Waiting for Godot as a Drama that Enacts the Action of Inaction

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett is quite a different play from the conventional ones and does not have a story to tell us. Two tramps named Vladimir and Estragon meet on a country road with a bare tree and a mound at the background. They wait incessantly for someone called Godot who does not turn up to meet them. At the end of both the acts they are informed by a boy messenger that Godot won't come that day but surely tomorrow. They agree to go but do not go anywhere. In both the acts, a master (Pozzo) and a slave (Lucky) pass by as the tramps are waiting. Thus in both the acts nothing really happens and there is nothing to be done. Everything is static in the play and the play rather depicts a static human condition.

“Nothing to be done” are the words that are repeated frequently and quite significantly in the play. They are first voiced by Estragon in the beginning and its significance is further extended by Vladimir in the same scene. So it is supposed in the beginning that action is futile. The tramps are pretty much sure of the uselessness of the action and they play silly games just to pass the time. The inaction gets transformed into theatrical action. Nothing happens twice in the play, waiting is doing nothing and something at the same time. Waiting for Godot is inaction dramatized and there are enough clues to this in the title of the play itself.

It is with time that the play is obsessed and it stresses that all action is futile including waiting and that's the theme of the play. This pathetic human condition is explored beautifully in the play. Both the acts are similar and the first act is repeated in the second with only change in dialogue and sequence of events, Vladimir and Estragon meet Pozzo and Lucky the same pair under different circumstances. In both the acts Pozzo and Lucky, master-slave remain tied together as the tramps continue to wait for Godot. Both the acts begin in evening and end with night fall and terminate with the arrival of a messenger that Godot will turn up the next day and not on this particular evening. Thus waiting is endless for the tramps who are waiting for Godot who is endlessly promising his elusive arrival. Boredom is deliberately introduced to create tension in the play.

What proceeds is the action of inaction.  The actors fuddle with their costumes, bicker over food scraps and puzzle about their bleak predicament.  They try to convince themselves that they exist by making note of the suns position and the growth of leaves on a nearby tree.  They even consider turning Estragon’s belt into a noose and hanging themselves, one at a time, but neither is willing to go first for fear of having to be alone.  These two characters, stripped of their ability to progress and change, still possess an essential humanity.  Though Godot will never come, Estragon and Vladimir will continue to live together in perpetuity.  Lucky and Pozzo diversify the drama while still remaining within the confines of relative inaction.

Waiting for Godot actually follows the traditional dramatic unities: plausibly connected actions, a concentrated period of time, a single setting. But it follows the rules to flout their spirit, transforming dramatic conventions into decomposed elements in a post-mortem examination of tragedy. Traditional drama represents actions; Godot is about inaction, about waiting for an action that never comes. Time in Godot isn't concentrated so much as it is irrelevant, undifferentiated, one moment no different from another. The play takes place in a single setting, but a setting almost completely severed from any real-world referent, a place nowhere and everywhere. So Waiting for Godot follows the unity of action in a play without action, the unity of time in a play witbout time, and the unity of place in a play without place.

Last modified: Wednesday, 9 May 2018, 8:57 AM