of the mistakes, to have wanted a story for myself, whereas life alone is enough.

Endgame (1957)

  • Hamm: Can there be misery (he yawns) loftier than mine?
  • Hamm: Ah, the old questions, the old answers, there's nothing like them!
  • Nell: Nothing is funnier than unhappiness.
    Nagg: Oh?
    Nell: Yes, yes, it's the most comical thing in the world. And we laugh, we laugh, with a will, in the beginning. But it's always the same thing. Yes, it's like the funny story we have heard too often, we still find it funny, but we don't laugh any more.
  • Hamm: Look at the ocean!
    (Clov gets down, takes a few steps towards window left, goes back for ladder, carries it over and sets it down under window left, gets up on it, turns the telescope on the without, looks at length. He starts, lowers the telescope, examines it, turns it again on the without.)
    Clov: Never seen anything like that!
    Hamm (anxious): What? A sail? A fin? Smoke?
    Clov (looking): The light is sunk.
    Hamm (relieved): Pah! We all knew that.
    Clov (looking): There was a bit left.
    Hamm: The base.
    Clov (looking): Yes.
    Hamm: And now?
    Clov (looking): All gone.
    Hamm: No gulls?
    Clov (looking): Gulls!
    Hamm: And the horizon? Nothing on the horizon?
    Clov (lowering the telescope, turning towards Hamm, exasperated): What in God's name could there be on the horizon? (Pause.)
    Hamm: The waves, how are the waves?
    Clov: The waves? (He turns the telescope on the waves.) Lead.
    Hamm: And the sun?
    Clov (looking): Zero.
    Hamm: But it should be sinking. Look again.
    Clov (looking): Damn the sun.
    Hamm: Is it night already then?
    Clov (looking): No.
    Hamm: Then what is it?
    Clov (looking): Gray. (Lowering the telescope, turning towards Hamm, louder.) Gray! (Pause. Still louder.) GRRAY! (Pause. He gets down, approaches Hamm from behind, whispers in his ear.)
    Hamm (starting): Gray! Did I hear you say gray?
    Clov: Light black. From pole to pole.
    • An explanation of the universe outside the room of Endgame
  • Hamm: What's he doing?
    (CLOV raises lid of NAGG's bin, stoops, looks into it. Pause.)
    Clov: He's crying.
    (He closes lid, straightens up)
    Hamm: Then he's living.

Krapp's Last Tape (1958)

  • Krapp: Perhaps my best years are gone. When there was a chance of happiness. But I wouldn't want them back. Not with the fire in me now. No, I wouldn't want them back.

Worstward Ho (1983)

  • All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
  • Enough. Sudden enough. Sudden all far. No move and sudden all far. All least. Three pins. One pinhole. In dimmost dim. Vasts apart. At bounds of boundless void. Whence no farther. Best worse no farther. Nohow less. Nohow worse. Nohow naught. Nohow on.

Imagination Dead Imagine (1965)

  • No way in, go in, measure.
  • No, life ends and no, there is nothing elsewhere, and no question now of ever finding again that white speck lost in whiteness, to see if they still lie still in the stress of that storm, or of a worse storm, or in the black dark for good, or the great whiteness unchanging, and if not what they are doing.

Quotes about Beckett

  • Why can't you write the way people want?
    • Frank Beckett, to his brother Samuel
    • The Letters of Samuel Beckett 1929–1940 (2009)
  • Nothing happens, twice.
  • The prospect of reading Beckett's letters quickens the blood like no other's, and one must hope to stay alive until the fourth volume is safely delivered.
    • Tom Stoppard, blurb on dust jacket of The Letters of Samuel Beckett 1929–1940 (2009)

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