Follow TV Tropes


Theatre / Waiting for Godot

Go To

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: "Godot" comes from the Irish "Go Deo" (pronounced relatively similarly to the US and Canadian English pronunciation of "Godot") which means "forever". Samuel Beckett, as is often forgotten, was an Irishman.
    • However, "Go Deo" would be more accurately written in phonetic French as something more like Gojot, not Godot.
    • Alternatively: Beckett pretends that the name Godot is derived from a French slang for "shoe", godillot. The play is mainly concerned with duality, you see. And there was also a French Track Cyclist called Roger Godeau, for whom the cycling buff Beckett himself waited.
    • Advertisement:
    • It may even be a Shout-Out. The play The Maker (Le Faiseur) by the famous French novelist Honoré 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.
  • Cain and Abel: Discussed.
  • 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.
    • Beckett was very insistent that none of the characters be gender-flipped, even taking legal action against casts that tried it. This, of course, has not stopped all-female productions from being staged.
    • The general rule is that the actors can be female, but they have to play the parts as male.
  • 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/With Friends Like These...: Estragon thinks they're this. 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 Gay '90s: Briefly alluded to by Vladimir. Becomes a "Funny Aneurysm" Moment when "a million years ago, in the nineties" takes on a new meaning in the 21st Century.
    • Beckett later decided that mentioning any specific time was a mistake. The performing text of the play now reads "a million years ago, when the world was young".
  • The Ghost: Godot.
  • 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.
    • Pozzo and Lucky too, in kind of a twisted way.
  • 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.
  • Human Pack Mule: Lucky is a canonical example.
  • Humble Goal: Didi and Gogo are just waiting for their friend.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Lucky in many interpretations.
  • 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.
  • It Can't Be Helped: "Nothing to be done" (four times).
  • It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": For some reason, most Americans still have it in their heads after all this time that it's pronounced "Go-DOT" instead of "GO-dot". And most Canadians, thanks to mandatory French lessons, as well as the Ace Attorney fandom, think it's "Go-DOH".
  • It's All About Me: Pozzo, at first.
  • 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 reading 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/"What Now?" 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.
  • Old Retainer: Lucky.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: The character's full names are (almost) never spoken in the text itself.
  • Only Sane Man: In the second act Vladimir begins to think he is this.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: Vladimir points out that the gospels contain an early example of this.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Who or what is Godot? Why are they waiting for him? Will he ever come?
  • 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.
  • Spiritual Successor: Bottom, amazingly (particularly from their West End production of it). It features Rik Mayall, Ade Edmondson and Christopher Ryan, who played (respectively) Rick, Vyvyan and Mike in The Young Ones. Go figure! Further screwed around with by the early '90s production with Rick and Ade... and Christopher playing Lucky!
  • 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.

Godot Was Here.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: