‘Waiting for Godot’

Waiting for GodotWaiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Nowhere near as dense or confusing as people say. That is not to say you will make any sense out of it, but on the upside, it doesn’t take long to read.

Anyway, check around on the Web and you will find that very few people can actually make sense of it. Lots of people claim to have read it. Plenty of people praise it, some of them effusively. But no one agrees about where Beckett is headed with all of this.

Beckett himself supposedly said, “Why people have to complicate a thing so simple I can’t make out.” Not surprisingly, to a list epithets — “Moron! Vermin! Abortion! Morpion! Sewer-rat! Curate! Cretin!” — exchanged by the main characters in Act 2, Beckett adds, “Cr-r-ritic!”

I understand the striving to find symbolic meaning, of course, and I can appreciate the fumbling, sycophantic praise. (My advice is to watch a performance, preferably by Irish actors [see related articles, below], after you read it.) But in assessing a piece of theater rooted so deeply in a spongy, absurdist world, I wonder why so many critics draw such straight-line, derivative interpretations. Godot as God, for instance; Vladimir, whose nickname is DiDi, as the id.

What really needs to happen with “Waiting for Godot” is for performances to develop a low-brow, cultlike following. A “Rocky Horror Picture Show”-type thing. It’s perfect. The main characters ask themselves what they are waiting for, it must be, a dozen times. What would be better than for the answer to be provided, with hoots, shouts and whistles, by a boisterous crowd of cross-dressing, pan-clanging Beckett fanatics?

ESTRAGON: Let’s go.
VLADIMIR: We can’t
ESTRAGON: Why not?
AUDIENCE MEMBERS, with great enthusiasm: YOU’RE WAITING FOR GODOT!!!

The next day, a barren, gray landscape outside a rundown theater. Two men wait under the marquee, which has the legend “ ‘Wai ing for God,’ Two More Weeks.” The sound of screeching crows can be heard. 

ESTRAGON: Let’s go.
VLADIMIR: We can’t.
ESTRAGON: Why not?
VLADIMIR: We’re waiting.
ESTRAGON, emphatically: What [pause] are we waiting for [pause] now?
VLADIMIR: We are waiting to see “Waiting for Godot.”
ESTRAGON: Have you ever seen it?
VLADIMIR: I’ve read it.
ESTRAGON, with incredulity: You’ve read it!?
VLADIMIR, with mocking incredulity: I’ve read it.
ESTRAGON: It’s a play, isn’t it?
VLADIMIR: Yes.
ESTRAGON: What did you read it for then?
VLADIMIR: I don’t know.
ESTRAGON: What’s it like?
VLADIMIR: I don’t know that either.

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