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Waiting Go Dot Essays

Waiting Go Dot Essays

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1
Samuel Beckett’s
Waiting for Godot 
:A Study Guide
(revised 2-6-93)
for the Margetts Theatre Production,January 28 to February 13, 1993Prepared and Edited by Bob Nelson
Theatre and Film DepartmentBrigham Young University
° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° °
This study guide has been prepared for the use of teachers and leaders of groups who attend theproduction of
Waiting for Godot.
We hope it enhances audience enjoyment and leads to greaterunderstanding of the play and its history and meaning.All Rights Reserved © Robert A. Nelson, 1993
° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° °
“Nothing is certain.”
° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° °
Contents:
“Samuel Beckett’s
Waiting for Godot 
: The Playwright and the Play,by Bob Nelson2“Is
Waiting for Godot 
an Absurdist Play?by Michael J. Noble6The Theme of Entrapment in Samuel Beckett and Emmanuel Levinas,by Kim Abunuwara10
Waiting for Godot 
 –A Brief Production History,” by Nola Smith14Samuel BeckettA Short Chronology,by Nola Smith16
 
2
Samuel Beckett’s
Waiting for Godot 
: The Playwright and the Play
by Bob Nelson
As much as any body of writing this century, the works of Samuel Beckett reflect an unflinching,even obsessive flirtation with universal void. His literary and dramatic accounts of skirmishes withnothingness portray human beings (generally beings, at least, beings more or less human and intact)situated in paradoxical, impossibly absurd circumstances.Samuel Barclay Beckett was born in the comfortable Dublin suburb of Foxrock in 1906, on the 13theither of April, which was Good Friday that year, or else of May–he and his birth certificate alwaysdisagreed on this point. He was the second son of a fairly prosperous, middle-class, Protestant couple:his father was a contractor and his mother a former nurse. Beckett’s education was conventional. Whenhe was thirteen, his parents sent him to boarding school at the Portora Royal in Enniskillen, NorthernIreland. He studied classics, and was also quite successful at cricket, rugby, and swimming. In 1923, heentered Trinity College, Dublin, where he read Modern Languages. He was honored for high scholasticachievement upon receiving his BA degree in December 1927.In 1928 he began a literary career as a professor and critic. He tutored French for two terms atCampbell College, Belfast, and later that year he began a two-year exchange fellowship at the ÉcoleNormal Supérieure in Paris. While in Paris he met his mentor-to-be, James Joyce, and he began to writeand publish criticism and poetry. He returned to Dublin, where between 1930 and 1932 he took his MAdegree and lectured in French at Trinity College. For the next several years, he wrote and traveledthroughout Europe, finally settling in Paris in 1937.Late one night in January 1938, a pimp named Prudent stabbed Beckett in the chest, puncturing alung and nearly killing him. Some time after his recovery, he was active in the French resistance duringthe Nazi occupation. In 1942, to avoid imminent capture, he fled to the unoccupied south where heworked several years as a farm laborer. After the war, he worked for a short time with the Irish Red Crossin Normandy. On March 25, 1962, he married Suzanne Deschevaux-Dumesnil, seven years his elder;she had devoted herself to him almost entirely since they first met during Beckett’s stay in the hospital inearly 1938.For half a century, beginning in the 1930s, Beckett wrote novels, short stories, some criticism andessays, and several volumes of poetry. He also wrote thirty-two dramatic works–one for the cinema, fivefor television, seven for radio, and nineteen for the stage. The Swedish Academy awarded him the NobelPrize for literature on October 23, 1969–just twenty years after he completed his first and longest play,
Waiting for Godot 
, which initially he had such trouble getting produced.As to the date of Beckett’s death in Paris on December 22, 1989, there is no question. The ultimateoblivion which Beckett and his plays approached inexorably–the grave astride which all are born (
Godot 
 
384; all references to the text of the play are to be found in
The Complete Dramatic Works 
)–finally claimedhim. Ironically, he hadspent his last months under constant care, because of severe emphysema, strapped into a straight-backed chair hooked to a device which allowed him to breathe somewhat easier. His voice, however,continued to be heard, as he occasionally allowed his publishers to issue texts in which voices,unencumbered by bodies, situations, or settings, addressed the human condition in the spare andelegant prose of which he was the master. In his last year of life, it seemed as if his physical conditionhad finally, tragically, achieved the stasis he had sought for so many years through his fictional voices.(Bair xvi)The many hundreds of books and articles devoted entirely or in part to Beckett criticism over thelast four decades attest to the nearly unprecedented attention that his relatively brief literary output hasattracted. He wrote far fewer words than have been written about him and his writing. In addition, theworks themselves, particularly the stage plays, follow a pattern of becoming increasingly abbreviated ashis career progresses. His first three stage plays, written and first performed between 1948 and 1961,are his longest. They are many times longer, in most cases, than any of his other sixteen stage plays,written and first performed between 1956 and 1983. (His five television plays, too, written between 1965and 1982, follow the same pattern–in their printed form, the last ones are about half the length of the firstones.) Beckettthus ends his [playwriting] career with short works structured around variations of gesture and voice.This shift from major to minor seems surprising, until we consider that his earlier masterpieces havehelped us to come to terms with our absurdity. To continue to portray it in monumental terms wouldnow seem grandiose. Beckett’s later, slight works correspond to the little meaning he has taught us toexpect from life. (Astro 24)Beckett’s first three produced plays are not only his longest but also his best known. He wrote thefirst two in French before translating them into English.
En attendant Godot 
later became
Waiting for Godot 
, and
Fin de partie 
became
Endgame 
. About the time that Beckett began to be questioned aboutwhether writing his plays in French was some kind of evasive maneuver (see Bair 516-517), he began towrite his novels in French and his plays in English. His third play,
Happy Days 
, first appeared in English,and he wrote nearly all the rest of his stage plays in English.
Waiting for Godot 
was first produced at the Théâtre de Babylone, Paris, January 5, 1953, inFrench, as
En attendant Godot 
, and at the Arts Theatre Club, London, August 3, 1955, in English.
Waiting for Godot 
firmly established Beckett’s reputation, although acclaim was slow to follow. It tooktheatre critic Harold Hobson to begin to stem the tide of negative criticism; he urged that everyone “Goand see
Waiting for Godot 
. At the worst you will discover a curiosity, a four-leaved clover, a black tulip; atthe best something that will securely lodge in a corner of your mind for as long as you live” (Bair 454).The play also signaled his themes and methods, despite Beckett’s sometimes embarrassment at itssuccess and his oft professed preference for
Endgame 
. The action of
Waiting for Godot 
is spare, evenstark. Estragon and Vladimir, two tramps passing the time together along a barren roadside, wait forsomeone named Godot, who never comes. Pozzo and Lucky, a master and his slave, appear in each of

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