Places: Waiting for Godot

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1952 (English translation, 1954)

First produced: 1953 as En attendant Godot

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Absurdist

Time of work: Indeterminate

Places DiscussedCountry road

Country Waiting for Godotroad. Unnamed road, alongside which Vladimir and Estragon await the arrival of Godot. No clues are given to identify the location, whose terrain is a flat and unbroken plain to the distant horizon. In a ditch nearby, Estragon has spent the night, despite beatings by an unknown “they.” In effect, the road stretches to and from nowhere in particular, although Pozzo says he is leading his servant, Lucky, down the road to a fair. Pozzo’s claim that he owns the land is not necessarily true. Although Vladimir refers to past experiences together atop the Eiffel Tower in Paris and grape-picking “in the Macon country,” Estragon claims that he has never been in Macon country and has “puked [his] puke of a life away here . . . in the Cackon country.” None of these claims is verifiable.

Despite Beckett’s insistence that productions of his plays should always adhere to his specifications, the austere set he intended for this play has occasionally been radically altered by stage designers. For example, the set of the 1988 Broadway production of Waiting for Godot designed by Tony Walton was a stretch of Nevada highway, cluttered with debris and abandoned car parts.

Tree

Tree. Sole landmark by the road that helps direct Vladimir and Estragon to where they are to meet Godot. The scraggly tree is bare in the play’s first act. Although no other trees can be seen, Vladimir and Estragon are uncertain that this is the correct tree by which they should be waiting. Indeed, they think it might not be a tree at all, but rather a shrub or a bush. Vladimir suggests that it might be a willow but admits that he does not know. He also suggests that the tree may be dead. However, when the second act opens there are four or five leaves on the tree, proving that the tree is alive and that an indeterminable length of time has passed.

Beckett reportedly told a biographer that Waiting for Godot was inspired by Kaspar David Friedrich’s painting Two Men Observing the Moon, in which such a tree figures prominently.

Low mound

Low mound. Slight slope of land on which Estragon sits at the beginning of the play, struggling to remove his boot. This is the only other feature of the landscape mentioned in the stage directions.

Sources for Further StudyAndonian, Cathleen Culotta. Samuel Beckett: A Reference Guide. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1989. A comprehensive, annotated bibliography, well indexed. The critical reception of Waiting for Godot can be traced through its listings.Bair, Deirdre. Samuel Beckett. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978. Original, full-length biography, drawing on hundreds of interviews with Beckett’s friends and acquaintances. Provides much interesting circumstantial information on the genesis of the play, its controversial early productions, and its translations.Bloom, Harold, ed. Waiting for Godot: Modern Critical Interpretations. New York: Chelsea House, 1987. The eight representative selections by leading interpreters of Beckett’s work (including Ruby Cohn, Martin Esslin, John Fletcher, and Hugh Kenner) consider the theatrical, religious, and philosophical implications of Waiting for Godot.Byden, Mary. “Beckett and Religion.” In Samuel Beckett Studies, edited by Lois Oppenheim. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. A short but detailed study of the way various critics have responded to Beckett’s use of religion.Byden, Mary. Samuel Beckett and the Idea of God. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998. The most comprehensive book to study Beckett’s work and his use of God.Connor, Steven, ed. “Waiting for Godot” and “Endgame.” New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992. Four of the eleven interrelated essays deal with Waiting for Godot in terms drawn from contemporary theory. They range from the liberal humanist reading of Andrew Kennedy on action and theatricality to Jeffrey Nealon’s definition of a postmodernist culture that validates the self through the playing of serious games.Cousineau, Thomas. “Waiting for Godot”: Form in Movement. Boston: Twayne, 1990. A theoretically informed student guide to the play. Contends that concrete scenic language and physical movement displaces narrow notions of text. Also contains discussions of various themes and techniques. Annotated bibliography.Damashek, Richard. “Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.” Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, 1965. A study of the play that considers not only the Christian references but also the relation of the play to Simone Weill’s Attente de Dieu (1950; Waiting for God, 1951).Esslin, Martin. The Theatre of the Absurd. 3d ed. New York: Penguin Books, 1987. Highly influential for its famous definition and its lucid study of the movement of which Waiting for Godot is a classic part. Focusing on existential elements, the analysis attempts to account for the complexity of the effect of the play.Pattie, David. The Complete Critical Guide to Samuel Beckett. New York: Routledge, 2000. Contains both biographical information on Beckett and critical analysis of his works, including Waiting for Godot.
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