Samuel Beckett

Waiting for Godot

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Waiting for Godot Summary & Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 28-page guide for “Waiting for Godot” by Samuel Beckett includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 4 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Absurdity and Nihilism.

Plot Summary

Waiting for Godot is a two-act play by Samuel Beckett, translated from Beckett’s own French script. First performed in English in 1953, it has been heralded as one of the most important plays of the 20th Century. It is a central work of absurdism, though it was not originally received with much acclaim. In fact, the play’s frank treatment of the body provoked some horror in its initial audiences.

The play begins with two friends, Vladimir and Estragon, waiting outdoors. Estragon’s feet ache, and he struggles to remove his boot. Vladimir ponders Estragon’s complaints while Estragon tries to remember the previous night. They bicker and argue to no end; when Estragon announces that he is leaving, Vladimir reminds him that they are waiting for a man named Godot. However, they cannot agree on how they are to meet Godot other than to wait beside a tree.

Estragon falls asleep and is woken by Vladimir, who begins to tell a joke but cannot finish without urinating. Whenever he laughs, his kidneys hurt. Growing weary, Estragon asks Vladimir whether suicide should be an option. Estragon satiates his hunger by eating a carrot Vladimir offers him.

Lucky, a silent slave with a rope around his neck, is led onto the stage by Pozzo, his master. Pozzo is pleasant to Vladimir and Estragon, but he treats the obedient Lucky very badly. Pozzo eats an elaborate meal. Vladimir, after a period of silence, admonishes Pozzo for the way he treats Lucky. Pozzo does not care and plans to sell Lucky, who bursts into tears. As Estragon tries to comfort Lucky, the slave kicks him. Pozzo reminisces about the time he has spent with Lucky and offers Vladimir and Estragon compensation. Estragon wants money, but Pozzo instructs Lucky to entertain the men with an unimpressive dance and a dreary monologue. Pozzo and Lucky leave. Alone again, Vladimir and Estragon think about whether they have met Pozzo and Lucky on a previous occasion. A messenger arrives and tells them that Godot will not meet with them this evening but might see them tomorrow. Vladimir interrogates the messenger. Vladimir and Estragon decide to find shelter someplace else and spend the night there.

The next day, Vladimir sings a song about a dying dog but struggles to remember the lyrics. Estragon claims to have been beaten the previous day but has no discernable injury. The tree, previously bare, now has leaves. Both men struggle to remember yesterday. Vladimir points to Estragon’s wound, inflicted by Lucky, and they discover Estragon’s boots. Estragon, however, insists that they are not his, even though they fit him perfectly. Vladimir offers Estragon food, but Estragon declines. Vladimir begins to sing a lullaby before noticing Lucky’s hat. He wakes the sleeping Estragon and the two frantically ponder its meaning. They return to waiting for Godot, imitating Pozzo and Lucky in an attempt to entertain themselves.

Lucky reappears, now leading Pozzo by a short rope. Pozzo trips and both men collapse in a heap. Estragon wants to kick Lucky in revenge for his wound. Before he can, Pozzo reveals that he has lost his sight and that Lucky has lost his voice; both have lost their sense of time. Pozzo cannot remember meeting Vladimir and Estragon; he acknowledges that, by tomorrow, he will likely not remember this meeting. He leaves, ruminating on his despair. Estragon falls back to sleep.

A messenger—perhaps the same boy as from the day before or—appears. Vladimir realizes he is caught in a circular narrative, repeating his experiences. He predicts the boy’s message: Godot will not be arriving today. He chases the messenger away and demands that the boy remember him ahead of their next meeting. Estragon wakes up and removes his boots. Vladimir and Estragon consider killing themselves again and test Estragon’s belt to see whether it will bear their weight if they hang themselves. The belt breaks. Estragon’s trousers fall down. Vladimir and Estragon decide that they will bring a more suitable length of rope with them the next day. If Godot fails to come again, they will kill themselves. They decide to find somewhere to spend the night, but they do not move.

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Act 1