Waiting for Godot

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Estragon Character Analysis

One of the two main characters of the play, along with Vladimir, Estragon is rather helpless on his own. In the beginning of the play, he struggles just to take off his boots, for example. Unlike Vladimir, he has no grasp of time, and is confused as to whether it is evening or morning in act two. Along similar lines, he has a poor grasp of people's identities. He doesn't recognize Lucky and Pozzo in act two, and at one point thinks Pozzo's name is Abel. He cannot even remember his own past, and tells Pozzo his name is Adam. Estragon repeatedly wants to leave, but each time Vladimir reminds him that they must stay and wait for Godot. While he often forms the dull-minded counterpoint to the more cerebral Vladimir, Estragon is still able to match Vladimir's verbal wit and once claims that he used to be a poet.

Estragon Quotes in Waiting for Godot

The Waiting for Godot quotes below are all either spoken by Estragon or refer to Estragon. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Humor and the Absurd Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Grove Press edition of Waiting for Godot published in 1994.
Act 1 Quotes

Nothing to be done.

Related Characters: Estragon (speaker)
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:

These are the first lines of Beckett’s play. They come after a series of simple stage directions that describe Estragon in a barren landscape trying to remove a boot. Even without any context, this quote sets the desolate scene and the desperate tone of the play.

What is remarkable about the pithy line—and this is characteristic of the play—is how many different ideas it references. On the most pragmatic level, Estragon is struggling to remove his boot. But the “nothing” could refer to the general lack of movement and action in the play, and it could also be a nihilistic rejection of a human’s ability to do anything. In that sense, the boot becomes a symbol of the fruitlessness of life. So already in the first sentence, we have an introduction of Beckett’s main themes: language that negates instead of affirms; hopelessness and despair; and the finding of deep philosophical meaning in actions as banal as removing shoes.

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I'm glad to see you back. I thought you were gone forever.

Related Characters: Vladimir (speaker), Estragon
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:

Vladimir says this to Estragon the moment he arrives in the scene. Estragon questions whether he is indeed there again, and in response Vladimir repeats how much he appreciates Estragon’s presence.

These lines introduce the skepticism of change and development that will preoccupy the characters throughout the play. Estragon is soon revealed to have a terrible memory, often forgetting if he has even been in a certain location. But Vladimir’s relatively stronger conviction in his memory is also repeatedly undermined throughout the play. When read with these themes in mind, the beginning of the text poses an odd question: Has Vladimir actually been gone long from Estragon’s side? Perhaps he has been there almost the entire time, and his sense of “forever” has just been deeply warped—as time is often warped in the play. The term “back” is similarly perplexing, for the characters constantly repeat themselves, seeming to exist in a series of constant returns in which they reiterate their lives, always coming “back.”

When I think of it... all these years... but for me... where would you be... (Decisively.) You'd be nothing more than a little heap of bones at the present minute, no doubt about it.

Related Characters: Vladimir (speaker), Estragon
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

Vladimir here responds to Estragon having forgotten about where and in what conditions he spent the previous night. Though he believes he was in a ditch and was beaten, Estragon cannot recall the events with any certainty, and Vladimir expresses frustration at Estragon's inability to take order of his own life.

These lines are Vladimir’s first claim on being the more responsible of the two characters. He takes on a disgruntled paternal role, claiming that if not for him, Estragon could never have survived the perilous world. In doing so, he defines a clear time scale for their relationship with “all these years.” We are not just seeing the meeting of two travelers or recent friends. Presumably they have been living in the desolate space of the play for a long, long time—a length in direct contrast to the brevity of “the present minute.” He also implies that their present state is preferable to death—which may seem like a given in any work of art, but is certainly not in Beckett. Considering a series of later references to suicide and death, this early implication that Estragon’s life is worth preservation should not go unnoticed.

One daren't even laugh any more.
Dreadful privation.
Merely smile. (He smiles suddenly from ear to ear, keeps smiling, ceases as suddenly.) It's not the same thing. Nothing to be done.

Related Characters: Estragon (speaker), Vladimir (speaker)
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

These lines follow Vladimir’s laughter at the suggestion that the two repent being born, perhaps as if doing so would allow them to escape their horrible predicament. Vladimir first denies the validity of that laughter, then tries to mimic its feeling with a smile, before rapidly denying the smile’s efficacy.

Rejecting the value of humor, even dark humor, helps clarify the depths of nihilism in which the play exists. Though Vladimir has a natural impulse to laugh at the joke, he self-censors—as if something about the environment renders any levity entirely unacceptable. Then he tries to artificially perform a similar smile, but that attempt results in a repetition of the play’s opening denial line. "Nothing to be done," then, refers also to the loss of certain human emotions and the inability for Vladimir to recover joy or laughter in the current situation.

Yet this is not to say that Waiting for Godot as a work of art is entirely devoid of humor. Beckett deemed it a tragicomedy, implying that it was supposed to create at least a partially humorous effect for the reader. And Estragon’s line about “dreadful privation” is rather ironically funny: His high-flung vocabulary strikes as intentionally out of place and out of character. It is a humorous line for the audience even if it can only create a failed false smile for Vladimir.

You're sure it was this evening?
What?
That we were to wait.
He said Saturday. (Pause.) I think

Related Characters: Estragon (speaker), Vladimir (speaker), Godot
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

The two speak here about their anticipation for the play’s titular “Godot.” Yet instead of expressing confidence in his arrival, they reveal a complete lack of certainty.

The vagueness of their knowledge parallels the earlier stage direction which specified only “evening” with no indication as to day or era. That choice left the viewer or reader untethered to time, and these lines shows that the characters exist in a corresponding state. (It is always important, with Beckett, to distinguish when certain confusions or clarities are inherent to the world of the text and thus experienced by the characters, or whether they stem from the audience’s distance from the world.) Here, the play’s bizarre, timeless space is a common feature between audience and character. In particular, Estragon and Vladimir are deeply challenged by the simple activity of arranging a meeting. In their their reality, time cannot be tracked, so even the most basic social functions break down.

But what Saturday? And is it Saturday? Is it not rather Sunday? (Pause.) Or Monday? (Pause.) Or Friday?

Related Characters: Estragon (speaker)
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

Estragon presses Vladimir on the specifics of the day of the meeting. First he points out that “Saturday” alone does not specify a certain date, and then he goes on to question whether it is even a Saturday at all.

The “I think” of the previous statement, here, grows into a series of frantic days, and it becomes evident that the two cannot at all temporally locate themselves. Estragon’s entire faith in the calendar has broken down. Though Vladimir, as the more "sane" character, tries to reassure him, there is a growing sense that neither can make statements with much conviction. As a result, there is no clear indication that the two are in the right spot or at all close to the right time. Already, Beckett implies that their entire waiting experience may be foolhardy. For though they may be performing the correct action—waiting—their inability to keep track of time or track narratives undermines any chance at actually meeting Godot.

I was asleep! (Despairingly.) Why will you never let me sleep?
I felt lonely.

Related Characters: Estragon (speaker), Vladimir (speaker)
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

Estragon falls asleep as Vladimir paces, but he is immediately reawakened by a shriek the moment Vladimir perceives him to have dozed off.

This action displays a perplexing mixture of abuse and care in Vladimir and Estragon’s relationship. For while Vladimir rudely awakens Estragon—something he has apparently done with some frequency—his explanation also expresses an affection for Estragon’s presence. The exchange shows a state of deep dependence between the two. One could easily conclude that the characters despise each other, given their common threats of abandonment. But Beckett here implies that they also have a deep social need to not feel lonely. Setting the play in this desolate landscape, without other social interactions or stability, allows him to showcase the full extent to which humans require mutual contact and mutual recognition.

That choice helps clarify, too, that Vladimir receives a sufficient “benefit” from Estragon in exchange for the parental attention he provides. Their relationship is not indeed as imbalanced as it may first appear, for whatever he might provide, Vladimir requires a corresponding emotional support from Estragon.

What do we do now?
Wait.
Yes, but while waiting.
What about hanging ourselves?
Hmm. It'd give us an erection.

Related Characters: Estragon (speaker), Vladimir (speaker)
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:

This exchange takes place after a brief silence during which Estragon gazes at the tree—one of the only elements of the stage’s set. The two express the desperation induced by the prolonged wait for Godot, and the desolation of the environment surrounding them, as well as the tragic humor lying within that horror.

That Estragon and Vladimir cannot propose anything to do except “wait” recalls the opening line about “Nothing to be done.” It is characteristic in this play for any moment of silence to be followed by Estragon’s asking what the two should do next. But Vladimir’s answer is generally to continue waiting, and his more active suggestions are never acted upon. Here, for instance, suicide is not presented so much as a weighty decision, but rather a flippant reference that they forget about moments later.

It is notable that “hanging ourselves” is not actually suggested as a response to sadness, but rather to boredom. Beckett implies that the most torturous part of the characters’ existence is not active pain but rather the lack of motion. The idea that suicide could cause some kind of stimulation through an “erection” gives great excitement to Estragon: He is not enticed by death itself, but just the fact that suicide bestows on him greater agency in dictating his reality. Thus Beckett uses these lines to show how deeply one’s perceptions and ideas can be warped by the simple process of waiting. It bestows a passivity that leads the characters to crave action in any way possible, even if that way requires death.

We're not tied?

Related Characters: Estragon (speaker)
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

Estragon asks this question twice, with an interlude in between in which he eats a carrot. The first time, the inquiry concerns his and Vladimir’s rights, specifically whether they have “lost” them. When Vladimir responds that the process was not so passive and that they actively got rid of their rights, Estragon wonders “feebly” if this gives them more or less agency.

The metaphor of being tied returns the characters to the question of potential suicide by hanging themselves from the tree. That Estragon imagines rights as a process of being “tied” to something implies that rights are a restrictive force—which would perhaps explain why the two got rid of them. And the imagistic connection to suicide also casts being tied in a negative light. Yet Estragon seems more disheartened than elated at the idea of having been, so to speak, cut loose. The implication is, perhaps, that Estragon and Vladimir have left the bonds of normal society and, in doing so, abandoned their rights and entered into a nihilistic and untethered space.

The image will also resurface when Pozzo arrives holding Lucky on a rope. Unlike Vladimir and Estragon, who seek emotional codependence but also seem emotionally adrift, the other two characters are physically bound to each other. Yet doing so has turned Lucky into a slave, removing his rights. Beckett seems to be interrogating, here, the advantages and disadvantages of being socially obliged to others or to a society. Rights can be a form of being tied: They can restrict one, but they also prevent loneliness and offer a sense of connection and social well-being.

You are human beings none the less. (He puts on his glasses.) As far as one can see. (He takes off his glasses.) of the same species as myself. (He bursts into an enormous laugh.) Of the same species as Pozzo! Made in God's image!

Related Characters: Pozzo (speaker), Estragon, Vladimir
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

During the first moments of their conversation, Estragon tells Pozzo they they are not from this area. In response, Pozzo makes this odd appeal to their common humanity, stressing how the characters are all fundamentally the same, in particular through their connection to God.

Pozzo focuses on visual consistencies. Beckett signals this emphasis through the stage direction of putting on and removing glasses. And he indicates that the assertion that they are “human beings” must be confirmed by visual data. Pozzo then moves first into a scientific register of speech with the repetition of “species” and then swaps in religious language with “God’s image.” This appeal to God would presumably define a social bond between the three of them, but Pozzo speaks the lines mockingly.

The fact that he cites a universal humanity is particularly empty considering his inhumane treatment of Lucky. Taking the two actions together would imply either that Lucky is not human, or that the way Pozzo treats Lucky could be applied to any human—based on their commonality as the “same species.” And in the nihilistic setting of the play, in which both God and society seem to have vanished, neither the religious nor the Enlightenment ideal of common humanity has many practical consequences.

Er... you've finished with the... er... you don't need the... er... bones, Sir?

Related Characters: Estragon (speaker), Pozzo
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

After Pozzo has finished eating his chicken and tossed the bones to the ground, Estragon “timidly” wonders whether he can have the remains. He is reproached by Vladimir, but encouraged by Pozzo, who tells him to confirm that Lucky does not want them.

Much of the text focuses on existential despair, but this line returns it to a more practical hardship: hunger. The splendor of Pozzo’s meal sharply contrasts with the paucity of Estragon and Vladimir’s rotten vegetables, so it is quite reasonable for Estragon to want the bones. Estragon here uses a subservient tone of voice—he stumbles twice, includes three “er”s, and finishes the sentence with a formal “Sir?” Thus he defines himself in a position below Lucky, based on the power and wealth implied by his possession of chicken bones. The line corroborates Estragon’s childlike character and also shows how even in this empty, meaningless space, social hierarchies can be rapidly defined based on the possession of a few commodities.

He's crying!
Old dogs have more dignity.

Related Characters: Estragon (speaker), Pozzo (speaker), Lucky
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

Lucky begins crying when Pozzo observes mockingly that the best thing to do would be to kill him. Estragon is moved to an exclamation of pity, but Pozzo is simply disgusted by Lucky’s behavior.

This moment of pathos shows, first, that Lucky contains within him a strong emotional capacity—one that can be recognized by others. And it correspondingly shows a lack of empathy in Pozzo, as if Lucky (despite his silence) is in fact the more human of the two. Whereas Vladimir was the one previously morally outraged by Vladimir’s actions, here it is Estragon who expresses sadness at what has occurred. Pozzo, however, cares only about “dignity,” a term of decorum that mirrors his pompous and stately behavior in the play. The lines shows that while Estragon is more childlike in his actions, this also gives him an increased empathetic capacity—an empathy which Pozzo clearly lacks.

So that I ask myself is there anything I can do in my turn for these honest fellows who are having such a dull, dull time.
Even ten francs would be a help.
We are not beggars!

Related Characters: Estragon (speaker), Vladimir (speaker), Pozzo (speaker)
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:

In an unusual moment of generosity, Pozzo offers his assistance to Vladimir and Estragon. As he did with the chicken bones, Estragon immediately requests some tangible benefit (in this case money), whereas Vladimir reproaches him for the discourteous behavior. Pozzo, however, somewhat snidely notes that talking to the two of them should be sufficient payment.

The lines notably introduce money into the play for the first time. This detail might seem unimportant, but Beckett’s text could easily take place in a post-apocalyptic world in which economical systems have entirely disappeared. (After all, time seems to have stopped or at least behaves in very odd ways.) So the idea that francs could actually benefit Estragon and Vladimir reveals that currency still plays a role in the world of the play—or at least that Estragon believes it will. Vladimir, similarly, upholds a sort of social norm by not wanting to grovel before Pozzo.

Pozzo’s decision to withhold money seems simply ruthless. But, in a sense, his conversation has given more to the characters than ten francs would: It has offered a temporary antidote to nothing happening. And indeed, his comment that they “are having such a dull, dull time” shows an odd awareness of the value of action amidst boredom. Beckett seems to be making a sly joke that anything staving off the nihilistic horror of boredom is worth more than currency.

He used to dance the farandole, the fling, the brawl, the jig, the fandango, and even the hornpipe. He capered. For joy. Now that's the best he can do. Do you know what he calls it?
The Scapegoat's Agony.
The Hard Stool.
The Net. He thinks he's entangled in a net.

Related Characters: Estragon (speaker), Vladimir (speaker), Pozzo (speaker), Lucky
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

After Lucky performs, Pozzo observes sadly that he used to be far better. He lists the previous more artful dances Lucky once knew, and then asks Estragon and Vladimir to guess at the name of the recent one.

Most simply, these lines reconfirm that Lucky has degenerated from a previous more talented condition. But the more interesting side of the passages lies in how Estragon, Vladimir, and Pozzo describe the dance. The potential titles from each describe a state of hopelessness: Estragon points at how Lucky is a scapegoat for Pozzo’s hatred; Vladimir puns on stool to mean both an immobile seat and a painful bowel movement; and Pozzo describes the dance as expressing entrapment. Beckett implies that Lucky’s previous talents have—perhaps due to Pozzo, perhaps due to other forces—been reduced to a constant sense of being stuck and punished. Even a talent defined by movement is reduced to a lack of movement.

It is notable, too, that whereas the other dances are all recognizable forms and thus are lowercase, non-proper nouns, the actual dance has a unique title. Beckett seems to present it as an experimental form of art, more an expression of the self than a routine performance of previously-designed steps. This may be a subtle reference to twentieth-century modern dance, which deviates from pre-established form to such an extent that the motion often becomes grotesque.

Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it's awful!

Related Characters: Estragon (speaker)
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Estragon repeats what is by now the chorus of the play. He articulates once more the horrifying boredom that evidently cannot be abated even by the actions of Pozzo and Lucky.

Estragon notably expands the opening line—“Nothing to be done.”—into a series of longer formulations. First, we learn that “Nothing happens”: no external events take place. Then, he focuses on the actions of people, for “nobody comes, nobody goes.” Yet all of these statements are incorrect, for Lucky and Pozzo have arrived and have, in fact, caused a good deal to occur. After all, there is sufficient content in these parts for a play, indeed one of the most celebrated plays of the twentieth century.

This tension produces one of the great ironies and fascinations about the work. Lots of things are indeed happening, even if the characters do not perceive it, and the horror of their boredom provides an action endlessly analyzed by audiences. Thus even as the characters lament their fate, Beckett seems to put the responsibility on the artist and the audience to find significance in the seemingly empty scenes.

Then adieu.
Adieu.
Adieu.
Adieu.
Silence. No one moves.
Adieu.
Adieu.
Adieu.
Silence.

Related Characters: Estragon (speaker), Vladimir (speaker), Pozzo (speaker)
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

This tragicomic scene of failed goodbyes comes after Pozzo observes how badly Estrange and Vladimir smell. He says he must leave, but the characters seem somehow unable to part.

The exchange reiterates the lack of mobility and agency. But more specifically, it shows how an expressed wish to perform an action does not cause that action to take place. Pozzo conveys a motivation for leaving and goes through the necessary social code to depart, yet even after saying the right words he remains rooted to the ground. Indeed, the group tries twice to complete this simple social gesture, demonstrating that their entanglement in Lucky’s metaphorical dance-net is so tight that they cannot correctly execute the most basic of interactions.

That “Adieu” translates to French literally as “to God” offers one potential explanation. If we take Godot as a metaphor or stand-in for God, then going toward God would actually imply staying stationary in order for Godot to appear. Furthermore, this interoperation would show how the logic of waiting and apathy have so deeply invaded the characters’ minds that their very phrases fail to operate. The word “Adieu” itself has taken on a new meaning in a world where God is absent and constantly delayed.

Let's go.
We can't.
Why not?
We're waiting for Godot.

Related Characters: Estragon (speaker), Vladimir (speaker), Godot
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

After Pozzo and Lucky depart, Estragon immediately becomes bored once more and recommends that he and Vladimir leave as well. Vladimir reproaches him again, reminding the forgetful Estragon of their reason for staying in the same spot.

The lines reiterate the fickleness of Estragon’s memory; his mind immediately resets after every interaction, as if each moment is the beginning to a new play. In this way, he is much like a child who cannot track the progress of time or link earlier events to previous ones. He lives purely and perpetually in the present. Before, we might have believed in Vladimir as a voice of authority through his ability to form narratives and recall events. But by now the pointlessness of waiting has begun to seep in. The audience begins to wonder whether Estragon is perhaps correct in wishing to abandon their quest of waiting, and whether an eternal present might actually be a better response to a world without meaning. Beckett, then, has set up a scenario to call into question our presumptions about who holds authority in a situation of desperation. He demands that we be more skeptical of those who promise a future spiritual salvation, though Beckett never offers a clear alternative.

We know them, I tell you. You forget everything. (Pause. To himself.) Unless they're not the same...
Why didn't they recognize us then?
That means nothing. I too pretended not to recognize them. And then nobody every recognizes us.

Related Characters: Estragon (speaker), Vladimir (speaker), Pozzo, Lucky
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

After Lucky and Pozzo depart, Vladimir claims that he had known them before this interaction. When Estragon questions him, Vladimir begins to doubt his own memory and invents, instead, a justification about mutual mis-recognition.

It is intriguing that Estragon’s doubt is able to infiltrate Vladimir’s professed certainty. Whereas Vladimir’s memory is generally contrasted with Estragon’s complete inability to recall prior events, here Vladimir does not remain faithful to the point that “You forget everything.” He mistrusts his own vision and mind for a moment. Without a memory to aid him in this process, Estragon relies on interpreting social codes—the act of mutual recognition—to try to understand the situation. He reasons that if they had indeed met each other before, someone would have said something. But when Vladimir rejects that strategy with a nihilistic “that means nothing,” he denies this as a valid way to interpret reality. His justification is that all people feign mis-recognition even if they do indeed know each other.

A few different interpretations are possible here. Perhaps Vladimir is simply constructing a strange theory to justify his own uncertainty, much like how Pozzo would create theories on the distribution of happiness. Or perhaps Beckett is making a larger point on human behavior—ridiculing the ways we could recognize each other as humans more fully and yet constantly pretend not to identify this common quality between us all.

Christ! What has Christ got to do with it. You're not going to compare yourself to Christ!

Related Characters: Vladimir (speaker), Estragon
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

Estragon is prompted to compare himself to Christ because he too lacks shoes. Yet Vladimir is outraged at the trivial analogy, harshly reprimanding Estragon for making a religious allusion.

This moment builds on a dynamic in Estragon and Vladimir’s relationship, in which the first will make a naive but honest comment and the second will find it flawed for some social or conceptual reason. Here, Vladimir is outraged because Estragon has inappropriately applied a traditional, spiritual narrative to their meaningless and empty lives. It’s intriguing that the martyr comparison—one that many make in times of desperation—is deemed so unacceptable, especially considering the clear parallels between Godot and God as messianic forces of salvation. Vladimir directly challenges both Estragon and the audience on that type of one-to-one allegory. He demands that we think more broadly about what type of salvation Godot could possibly bring. Alternatively, we might argue that Beckett has set the play in a spiritually vacant realm, in which any comparison to Christ is deemed ridiculous by the characters, even if their actions are mirroring those of religious adherents. They may be denying the efficacy of religion, but they are desperate for its salvation all the same.

Well, shall we go?
Yes, let's go.
They do not move.

Related Characters: Estragon (speaker), Vladimir (speaker)
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:

These final lines of the first act come after Estragon and Vladimir debate separating, decide not to, and then propose to move on together. But instead of actually departing, they just verbally suggest it and remain immobile.

Once more, this exchange shows the depth of the stagnancy of the characters. They start with the most radical proposal—to separate—then reduce it to moving together, and yet they cannot even accomplish that. As with the “Adieu” sequence, the two perform the requisite speech acts of “Yes, let’s go,” but they cannot transfer language into action. Indeed, this distinction is one of the key themes in Beckett’s works, for action certainly lies within language for the audience, and at times for the characters when they are able to make conversation. But at other times, language is shown to directly contrast with action, when it functions as a delay mechanism or explicitly fails to perform its proper purpose.

The placement of these lines just at the end of the first act returns us to the play's beginning. Nothing was to be done, we were told, and here we see, indeed, nothing being done. Beckett, however, stresses not the necessary nihilism of the play, but rather the specific lack of agency or energy in each of the characters. Nothing can be done here because no one causes anything to be done, even when they might wish it to be different.

Act 2 Quotes

Say, I am happy.
I am happy.
So am I.
So am I.
We are happy.
We are happy. (Silence.) What do we do now, now that we are happy?
Wait for Godot.

Related Characters: Estragon (speaker), Vladimir (speaker)
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:

As act two begins, Vladimir and Estragon seem to undergo a radical emotional shift. With no real pretense, both claim to be happy, yet when they wonder what to do with this new good mood, they can come up with no suggestion besides waiting once more for Godot.

The way the two profess their happiness merits some skepticism. After all, no events have transpired to change their lives from the previous day. And rather than offer any rational basis for being in a good mood, the two will themselves into the state by verbally exclaiming its existence. Vladimir commands Estragon not to be happy but to “say” that he is happy, and this indicates that the next series of comments might be untruthful speech acts instead of honest descriptions of their mental states. The sing-song rhythm created by the repeated phrases also casts it more as a ritual than an earnest expression—and makes the entire endeavor seem cynical.

That this supposed happiness will not do anything to change the men's actual actions speaks to the division between language and behavior that pervades this play. Though Vladimir and Estragon claim to have acquired a new disposition, they are no more active than before. Thus happiness is not taken as a way to fight back against boredom and nihilism, but rather as a temporary, even false, distraction.

The best thing would be to kill me, like the other.
What other? (Pause.) What other?
Like billions of others.

Related Characters: Estragon (speaker), Vladimir (speaker)
Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:

Estragon makes this allusion to human suffering after suggesting that he and Vladimir part ways. Vladimir points out that Estragon often makes similar grandiose statements without ever following through, which causes Estragon to take the more radical position that he should die.

Beneath this seemingly insensible statement lie a serious of complex references to other parts in the play. Estragon’s suggestion that death would be preferable to the dullness of their interaction recalls the earlier suggestion that they hang themselves to relieve boredom. But “the other” more likely refers to Lucky, for Pozzo had suggested killing him in order to be relieved of the burden. Thus while Estragon may not explicitly remember the events of the day before, they seem to have infiltrated his subconscious, causing him to see his relationship with Vladimir as analogous to that of Lucky and Pozzo. Vladimir is notably uncomfortable here, repeating the same question with a pause in the middle. Perhaps he is concerned about Estragon’s sanity, or perhaps he recognizes the reference to Lucky—and is horrified at the implicit comparison of himself to Pozzo.

The reference to “billions of others,” however, displaces that one-to-one connection to Lucky. Instead of focusing on a single human story, Estragon justifies his own killing based on the deaths of other humans. In a sense, the phrase is grandiose and frightening, but also slightly ridiculous—for billions have not been killed for the reason of “the best thing.” But it also shows the extent of the nihilism pervading the play. Perhaps billions have indeed died, or at least Estragon feels their deaths would be reasonable considering the hopelessness of his world.

It must be the Spring.
But in a single night!
I tell you we weren't here yesterday. Another of your nightmares.

Related Characters: Estragon (speaker), Vladimir (speaker)
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:

Estragon and Vladimir try to make sense of their environment’s first real change: The tree has grown leaves. For Estragon, this is proof that their life is not repeating, whereas Vladimir wonders whether the seasons have shifted in a day.

This passage presents two models of time and implies that each model bestows a different type of significance on the characters. Vladimir relies on his memory that they were in the same place the night before and that the tree had no leaves—but now the tree has leaves, so spring must have arrived in a single night. He takes two perceptual pieces of information, believes in their connection, and arrives at a daring conclusion. Estragon, on the other hand, lacks a memory and therefore presumes that spring could not have come so rapidly. He takes the logical end result and extrapolates backwards to assume that Vladimir’s information must be the result only of “nightmares.”

Thus we have two different options for the reality of the play: Either we accept that the normal logic of the seasons is perverted, but concede that Vladimir’s perceptions are generally correct, or we deny his claims as mere nightmare and affirm the eternal present as experienced by Estragon. This passage serves to further undermine Vladimir’s authority in the relationship and to show how fickle our adherence can be to time models: They can be abandoned with the sight of one blooming tree.

We came too soon.
It's always at nightfall.
But night doesn't fall.
It'll fall all of a sudden, like yesterday.
Then it'll be night.
And we can go.
Then it'll be day again.

Related Characters: Estragon (speaker), Vladimir (speaker)
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis:

After Estragon once more suggests leaving, Vladimir must remind him that they have not moved in order to wait for Godot. This disagreement causes them to reflect on the specific way time is repeating.

Estragon’s position can be summarized, here, as rejecting the linear development of time toward an expected goal: the arrival of Godot. He denies that they have arrived at the right moment, then rejects the imminent arrival of that correct moment: when night will fall. What Estragon is taking issue with here is not exactly time as such, but rather the progressive motion between different moments in time. Rejecting the dynamic process of night falling, he instead repeats the model of the eternal present in which it is night at one moment, day in another. Nothing, in this account, would ever occur that would allow them to “go.”

Vladimir, on the other hand, defends the potential for change to take place if they continue waiting for Godot. From his certainty in the way twilight fell yesterday, he extrapolates that a similar change will take place—and that another change will allow them to be finally mobile and “go” once Godot arrives. In this way, Beckett seems to present faith (in Godot or in any sort of redemption) as an indicator of one’s specific belief in time: the anticipation of future events based on past ones is deemed necessary to belief in or hope for a savior.

Suppose we got up to begin with?
No harm trying.
They get up.
Child's play.
Simple question of will-power.

Related Characters: Estragon (speaker), Vladimir (speaker)
Page Number: 96
Explanation and Analysis:

Pozzo, Vladimir, and Estragon have all by now fallen on the floor and seem unable to rise. Yet after waiting for a bit and expressing a new wave of boredom, they suddenly stand up, self-congratulate, and render it an act of will.

These lines are quite humorous, for their simplicity directly contrasts with the earlier empty discussion about standing up. Whereas before words could not translate into action, here action takes place when there is a void of words. The characters may consider this an act of “will-power,” but it seems far more to be a factor of them having had no other task. After all, that standing is considered “child’s play” only serves to reiterate the ridiculousness of their previous immobility. It is deeply infantile, the act of a child, to be so obstinately apathetic—but it is also a reality of their world. Are we to take “will-power” then as earnest or ironic? Certainly, we laugh at the way these characters use the phrase, but Beckett also seems honestly invested in the value of the will. Instead of waiting, the three have actually accomplished something minuscule by standing up, seeming to indicate that a set of similar actions could potentially produce some personal benefit.

Have you not done tormenting me with your accursed time! It's abominable! When! When! One day, is that not enough for you, one day he went dumb, one day I went blind, one day we'll go deaf, one day we were born, one day we shall die, the same day, the same second, is that not enough for you?

Related Characters: Pozzo (speaker), Estragon, Vladimir, Lucky
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:

As Lucky and Pozzo prepare to leave, Vladimir requests a second performance of singing or recitation from Lucky. Pozzo responds that he is mute and, after Vladimir protests, he makes this final outburst against Vladimir’s insistence on tracking the progression of time.

Pozzo finally vocalizes what Estragon has hinted at and what the audience may have been skeptical about for some time: that Vladimir’s insistence on linking past events to present ones is ultimately unhelpful. Time, for Pozzo, is deemed inherently “accursed” and “abominable” simply because it forces him to reflect on previous experiences and compare them to current reality. Perhaps he finds this particularly agonizing because he wishes for a time when he could see and Lucky could speak, sing, and think. Pozzo quickly extrapolates from his individual dynamic, however, into a broader theory. He zooms out from “I went blind” to “we’ll go deaf,” thus including all the characters in his fate. Then he zooms out further to describe with a flippant tone how all are born and die on “one day.”

This idea is a form of the eternal present similar to that experienced by Estragon. By this model, it does not matter which events occurred at which time, but simply that they take place eventually and at some point in history. Yet Pozzo’s argument is even more radical in a way. For he puns on “one” to mean both a specific day and an identical day for many people—which would imply that all are born and all die in “the same second.” Of course, he does not mean this literally, but rather uses it to contextualize the relative brevity of human life as a mere second in history—and as ultimately so meaningless that trying to form a time scale and narrative like Vladimir’s is pointless.

Well? Shall we go?
Yes, let's go.
They do not move.

Related Characters: Estragon (speaker), Vladimir (speaker)
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:

These are the final lines of the play. Vladimir suggests they depart and Estragon affirms the choice, but the two remain just as immobile as ever.

By finishing the work here, Beckett returns the action back to two earlier moments in the text: The first is an almost identical set of lines at the end of act one. The second is the opening sequence in which it was immediately established that nothing was to be done. This invites a first reading that the text moves nowhere and serves to argue that the characters will wait in boredom and nihilism forever. Yet a few key changes from act one should be noted.

Whereas at the end of act one, Estragon was the first to suggest leaving, at the end of act two, it is Vladimir who first says, “Well? Shall we go?” Beckett also breaks up the line “Well, shall we go?” into two separate questions. Vladimir’s sentences thus seems more pointed—less a casual expression reached from boredom and more an explicit wish to change. And, indeed, this decision is significant coming from his character, for Vladimir has previously demanded the two must remain still to wait for Godot. Perhaps the skepticism he has expressed at the mission of waiting for Godot has finally led Vladimir to abandon the quest—which may give rise to increased agency and movement.

The final stage direction, however, undermines any such idea. Even, it seems, if the two wish to depart, they remain caught in the game of language over action, of expressing a desire without actually bringing it to fruition. Beckett ends the text on an appropriately divisive note: the stagnancy is devoid of meaning for the characters, but within that stagnancy lies a world of meaning for the audience.

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Estragon Character Timeline in Waiting for Godot

The timeline below shows where the character Estragon appears in Waiting for Godot. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
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Sitting on the side of a country road by a tree, Estragon tries repeatedly to pull off one of his boots. Vladimir enters and Estragon exasperatedly tells... (full context)
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Vladimir asks if "they" beat Estragon while he was sleeping there and he says that they did. Vladimir says, "It's too... (full context)
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Estragon again asks for help, but Vladimir ignores him, taking off his hat, looking in it,... (full context)
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Vladimir wonders what would happen if he and Estragon repented. Estragon asks what they would be repenting for and Vladimir doesn't say. Estragon suggests... (full context)
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Vladimir asks if Estragon has ever read the Bible and if he remembers the Gospels. Estragon remembers only colored... (full context)
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Vladimir tells Estragon about the two thieves crucified alongside Jesus in the Bible. One of the two thieves... (full context)
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Vladimir continues to wonder about the two thieves, and whether one was saved or not. Estragon doesn't follow Vladimir's thinking and is confused. Vladimir asks why they should believe the one... (full context)
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While Estragon gets up and looks around, Vladimir looks in Estragon's boot but doesn't find anything. Estragon... (full context)
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Estragon asks where the tree's leaves are and Vladimir says it must be dead, or else... (full context)
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Estragon says they came to this place yesterday, but Vladimir disagrees. Estragon asks if Vladimir is... (full context)
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The two take a break from talking and Estragon falls asleep. Vladimir wakes him and Estragon asks why he won't let him sleep. Vladimir... (full context)
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Estragon wonders if it would be better for he and Vladimir to go their separate ways.... (full context)
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Estragon apologizes and the two embrace. Estragon jumps back, though, because Vladimir reeks of garlic. Vladimir... (full context)
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Estragon says Vladimir should hang himself first because he is heavier. If Estragon hanged himself first,... (full context)
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Vladimir says he is interested to hear what Godot will offer them. Estragon asks what they asked Godot for and Vladimir says nothing very specific; it was just... (full context)
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Estragon asks, "Where do we come in?" and Vladimir is confused at first, then responds, "on... (full context)
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Vladimir says he thought he had heard Godot. Estragon says he's hungry and Vladimir offers him a carrot, but then all he can find... (full context)
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Estragon asks Vladimir if they are "tied." Vladimir asks what he means and Estragon asks if... (full context)
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...are interrupted by a horrible scream off-stage. They run to the edge of the stage. Estragon stops and runs back to get his boot, then runs back to Vladimir. They huddle... (full context)
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...Lucky suddenly, causing him to drop all his things. Vladimir goes to help Lucky, but Estragon stops him. Pozzo tells the two of them to be careful, as Lucky is dangerous. (full context)
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Estragon asks Vladimir if this is Godot, but then Pozzo introduces himself by name and asks... (full context)
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Pozzo asks who Godot is. Vladimir says he's an acquaintance, but Estragon says they hardly know him. Pozzo asks if they were waiting for Godot here, on... (full context)
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...piece of chicken and a bottle of wine. He eats and drinks, as Vladimir and Estragon inspect Lucky, who is exhaustedly falling asleep as he stands. (full context)
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Vladimir and Estragon continue to examine Lucky, noticing how the rope chafes his neck and how tired he... (full context)
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Estragon looks at the chicken bones that Pozzo has thrown on the ground and tentatively asks... (full context)
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...(he does not respond) and then says he must be leaving. He thanks Vladimir and Estragon for their company. But then he debates smoking some more from his pipe before he... (full context)
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Vladimir tells Estragon they should leave, but Pozzo stops them. He yanks Lucky's rope again and has him... (full context)
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...as well, since, as he says, "the more people I meet the happier I become." Estragon asks Pozzo why Lucky doesn't put down his bags and Vladimir encourages Estragon to ask... (full context)
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...make him pay attention). He pauses to think and then asks what the question was. Estragon and Vladimir remind him. Pozzo says that Lucky has the right to "make himself comfortable,"... (full context)
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Vladimir and Estragon are confused, wondering why Pozzo would get rid of Lucky. Pozzo repeats that Lucky wants... (full context)
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...to weep, and Pozzo says, "old dogs have more dignity." Pozzo gives his handkerchief to Estragon and tells him to wipe away Lucky's tears. Estragon hesitates, so Vladimir says he'll do... (full context)
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Estragon walks up to Lucky with the handkerchief, but Lucky kicks him in the shins. Pozzo... (full context)
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...that he "can't bear it" with Lucky and that he is going crazy. Vladimir and Estragon repeat his words, and then Vladimir turns to Lucky accusingly, telling him his behavior is... (full context)
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...I look like a man that can be made to suffer?" he asks. Vladimir and Estragon comment on how "charming" and "unforgettable" their evening has been. Pozzo tries to find his... (full context)
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...if he has seen it, before he notices that Vladimir has left without saying goodbye. Estragon tells Pozzo to get up and look at something. He points off in the distance... (full context)
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...He says he'd like to sit down on his stool again, but doesn't know how. Estragon offers to help and Pozzo tells him to ask him to sit down. Estragon asks... (full context)
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Vladimir again suggests he and Estragon leave. Pozzo asks Estragon what his name is, and Estragon says it is Adam. Pozzo... (full context)
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Vladimir says that he and Estragon can simply bide their time and wait. He says they are used to it. Pozzo... (full context)
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Pozzo says that since Vladimir and Estragon have been civil to him, he wonders if there is anything he can do to... (full context)
Pozzo pulls on Lucky's rope, picks up the whip, and asks whether Estragon and Vladimir want Lucky to dance, sing, recite, or think. He says that Lucky can... (full context)
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Lucky dances. Pozzo says Lucky used to be able to dance better. He asks if Estragon and Vladimir know what Lucky's dance is called. Estragon guesses "The Scapegoat's Agony," while Vladimir... (full context)
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Estragon asks about the time Lucky refused to dance. Pozzo prepares to speak, then forgets what... (full context)
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Estragon laments the fact that "nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes." Vladimir asks Pozzo to tell... (full context)
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Pozzo kicks Lucky and calls him a pig again. He asks Vladimir and Estragon to help pick Lucky up and hold him steady. They let go of him and... (full context)
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Pozzo calls for silence and he, Estragon, and Vladimir listen to see if they can hear the ticking of the watch. Pozzo... (full context)
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...once more. No one moves. Pozzo says that he seems to be unable to leave. Estragon says, "such is life." Pozzo backs away from Lucky, and then, holding onto the rope,... (full context)
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...for his stool and Vladimir gets it and gives it to him. Pozzo, Vladimir, and Estragon say "adieu" again and Pozzo leaves, shouting at Lucky. Vladimir says that this encounter with... (full context)
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Vladimir comments on how much Pozzo and Lucky had changed. Estragon is confused, because they did not know this pair before, but Vladimir assures him they... (full context)
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Estragon's one foot with the boot still on begins to hurt, while Vladimir ponders whether Lucky... (full context)
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...he is from "these parts." The boy doesn't know them, but is from the area. Estragon doesn't believe the boy and shakes him angrily, but Vladimir tells him to calm down. (full context)
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Estragon lets go of the boy and covers his face, telling Vladimir that he has been... (full context)
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...the boy to tell Godot that he saw them. The boy leaves, as night comes. Estragon looks at the moon, saying that it is "pale for weariness." He leaves both his... (full context)
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Vladimir tells Estragon he can't go on with bare feet, and Estragon says that Christ did. Vladimir thinks... (full context)
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Estragon looks at the tree and says it's a pity they don't have any rope. He... (full context)
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Estragon says he and Vladimir "weren't made for the same road." Vladimir says that it is... (full context)
Act 2
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Act 2 begins the next day, at the same time and in the same place. Estragon's boots are still on the ground. Vladimir enters, examines one of Estragon's boots, and then... (full context)
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Estragon enters and Vladimir tries to embrace him, but Estragon pushes him away. Vladimir asks where... (full context)
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Estragon remarks, "What a day!" and Vladimir tells him the day isn't over yet. Estragon tells... (full context)
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Estragon says he too feels better alone. Vladimir asks him why he keeps "crawling back" then,... (full context)
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Vladimir says that he would have stopped Estragon from doing whatever he did to provoke the beating, but Estragon says he wasn't doing... (full context)
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Vladimir says that Estragon must be happy now that they are together again. Estragon is not sure but Vladimir... (full context)
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Vladimir tells Estragon to look at the nearby tree. Estragon asks if it was there yesterday and Vladimir... (full context)
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Estragon remembers "a lunatic" who kicked his shins and a man who gave him a bone.... (full context)
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Vladimir mentions "the Macon country," but Estragon says he's never been there. He says he's "puked my puke of a life away... (full context)
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Estragon says that things would be better if he and Vladimir parted. Vladimir says that Estragon... (full context)
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Estragon says that they should talk so they don't hear "all the dead voices," that talk... (full context)
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...to find something to talk about. Vladimir says "it's the start that's difficult." He asks Estragon to help him find something to talk about, and Estragon tells him he's trying. The... (full context)
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...is the worst thing of all, and the two ponder whether they have ever thought. Estragon comments that they are talking well now, but Vladimir notes that now they need to... (full context)
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...and recalls the opening of act two, when they embraced and were happy. He tells Estragon to look at the tree and notes that it has leaves, whereas yesterday it was... (full context)
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...for the moment, that they were not in this place the previous day, and asks Estragon what they did the previous night, then. Estragon says they "blathered," about "nothing in particular."... (full context)
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Vladimir lifts up the legs of Estragon's pants and sees the wound from Lucky's kick, which would suggest that they were here... (full context)
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Estragon says the boots are not his, because they are not the right color. Vladimir says... (full context)
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Vladimir asks if Estragon would like a radish or turnip. Estragon asks if there are any carrots; Vladimir says... (full context)
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Vladimir suggests that Estragon try on the boots. He says it would at least pass the time, and that... (full context)
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Estragon sits down and wishes he could sleep. He tries to sleep, but Vladimir tells him... (full context)
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Estragon wants to leave, but Vladimir reminds him that they must stay and wait for Godot.... (full context)
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Estragon announces that he is going to leave. Vladimir sees Lucky's hat from yesterday lying on... (full context)
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Vladimir asks Estragon how he looks in Lucky's hat. Estragon says he looks "hideous," and Vladimir asks if... (full context)
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Vladimir encourages Estragon to yell at him like Pozzo. Estragon shouts, "Think, pig!" at Vladimir, who says he... (full context)
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Estragon says "they" are coming but doesn't know who they are or how many of them... (full context)
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Vladimir tells Estragon his only hope is to disappear. He tells Estragon to hide behind the tree. Estragon... (full context)
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Estragon brings Vladimir to the right edge of the stage and tells him to be on... (full context)
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They insult each other back and forth and then Estragon decides it's time to make up. They embrace. "How time flies when one has fun!"... (full context)
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...things, but now Pozzo is blind, following closely behind Lucky. Lucky stops when he sees Estragon and Vladimir, and Pozzo continue walking until he bumps into Lucky. Pozzo asks who it... (full context)
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Estragon asks if this is Godot. Vladimir says, "Reinforcements at last!" He says that now they... (full context)
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Vladimir says that Pozzo might have another chicken bone for Estragon, and suggests that they help him up. Estragon asks why Pozzo can't get up and... (full context)
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Confused, Estragon asks who Lucky is, and Vladimir reminds him of how Lucky kicked Estragon the previous... (full context)
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Pozzo continues to cry out for help. Vladimir says that he and Estragon should "do something, while we have the chance." He ponders the situation and whether he... (full context)
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Vladimir continues to talk, so Pozzo shouts that he'll pay someone to help him. Estragon asks how much. He says he'd pay one hundred francs, and Estragon says this isn't... (full context)
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Vladimir begs Estragon not to leave. He and Pozzo both ask Estragon for help. Vladimir promises that he... (full context)
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Estragon again says he's going to leave. Vladimir says he'll just get up himself, but he... (full context)
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Pozzo asks who Estragon and Vladimir are, and Vladimir answers that they are men. Vladimir asks Estragon if he... (full context)
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Vladimir says he could crawl over to Pozzo, but Estragon doesn't want Vladimir to leave him. They both call over to Pozzo, but he doesn't... (full context)
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Estragon shouts, "Abel! Abel!" and Pozzo cries out for help. Estragon thinks Abel is the right... (full context)
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Estragon wants to leave, but Vladimir reminds him yet again that they are waiting here for... (full context)
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Pozzo asks who Vladimir and Estragon are, because he is blind and cannot see them. Estragon wonders if he can see... (full context)
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Pozzo asks what time it is, and Estragon and Vladimir look at the sky, guessing seven or eight o'clock in the evening. Estragon... (full context)
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Estragon asks how long he and Vladimir will have to hold up Pozzo for. Pozzo says... (full context)
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Estragon says he is leaving. Pozzo asks where they are, and Vladimir says he doesn't know.... (full context)
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...Vladimir says Lucky seems to be sleeping, but might be dead. Pozzo asks Vladimir or Estragon to go check on Lucky and see if he is okay. Estragon doesn't want to... (full context)
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Estragon doesn't move. Vladimir asks Estragon what he is waiting for, and Estragon answers that he... (full context)
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Estragon checks if Lucky is still breathing (he is) before starting to kick him repeatedly. He... (full context)
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...he insists does not matter. He and Lucky leave the stage. Vladimir walks over to Estragon and wakes him. (full context)
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Estragon asks why Vladimir won't let him sleep. Vladimir says he was lonely. Estragon begins to... (full context)
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Estragon says, "let's go," but then remembers they can't. He asks if Vladimir is sure that... (full context)
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...He ponders what he will say of this day tomorrow and laments the fact that Estragon will not remember this day and they'll have to go through the same conversations all... (full context)
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...you never saw me!" The boy runs off, as the moon rises and night comes. Estragon says he's leaving, and Vladimir says he'll leave as well. Estragon asks how long he... (full context)
Waiting, Boredom, and Nihilism Theme Icon
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Estragon wants to go far away, but Vladimir says they can't go far, because they have... (full context)
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Humanity, Companionship, Suffering, and Dignity Theme Icon
The two go up to the tree and examine it. Estragon suggests they hang themselves, but they don't have any rope. Estragon says they could use... (full context)
Humor and the Absurd Theme Icon
Waiting, Boredom, and Nihilism Theme Icon
Vladimir and Estragon pull on either end of the belt to test its strength. It breaks. Estragon asks... (full context)
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Modernism and Postmodernism Theme Icon
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Estragon asks if they can leave. Vladimir tells him to pull up his pants. Estragon misunderstands,... (full context)