Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot (the play)

2023-02-04 @Literature

What the hell am I reading? Absurd theatre, the voices answer. Minimalist playwriting. Sparse cast. No substantial story ark. Confined space and time.

But otherwise no trace of Aristotle. I’m fine with that. Simpleton, quotidian dialogue sparing no redundancy. Human dialogue. Mostly human. Then unexpectedly acquires a tinge of the theatrical. A segway between the ridiculous (that’s the human) and the philosophically intriguing (the theatrical). One could even argue for apocryphal, miscategorising the genre (and the broader intent) for realism.

Minimalist set. Abundant directions, interjected mid-phrase throughout the dialogue. Emotio-physical cues: ie a twitch, a jerky glance, an arm gesture. Modulation and rhythm: silence, louder, lyrically, prosaically, pause.

Nearly sheet music. There is an adorable musicality to it.

The otherwise primitive nothingness thus acquires that dynamism. The theatrical molds out of nothing. Power to the playwright.

And the abundant humour. Not the pomp cliché variety, but the natural derived out of the human tendency to express the unstated.

Two protagonists banter back and forth. They’re old. They know each other for fifty odd years. They abuse each other. They make up. They finish each others' sentences. They suddenly engage in pompous elocution and aphorisms. They degenerate.

If we’re to accept any of it at face value. But the nature of the play doesn’t warrant that sort of acceptance. Behind the explicit lies a framework of symbolism and innuendoes: lending to an entire doctrine.

Or so one is led to believe in a play of this elasticity. Stretch it to your heart’s content. Explore across thousands of avenues. I don’t know.

Is it as innovative as has been lauded? For the mid-20th century? Not entirely convinced.

Don’t know about the English language, but come the Russian theatre: I read a series of absurd theatrical comedies of the pseudonymous Козьма Прутков produced a whole century prior. Granted, parody across the board. And hardly minimalist.

Whereas Waiting for Godot: a tragicomedy of greater meaning. One supposes.

And there’s more theatre experimenting with the absurd. Can’t remember all that exists. I’d read one Aristophanes comedy (5th century BC). Seemed sufficiently absurd. And not devoid of meaning. Though not a closet drama nor a minimalist set.

Anyway, I’m not nearly exposed to as many playwrights as poets and prosaics. Can’t further comment. Without sounding absurd.


The ingredients are there. But save for the musicality and the occasionally intriguing discourse, didn’t captivate me enough. Indifferent to the remainder. Felt a bit forced.

I understand why it’s technically admirable. I understand the limbo, the brooding Kafkaesque undertone and the limitless trains of thought catering to imagination. But not my sort of packaging. Or perhaps pending posterior reevaluation.

Questions, comments? Connect.