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  • A shabby man named Estragon,

  • sits near a tree at dusk and struggles to remove his boot.

  • He's soon joined by his friend Vladimir,

  • who reminds his anxious companion that

  • they must wait here for someone called Godot.

  • So begins a vexing cycle in which the two debate

  • when Godot will come, why they're waiting,

  • and whether they're even at the right tree.

  • From here, Waiting for Godot only gets stranger -

  • but it's considered a play that changed

  • the face of modern drama.

  • Written by Samuel Beckett between 1949 and 1955,

  • it offers a simple but stirring question -

  • what should the characters do?

  • Estragon: Don't let's do anything. It's safer.

  • Vladimir: Let's wait and see what he says.

  • Estragon: Who?

  • Vladimir: Godot.

  • Estragon: Good idea.

  • Such cryptic dialogue and circular reasoning are

  • key features of the Theatre of the Absurd,

  • a movement which emerged after the Second World War

  • and found artists struggling

  • to find meaning in devastation.

  • The absurdists deconstructed plot, character and language

  • to question their meaning and share

  • their profound uncertainty on stage.

  • While this may sound grim,

  • the absurd blends its hopelessness with humor.

  • This is reflected in Beckett's unique approach to genre in Waiting for Godot,

  • which he branded “a tragicomedy in two acts."

  • Tragically, the characters are locked in an

  • existential conundrum: they wait in vain

  • for an unknown figure to give them a sense of purpose,

  • but their only sense of purpose

  • comes from the act of waiting,

  • While they wait, they sink into boredom,

  • express religious dread and contemplate suicide.

  • But comically, there is a jagged humor to their predicament,

  • which comes across in their language and movements.

  • Their interactions are filled with bizarre wordplay,

  • repetition and double entendres,

  • as well as physical clowning, singing and dancing,

  • and frantically swapping their hats.

  • It's often unclear whether the audience is supposed to

  • laugh or cry - or whether Beckett saw any difference between the two.

  • Born in Dublin, Beckett studied English, French and Italian before moving to Paris,

  • where he spent most of his life writing theatre, poetry and prose.

  • While Beckett had a lifelong love of language,

  • he also made space for silence by incorporating gaps, pauses and moments of emptiness into his work.

  • This was a key feature of his trademark uneven tempo and black humor,

  • which became popular throughout the Theatre of the Absurd.

  • He also cultivated a mysterious persona,

  • and refused to confirm or deny any speculations

  • about the meaning of his work.

  • This kept audiences guessing,

  • increasing their fascination with his surreal worlds and enigmatic characters.

  • The lack of any clear meaning makes Godot

  • endlessly open to interpretation.

  • Critics have offered countless readings of the play,

  • resulting in a cycle of ambiguity and speculation

  • that mirrors the plot of the drama itself.

  • It's been read as an allegory of the Cold War,

  • the French Resistance,

  • and Britain's colonization of Ireland.

  • The dynamic of the two protagonists has

  • also sparked intense debate.

  • They've been read as survivors of the apocalypse,

  • an aging couple, two impotent friends,

  • and even as personifications of Freud's ego and id.

  • Famously, Beckett said the only thing he could

  • be sure of was that Vladimir and Estragon

  • were "wearing bowler hats."

  • Like the critical speculation and maddening plot,

  • their language often goes in circles as the two bicker and banter, lose their train of thought,

  • and pick up right where they left off:

  • Vladimir: We could start all over again perhaps

  • Estragon: That should be easy

  • Vladimir: It's the start that's difficult

  • Estragon: You can start from anything

  • Vladimir: Yes, but you have to decide.

  • Beckett reminds us that just like our daily lives,

  • the world onstage doesn't always make sense.

  • It can explore both reality and illusion,

  • the familiar and the strange.

  • And although a tidy narrative still appeals,

  • the best theatre keeps us thinkingand waiting.

A shabby man named Estragon,

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B2 US TED-Ed beckett vladimir theatre waiting absurd

Why should you read "Waiting For Godot"? - Iseult Gillespie

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    April Lu posted on 2018/10/18
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