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Theatre / Waiting for Godot

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

A famously surreal "tragicomedy" by Samuel Beckett. Probably the best known example of the Theatre of the Absurd. The story concerns these two guys, Vladimir and Estragon (Didi and Gogo for short), who spend most of their time hanging out by a tree on a lonely road in a barren and nondescript land, waiting for someone named Godot, who never comes. They have several brief but intense encounters with an Upper-Class Twit named Pozzo and his servant, Lucky. During the course of the play they wonder where Godot is, eat carrots, contemplate suicide, wonder where Godot is, discuss the Gospels, share dirty jokes, wonder where Godot is, exchange hats, volley insults with each other, wonder where Godot is, and gradually succumb to existential angst and ennui.

It's wildly hilarious.

Famously described by one critic as "a play in which nothing happens, twice." Inspired, among other things, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and (surprisingly) Bottom. Has no relation to a certain coffee-loving prosecutor. Maybe.

This play provides examples of:

  • Absurdism: One of the most famous examples of the Theatre of the Absurd, probably rivaled only by Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and maybe The Bald Soprano. It is also the Genre Popularizer.
  • Accidental Misnaming: For reasons which are never explained, the messenger boy always calls Vladimir "Mister Albert".
  • Aerith and Bob: Vladimir is a somewhat exotic name for Western Europe, but still real. Estragon, however, is French for Tarragon, a culinary herb.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Vladimir and Estragon, who call each other Didi and Gogo.
  • All There in the Manual: Possibly a Shout-Out. The play The Maker (Le Faiseur) by the famous French novelist HonorĂ© de Balzac features an in debt speculator, Mercadet. His favorite excuse for not paying his creditors was pretending to be waiting for his associate, Godeau (same pronunciation as Godot, in French) to come back from India with a lot of money. As one would expect, Godeau never shows up.
  • All There in the Script: Vladimir ("Didi") and Estragon ("Gogo") consistently refer to each other by their nicknames and are only named once each in the dialogue.
  • Arc Words:
    Estragon: Let's go.
    Vladimir: We can't.
    Estragon: Why not?
    Vladimir: We're waiting for Godot.
    • "Nothing to be done."
  • Blind Seer: Discussed by Estragon.
    Pozzo: I am blind.
    Estragon: Perhaps he can see into the future.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • At one point, the play calls for Estragon to try and escape from an unseen mob. Vladimir recommends he run in front of them (i.e. into the auditorium). Estragon refuses and Vladimir looks out into the auditorium and says "Well, I can understand that."
    • When Vladimir and Estragon discuss whether they've been in the location before, the line "that bog" is traditionally delivered with a gesture towards the audience.
  • Bungled Suicide: Neither of them brought rope.
  • Butt-Monkey: Estragon is the more unfortunate of the main two, getting kicked by Lucky and regularly being beaten by a gang. Lucky is also this due to Pozzo's abuse.
  • Character Filibuster: When Lucky finally begins to speak, the difficulty is getting him to shut up.
  • Chromosome Casting: Vladimir, Estragon, Pozzo, Lucky and the small boy are all male. Even Godot, who never appears onstage, is said to be a man. Some productions avert this, given that "Pozzo" and "Lucky" are decidedly gender-neutral names.
  • Captain Obvious: Pozzo when Didi gets angry at him and Gogo:
Didi flips the stool
Pozzo: He is angry.
Didi puts the stool back
He subsides.
  • Crocodile Tears: Pozzo does this to turn the others against Lucky.
  • Destructive Romance: Estragon seems to consider himself and Vladimir to have a destructive relationship. He often says they should break up, but never takes any action to actually do so.
    Estragon: You see, you feel worse when I'm with you. I feel better alone too.
    Vladimir: (vexed). Then why do you always come crawling back?
    Estragon: I don't know.
  • Driven to Suicide: Of course, it is only out of boredom that Didi and Gogo decide to try, though lack of rope prevents them.
  • Foreshadowing: During Pozzo's outburst, he mentions not being able to stand the way Lucky "goes on" anymore. Cut later to Lucky thinking...
  • Funny Background Event: Didi, Gogo, and Pozzo's reactions to Lucky's "think" soliloquy.
  • The Ghost: Godot is frequently referenced by the main characters but never appears, and may or may not actually exist.
  • Groin Attack: Didi and Pozzo suggest doing this to Pozzo and Lucky respectively in order to get them to stand up in Act 2.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: It goes nicely with the Homoerotic Subtext.
    Vladimir: Sometimes I feel it coming all the same. Then I go all queer.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Vladimir and Estragon, though it's intentionally ambiguous whether their relationship is platonic, romantic, sexual, or some mix of the three.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: Tons of it.
    Estragon: Didi...
    Vladimir: (without turning). I've nothing to say to you.
    Estragon: (step forward). You're angry? (Silence. Step forward.) Forgive me. (Silence. Step forward. Estragon lays his hand on Vladimir's shoulder.) Come, Didi. (Silence.) Give me your hand. (Vladimir half turns.) Embrace me! (Vladimir stiffens.) Don't be stubborn! (Vladimir softens. They embrace. Estragon recoils.) You stink of garlic!
    Vladimir: It's for the kidneys. (Silence. Estragon looks attentively at the tree.) What do we do now?
    Estragon: Wait.
    Vladimir: Yes, but while waiting.
    Estragon: What about hanging ourselves?
    Vladimir: Hmm. It'd give us an erection.
    Estragon: (highly excited). An erection!
    Vladimir: With all that follows.
  • Humble Goal: Didi and Gogo are just waiting for their friend.
  • Hypocritical Humour:
    • At one point in the second act, Vladimir tells Estragon that they should stop discussing things and just act. It takes him half a page of dialogue to say this.
    • Pozzo, immediately after telling Vladimir and Estragon to stop bothering Lucky so he can rest, shouts at Lucky to take the basket.
  • Improv: Most performances include at least some, even if it's only physical comedy, especially when it comes to the cast's reactions to Lucky's speech.
  • Ironic Name: Lucky is about as unlucky as a person can be.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Pozzo enjoys Vladimir and Estragon's company immensely. He spends most of it insulting them.
  • Manchild: Estragon, at times. Pozzo also acts like a spoiled brat most of the time.
  • Meaningful Name: Godot comes from "Go Deo", meaning "forever". As such, he has Vladimir and Estragon waiting... forever.
  • Mind Screw: Try to watch it (or read it) and not come out confused. Lampshaded:
    Estragon: I'll go and get a carrot.
    He does not move.
    Vladimir: This is becoming really insignificant.
  • Minimalist Cast: There are only five characters: Vladimir, Estragon, Pozzo, Lucky, and the messenger boy.
  • Mood Whiplash: A guy takes off his belt to hang himself... and his trousers fall down.
  • Motor Mouth: Lucky... when he bothers to talk.
  • No Ending: Godot never shows up, but Vladimir and Estragon can't bring themselves to leave.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Lucky might be the most unfortunate man on Earth.
  • Orphaned Setup: Estragon never does finish telling the story about the Englishman in the brothel.
  • Overly Long Gag: Lucky's speech, the hat-swapping scene, and arguably the entire play.
  • The Quiet One: Lucky... until you tell him to think.
  • Random Events Plot: Vladimir and Estragon are sitting around, waiting for Godot. While they're waiting, they encounter some strange people in Pozzo and Lucky, along with a messenger boy. However, none of it really speeds up the process of waiting for them.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Who or what is Godot? Why are they waiting for him? Will he ever come? We never find out.
  • Secondary Character Title: Godot, whomever that may be, isn't the main character. Vladimir and Estragon are the two protagonists of the work. In fact, Godot is The Ghost, as he never shows up.
  • Seinfeldian Conversation: Most of what Vladimir and Estragon discuss.
  • "Sesame Street" Cred: Amazingly, the play was parodied on Sesame Street in the "Monsterpiece Theatre" sketch Waiting for Elmo, complete with generous satire of True Art Is Incomprehensible. That takes both Parental Bonus and Viewers Are Geniuses up to eleven.
  • Shaped Like Itself:
    Vladimir: How's the carrot?
    Estragon: It's a carrot.
  • Shout-Out: To The Bible, among others.
    • Pozzo's reference to Vladimir and Estragon being timid and standing in "fear and trembling" is a possible three-fer: it's a phrase from The Bible (Philippians 2:12, to be exact), the name of a book by philosopher Søren Kierkegaard which references the Biblical occurrence, and (separately from both of the above) a phrase from The Analects Of Confucius, meaning the attitude one is to take when summoned before the emperor.
    • The bowler hats that Vladimir and Estragon wear are a Shout-Out to Laurel and Hardy. (Beckett loved black and white comedy.) The scene where they pass their hats around is based on a similar skit in the Marx Brothers film Duck Soup.
    • The Human Pack Mule was actually established by Charlie Chaplin in his 1915 installment Work, where The Tramp is seen dragging a cart full of Equipment, while his employer constantly whips him onwards. Beckett could possibly have been inspired for the Pozzo/Lucky-pairing by this movie. Chaplin's employer in this Movie is called Izzy, by the way, ringing close to the name "Pozzo" (and Chaplin is, as always, "lucky" in some ironic way). To stress this a little further, Lucky can only speak/think when he has a particular hat on (as the Tramp was a Silent Era character, he would die when he began to talk, according to Word of God, i.e. Chaplin himself).
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Pozzo is astonished that Vladimir and Estragon have never heard of him.
  • Speech-Centric Work: Vladimir and Estragon sitting around talking, and sometimes Lucky and Pozzo show up. That's it.
  • Suckiness Is Painful: Lucky's "think" monologue becomes this to the others as it goes on.
  • Suicide as Comedy: Vladimir and Estragon want to hang themselves to pass the time.
  • Take That, Critics!: During their match of Volleying Insults, Estragon wins by calling Vladimir "a crrritic!".
  • Those Two Guys: Vladimir and Estragon are those two guys, occasionally joined by Those Two Other Guys, Lucky and Pozzo.
  • Title Drop:
    Estragon: Let's go.
    Vladimir: We can't.
    Estragon: Why not?
    Vladimir: We're waiting for Godot.
  • The Un-Reveal: To answer your question, no, we never get to see Godot.

Godot Was Here.