Waiting for Godot Summary

Samuel Beckett

Waiting for Godot

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Waiting for Godot Summary

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Published in 1953, Waiting for Godot is a classic dramatic play by Samuel Beckett. Told in two acts, the story follows Vladimir and Estragon as they sit by a tree on a country road, passing the time while waiting for a person named Godot, who never arrives. Beckett (1906-1989) was born in Ireland but lived most of his adult life in France. A novelist, playwright, theatre director, and poet, Beckett is best known for the avant-garde and tragicomic quality of his work. He is considered one of the best of the English-language post-modernists.

Act I opens on a country road beside a bare tree. Estragon, a tramp, sits by the tree, trying unsuccessfully to take off his boots. “Nothing to be done,” he says. Vladamir approaches, walking stiffly, and greets Estragon. Estragon tells him that he was beaten the previous night by strangers and left in a ditch. Vladamir bemoans the responsibility of caring for Estragon, even though he does not look much more well-off himself. Vladamir laments having not committed suicide years ago when he was more respectable.

Estragon asks for Vladamir’s help in removing his boots, but Vladamir declines. Finally, Estragon succeeds in taking the boots from his aching feet on his own. Both men then remove their hats, and Vladamir suggests they repent. When Estragon answers with a joke (“Our being born?”), Vladamir begins laughing, but suddenly stops due to being in pain.

Estragon gets up, announcing that he wants to leave, but Vladamir reminds him that they must wait for Godot. They debate about when and where they are meant to meet Godot. They are not certain and know only that it is supposed to be by a tree. They contemplate hanging themselves on the tree, but are foiled by the logistics of it—the tree does not look as if it would hold their weight, and it would cause them to miss Godot’s arrival.

They hear a terrible cry in the distance and are frightened, until Lucky, a slave, arrives. A rope around his neck, Lucky is lead by Pozzo, his pompous master. Pozzo decides to stop for a rest and orders Lucky about, demanding a stool to sit on and a dinner of chicken and wine to be brought. Estragon gnaws on the discarded chicken bones while Vladamir criticizes Pozzo’s treatment of Lucky.

Pozzo dismisses the criticism by saying that he is on his way to sell Lucky. At this, Lucky begins crying. Estragon attempts to offer Lucky a handkerchief, but Lucky kicks him in the shin. Pozzo decides that he wants to repay Vladamir and Estragon for their company. Estragon asks for money, but Pozzo orders Lucky to dance and think for the men’s amusement. Lucky dances a few steps, and then begins a long, nonsensical monologue. Soon the two depart.

Estragon once again wants to leave, but Vladamir reminds him that they are waiting for Godot. A boy arrives with a message; he says that Godot will not arrive tonight, but surely the next night. The boy reveals that he looks after Godot’s goats and asks what message he should take back to Godot. “Tell him you saw us,” answers Vladamir. After this, the two men agree that they should find shelter for the night, but neither moves.

In Act II, it is the next day by the same tree. Estragon’s boots are where he left them, the men arrive, Estragon barefoot and unhappy. He explains that he was beaten again last night, but Vladamir gets him to agree that they both are happy. As they wait for Godot, they argue.

The men are hungry, but Vladamir only has a radish and some turnips. He offers to go find some carrots, but he does not move. Estragon announces again that he wants to leave, but Vladamir reminds him that they must wait for Godot. They sing, and nap, and argue. They also make a game of pretending to be Pozzo and Lucky.

Pozzo and Lucky arrive at the tree. No longer haughty, Pozzo has gone blind, and Lucky now leads him by a rope. Pozzo falls and begs for help; Estragon and Vladamir ignore him while philosophizing about the condition of man. Eventually, they try to help him up, but all three tumble to the ground.

Pozzo tries to crawl away but has lost Lucky. Vladamir remarks to Estragon that he now has an opportunity to get revenge on Lucky for kicking him yesterday. Estragon starts kicking Lucky, but mainly succeeds in hurting himself in the process. He sits down by the tree and falls asleep. Meanwhile, Pozzo is finally upright, and he and Lucky exit.

The men are alone until the boy arrives with the same message as before. Estragon talks again about wanting to leave, but Vladamir reminds him that they must wait for Godot. They decide that if Godot does not arrive, they will hang themselves. However, neither man moves.