Waiting for Godot

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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?
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?
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.

To Godot? Tied to Godot! What an idea! No question of it. (Pause.) For the moment.

Related Characters: Vladimir (speaker), Godot
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

Vladimir responds, here, to Estragon asking if they are currently tied to Godot. He explains that such an idea would be ridiculous, but then implies that it might be possible and even desirable in the future.

One of the beauties of the play is that “Godot” can be taken as a symbol for many different things: God, a bond to civilization, a rescuer, etc. In the broadest sense, he offers some kind of redemptive alternative to the desperate, unmoored characters. Currently the two remain, without question, not “tied to Godot,” for they have not yet made a social connection with them. But whereas Estragon continues to see that lack of being tied as positive, Vladimir implies with the artful pause and line “For the moment” that they may indeed want to be. Perhaps, after all, escaping the scene would mean becoming “tied” to Godot. On one level, this might simply mean having forged a social connection that requires humane treatment and gives emotional support. On another level, it might mean using Godot to reconnect themselves to a society with rights and social norms.

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.

To treat a man... (gesture towards Lucky)... like that... I think that... no... a human being... no... it's a scandal!

Related Characters: Vladimir (speaker), Pozzo, Lucky
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

Lucky refuses the bones and Pozzo makes a spiteful comment, causing Vladimir to at last speak up against the behavior. He somewhat hesitantly challenges Pozzo on the awful way he treats Lucky.

Vladimir’s repeated references to humanity—“man” and “human being”—seem to ironically rephrase Pozzo’s earlier comment on how they all are the same species and made in God’s image. Here, Vladimir points out the inconsistency in that logic: How could Pozzo actually believe that and still treat Lucky this way? Yet Vladimir protests in a meek and uncertain way, stuttering and self correcting with ellipses and with the injection of “no.” Pozzo’s relative power in the scene thus prevents Vladimir from any direct challenge, even if he finds the behavior deplorable. And rather than actually fight Pozzo or seek to free Lucky, Vladimir lets the conversation drift on. Beckett seems to be making a mockery of our wish to pursue human rights by showing how fickle our principles and convictions can be.

Why he doesn't make himself comfortable? Let's try and get this clear. Has he not the right to? Certainly he has. It follows that he doesn't want to. There's reasoning for you.

Related Characters: Pozzo (speaker), Lucky
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

After a series of confused attempts to ask Pozzo why Lucky continues to carry so many bags, Vladimir and Estragon are finally able to communicate their question. In response, Pozzo gives this strange definition of his human autonomy, claiming that Lucky is indeed able to rest.

Pozzo elevates the status of his statement with the phrases “Let’s try and get this clear” and “There’s reasoning for you.” He implies that other dialogue was perhaps not so lucid, and that he will be able to offer a more direct and useful understanding of their dynamics. Between these two phrases lies a distorted proof. Pozzo claims that Lucky is indeed fully autonomous, and that therefore each action he performs is out of complete volition. But, of course, the audience and other characters remain skeptical, for Lucky does not in fact seem to have this professed agency. Pozzo articulates a common despotic or slaveholding justification, in which people with power claim that others could do anything—whereas in reality they are trapped by their circumstance. Beckett seems to showcase the emptiness inherent in forms of human agency: A presumed ability to act only reveals how social forces keep one entrapped.

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.

The tears of the world are a constant quantity. For each one who begins to weep, somewhere else another stops. The same is true of the laugh. (He laughs.) Let us not then speak ill of our generation, it is not unhappier than its predecessors. (Pause.) Let us not speak well of it either. (Pause.) Let us not speak of it at all.

Related Characters: Pozzo (speaker), Lucky
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

Pozzo offers this theory of world suffering because Estragon has begun to cry after Lucky kicks him in the shins. Previously Lucky shed tears, and Pozzo thus interprets the tears' transfer from Lucky to Estragon as proof that happiness in the world is constant.

To construct this theory, Pozzo begins with the physical detail he has just observed: “quantity” is “constant” because when Lucky stopped crying, Estragon started. Applying the same idea to laughter casts Vladimir’s earlier insistence that he not laugh in an intriguing light: It is as if Vladimir was generously leaving the laughter with others, whereas Pozzo steals it without a second thought. And from these two principles on crying and laughing, Pozzo concludes that no evaluative assessment can be made of any “generation,” for all eras have a consistent distribution of joy.

The philosophical underpinning of this relativism is that happiness and sadness are constantly being redistributed. Yet two sub-interpretations of this philosophy are possible: Either this is a pseudo-spiritual model in which happiness is regulated by a universal (perhaps divine) force, or it is a model in which human agents themselves change quantities of happiness by taking it away from others. In the second option, Lucky stopped crying only because he harmed Estragon. Beckett puts emphasis on this distinction by making Pozzo a slave-owner: He has profited from Lucky’s misery and thus has more resources than Estragon or Vladimir, who have a more equitable relationship. After all, it's to Pozzo's advantage to have formulated a theory that justifies his spiteful and selfish behaviors.

After having sucked all the good out of him you chuck him away like a... like a banana skin. Really...

Related Characters: Vladimir (speaker), Pozzo, Lucky
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

Vladimir makes another protest against Pozzo’s behavior after learning that Lucky has served him for 60 years. He is aghast that Pozzo would dispose of Lucky so flippantly.

To fortify this position, Vladimir summons the image of a banana, charging Pozzo with having treated Lucky simply like a foodstuff. Lucky is, by this account, to be consumed at will and then gotten rid of when he has been depleted. The image should be taken as appropriate considering the play’s focus on food. Remember, Estragon and Vladimir’s spartan resources were directly contrasted with Pozzo’s luxury—a luxury presumably furnished by Lucky’s role as a slave. Thus Vladimir takes the food metaphor from an indirect relationship—in which Pozzo consumes food from his possession of Lucky—into a direct one: his actual possession of Lucky.

(to Lucky.) How dare you! It's abominable! Such a good master! Crucify him like that! After so many years! Really!

Related Characters: Vladimir (speaker), Pozzo, Lucky
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

Only moments after Vladimir accuses Pozzo of having treated Lucky like a banana, he switches his perspective entirely. At the mere suggestion from Pozzo that he has been indirectly abused by Lucky, Vladimir immediately becomes sympathetic to the slaveholder and chastises Lucky instead.

These lines clarify the nature of the flippancy in Vladimir’s character. As we have already noted, Vladimir often makes comments in protest but never follows them with action. Here the reason is not cowardice but rather distraction. Just a single comment from Pozzo immediately makes Vladimir consider Lucky’s actions “abominable” and presents Pozzo as both “master” and martyr through the term “crucify.” This shift demonstrates that human moral codes are weak not necessarily because a character or person is evil, but simply because of how fickle human memory and attention are. Vladimir is generally presented as more attentive and aware than Estragon, but even here he cannot maintain a logical train of thought.

Do I look like a man that can be made to suffer?

Related Characters: Pozzo (speaker)
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

After an outburst of tears, Pozzo controls his sentiments and denies that he was genuinely upset. Then he argues he has complete emotional control and cannot, in fact, suffer at all.

On a character level, these lines speak to the egoism of Pozzo’s personality—in which he wants to be seen as stoic and superior by all around him. The comment also intersects importantly with Pozzo’s earlier theory about the relative state of human suffering. Previously, he argued that suffering was constant and simply redistributed among humans, and here he seems to imply that he is impervious to that system. All suffering, by thos account, will be hoisted onto those around him. Yet Pozzo has clearly experienced some level of suffering at the hands of Lucky. Thus even the most “empowered” character in the play, the one performing acts of great cruelty, still reveals insecurities and expresses a suppressed wish to flee pain.

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 thinks?
Certainly. Aloud. He even used to think very prettily once, I could listen to him for hours. Now... (he shudders).

Related Characters: Vladimir (speaker), Pozzo (speaker)
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

As Pozzo prepares to have Lucky perform for Vladimir and Estragon, he notes that one option is for Lucky to “think.” Vladimir is naturally taken aback, considering that Lucky has not yet produced a single real utterance, and Pozzo asserts he can, but also indicates this behavior is now somewhat horrifying.

We see here a crucial revision to Lucky’s character. He is not, as we might think, inherently silent or disabled. Rather he used to be highly capable and has only recently descended into his current maligned state. The lines also clarify why Pozzo may now find him torturous to be around—for the way he performs is frightening instead of enjoyable.

“Thinking” is also presented here as a pragmatic action: It is not just a natural process that humans do, but something that can be cultivated and performed for others. Furthermore, Pozzo’s use of the term “prettily” implies that thinking quality can be assessed on some kind of scale. There are better and worse thinkers; ones that are beautiful and ones that make one shudder. Beckett may be making a snide comment here about the class of intellectuals who presume themselves to be above other entertainers, when in reality what they do is just another type of performance art.

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.
Silence. No one moves.

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.

You don't know me?
No Sir.
It wasn't you came yesterday?
No Sir.
This is your first time?
Yes Sir.

Related Characters: Vladimir (speaker), Boy (speaker)
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

When the Boy arrives bringing a message from Godot, Vladimir and Estragon interrogate him briefly. They question why he is so late and whether he has come before, establishing what will come to be a potentially cyclic pattern.

Vladimir’s belief that the same Boy came yesterday reveals a similar uncertainty that he held with Lucky and Pozzo. Able, unlike Estragon, to connect individual memories into larger narratives, Vladimir believes that the events of the play are repeating themselves—and that the same characters resurface again and again as a result. If true, this would define a structure of meaning for Vladimir beyond “Nothing to be done,” for he could interpret patterns and see the Boy as a prior acquaintance.

Yet the Boy refuses to affirm this wish. Instead he plays the childlike role of Estragon that situates their interaction in the eternal present. In doing so, he casts the information he will tell about Godot as novel and important, whereas a cyclical model would imply that it has been said again and again. The entire merit of waiting for Godot seems to rest, then, on Vladimir’s now undermined ability to trust his memory.

Mr. Godot told me to tell you he won't come this evening but surely tomorrow.

Related Characters: Boy (speaker), Godot
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

After the interrogation from Vladimir and Estragon, the Boy finally gives his message. But that memo does not convey much real meaning, and rather serves to revert the characters to their bored state of waiting.

This rhetoric of expected arrival further casts Godot as a religious symbol. Though he is presumed to offer some kind of eternal salvation for the characters, his presence is constantly delayed and merely promised by others. At this point in the play, the emptiness of these words is not quite clear, for the Boy has only appeared once. But already Vladimir’s comments on how events and people seem to be repeating themselves indicate that the Boy may have said these words before. That is to say, perhaps the lengthy, nihilism-induced wait for Godot has been caused by a series of forgotten “but surely tomorrow”s.

Tell him... (he hesitates)... tell him you saw us. (Pause.) You did see us, didn't you?

Related Characters: Vladimir (speaker), Godot, Boy
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

As the Boy leaves, Vladimir makes this desperate appeal to human recognition. He first asks the Boy to represent them to Godot, but more simply just asks to have been seen.

Recognition is, by now, one of Vladimir’s fixations. He has repeatedly claimed to recall and identify other characters, but they refuse to affirm him in return. And, as a result, Vladimir has begun to doubt his own mental capacities. Thus for the boy to see them and tell Godot about them would signal far more than just conveying simple information. For Vladimir, it would imply that they have been remembered—and that they are significant and meaningful human beings. Beneath this appeal also lies a deep skepticism in even the most simple of human processes: vision. Considering the twilight setting and the motif of blindness in the second act, Vladimir becomes concerned that his existential worries are perhaps the result of the most simple misrecognition: an inability to even see other people.

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.

No, the best would be to take advantage of Pozzo's calling for help.

Related Characters: Vladimir (speaker), Pozzo
Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:

When Pozzo and Lucky return, their relationship both to each other and to Estragon and Vladimir has changed dramatically. Now blind, Pozzo has lost his position of power, which invites Vladimir to make this cruel comment on taking advantage of his disability.

The switch from his earlier comments of pathos to this suggestion is remarkable. Without his vision, Pozzo is now in a weaker state and entirely dependent on Lucky. But instead of expressing sympathy as he had in the first act, Vladimir becomes opportunistic, wondering how to maximize the fact that Pozzo cannot put up any kind of fight. One brutal interpretation would be that Vladimir’s previous empathy for both Lucky and Pozzo was only a factor of their relative power in the interaction—and thus that it was motivated more by calculated social conditions rather than authentic emotion. This would be a very dark view of humanity as entirely opportunist and self-motivated, but it fits with the established selfishness shown thus far.

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.

Was I sleeping, while the others suffered? Am I sleeping now?

Related Characters: Vladimir (speaker)
Page Number: 104
Explanation and Analysis:

At this point in the play, Vladimir’s self-confidence has been deeply shaken. He no longer knows whether to rely on his own perceptions of time and reality and considers with deep skepticism whether he is even awake.

That skepticism is presented in two stages: First, Vladimir questions his memories, wondering if what he presumed to be reality was in fact a dream. This is familiar territory for the play, but the second question more radically calls into question his present mental state. Not only memories, but also present perception, can be warped to such an extent that Vladimir loses the stable foundation from which to comment on their significance.

The allusion to suffering presents misperception as more than a matter of self-delusion. It has specific consequences for the “others,” perhaps the billions of others to which Estragon referred, whom Vladimir ignores while sleeping. Beckett seems to be refer to a mode of denial, in which perpetrators and witnesses ignore the suffering of others and live in an alternative and self-constructed reality.

Tell him... (he hesitates)... tell him you saw me and that... (he hesitates)... that you saw me. (Pause. Vladimir advances, the Boy recoils. Vladimir halts, the Boy halts. With sudden violence.) You're sure you saw me, you won't come and tell me tomorrow that you never saw me!

Related Characters: Vladimir (speaker), Pozzo, Boy
Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:

As the Boy departs again, having promised that Godot will come the next day, Vladimir grows increasingly desperate. He insists that the Boy inform Godot of their interaction and once more appeals to the idea that the Boy has recognized him.

These lines replay the interaction between Vladimir and the Boy that transpired in the first act. Except here, Vladimir’s tone and stage directions are marked by uncertainty and rashness. Twice, “he hesitates,” unsure whether to say the same lines he knows he is repeating. And it is presumably his horror at having become repetitive that causes him to react with such anger to the Boy. Vladimir’s frustration, then, is directed both externally and internally: both toward those who seem to be duping him into believing these events have not already transpired, and toward himself for potentially believing too much in his conviction that they have.

What was before a question to the Boy—“You did see us, didn't you?” thus becomes a demand. Beckett demonstrates how the environment of the play, in which characters negate Vladimir’s memory and sense perceptions, could very well cause someone to grow irrational. His character becomes a case study on the value of remembering, for his insistence brings nothing but vexation.

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.

No matches.