He was born in Dublin and educated at Trinity College. He lived a long time in Paris where he became a friend of James Joyce and soon became a member of his circle, acting for a while as his secretary. In this period his own literary career began with an essay on Joyce and his first published short story. Sometimes he wrote in French (Waiting for Godot, a trilogy in prose – Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable – and some short stories) and provided the English translation himself. During the World War II he joined the French Resistance against the Germans. He received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1969. Beckett’s most significant plays are Waiting for Godot, Krapp’s Last Tape (1958), Happy Days (1961), Come and Go (1966), Not I (1973). They belong to The Theatre of the Absurd. His later plays seem to deny the notion of characters in interaction which had traditionally been defining characteristic of drama. They are mostly short one-acters revolving around a single character who hardly moves and speaks less and less. He wrote poetry, fiction, drama and radio plays (for the BBC Third Programme). He is the leading dramatist of his generation and had a major impact on the development of the 20th century theatre. He was the major representative of the Absurdist Drama and was also a gifted novelist and poet.
Waiting For Godot (1955)
Waiting for Godot is a tragicomedy in two acts by Samuel Beckett. It was originally written in French in 1952 (French title: En Attendant Godot) and then translated into English by the author himself.
The stage directions at the beginning of each act are not very detailed (Act I – A country road. A tree. Evening; Act II – Next day. Same time. Same place). The setting is simple and desolate: a little hill, a tree (a willow) and nothing else. It reflects the solitude of mankind in the universe. It is very similar to the landscapes after the World War II and perhaps it was inspired by the picture Two man observing the moon, painted in 1830-1835 by Caspar David Friedrich.
Estragon and Vladimir are two tramps who are waiting on a country road for someone named “Godot”, from whom they expect some unspecified kind of help. We are not sure that they are really tramps, but we are sure that they represent the basic aspects of the human condition. They are symbols of a general human condition in which life consists of a boring routine of a meaningless events. The play is a metaphor of human existence.
The two vagabonds cannot leave, so they spend their days wandering aimless. Their only aim is “waiting for Godot”. We are not sure who the Godot that never comes is, but it may be God himself or something that could give meaning to human life (a woman, power, money, fortune…) At the end of Act I, a boy arrives with the message that Mr Godot cannot come but that he will certainly come tomorrow. Act II shows Estragon and Vladimir waiting for another day until the same boy comes with the same message: Godot will not come today but he will come tomorrow. The two characters might be considered complementary: Vladimir, who is obsessed with his hat (he is the “philosopher”) and Estragon is obsessed with his boots (he is interested in survival needs). Their dialogue is simple, repetitive and sometimes banal and illogical. In their dialogue there are also tragic and comic elements mixed together. Silences and pauses, gestures and movements are important as words. What happens on the stage may contradict the words spoken by the characters. The language loses his communicative function.
The play is a typical example of the Theatre of the Absurd, because the play has no story nor plot in the traditional sense. There is no sequence of events, no beginning or end. Chronological time is meaningless because there is no progression but only repetition of the same actions and incidents with slight variations. In Act II Pozzo is blind and Lucky (his servant) is mute without reason. Perhaps it means that life is based on Fate (what life gives to man) and Luck. It reflects the anxiety and the pessimism of the author and the meaninglessness of life.
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