Beckett’s once spurned existential tragicomedy Waiting for Godot has received its critical due some order of
magnitude over. Its dialogical prose withstands the regular prod and likely
occasions enough theses each semester to rival Andrew Marvell. However, the
play’s more mundane articles continue to elude the attention of commentators,
and I suspect this variety of neglect peculiar to Beckett alone. Much allusive
pleasantry abounds yet a missing watch is consigned to the jurisdiction of
metaphor (viz., lost time). But where did it go?—the question is simply not
literary critic Vivian Mercier’s well-known, in fact laudatory summation, “[H]e
has written a play in which nothing happens, twice,” of course concedes things happen. Rather, Mercier’s
contention is that nothing especially occurs and, unless one is willing to
drape grander tableaus of myth upon the text, I find myself in agreement. Indeed
the miracle is that stage direction, in conjunction with minute passages of
speech, too clearly spells out the humdrum goings-on contained between its
acts. Meanwhile, evidence planted before the reader is passed over and not
intending to keep an ironic eye out for the playwright’s mirth risks evading
dirty potholes of detail. Such an approach to texts seems to me entirely
suitable to fiction, which superficially delights in metaphysical themes of
damnation and self-knowledge, the building blocks of who, what, and where
almost without exception laid neatly before us and speedily traversed. In this
drama there is no purposeful obfuscation nor symbol where none intended.
Ultimately, it is all too loathsome an endorsement of l'esprit poétique to scratch one’s head in flattering ponder,
pleased at least for having taken part in the collective puzzlement.
is exactly because the reader is accustomed to declaring comprehension of a
tale upon breaching its metonymic stratum that he or she fails to address baser
articles, such as Estragon’s dreams and Vladimir’s bladder. Gaining the
symbolic high ground typically indicates one has finished with plot, having
climbed by aid of its sequence of broad rungs. Because Beckett's literature begins with the symbolic, readers are
enabled to browse as if allegory were a skin stretched over rough incident, on
which otherwise we snag and fight for understanding. Suffice it to say this
primacy of parable in Waiting for Godot
dissuades investigation, so you believe yourself underground when but kneeling
Who beats Estragon?
urinary incontinence necessitates sleepwalking to relieve himself. He tramples
Estragon in doing so and refuses knowledge of his dreams lest the tormentor be
ESTRAGON. Who am I to tell my private
nightmares to if I can't tell them to you?
VLADIMIR. Let them remain private. You
know I can't bear that.
ESTRAGON. And suppose we gave him a
good beating, the two of us.
VLADIMIR. You mean if we fell on him in
Who is Godot?
resultant neologism of the double misapprehension of “Pozzo.” Immigrant
farmers, Vladimir and Estragon seek employment with Pozzo. Unfortunately he has
forgotten their appointment.
POZZO. I present myself: Pozzo.
ESTRAGON. He said Godot.
VLADIMIR. (conciliating). I once
knew a family called Gozzo.
POZZO. Waiting? So you were waiting for
VLADIMIR. Well you see—
POZZO. Here? On my land?
Has time stopped?
immobile stage light is mistaken for the sun. Given the material luxury of
timekeeping a clock remains the source of Pozzo’s authority.
VLADIMIR. Time has stopped.
POZZO. (cuddling his watch to his ear). Don't you believe it, Sir, don't
you believe it.
Vladimir and Estragon scrutinize the sunset.
VLADIMIR. Anyway it hasn't moved.
What happens to Pozzo’s watch?
is concealed beneath Lucky’s hat inadvertently and destroyed. Beckett’s delight
of Vaudevillian irony is obvious here.
POZZO. Give me that! (He snatches the hat from Vladimir, throws it
on the ground, tramples on it.)
POZZO. [W]hat have I done with my
watch? . . . (He searches on the ground,
Vladimir and Estragon likewise. Pozzo turns over with
his foot the remains of Lucky's hat.) Well now isn't that just—
What about the boy?
the jumble of names and other conversation from off-stage this character’s
bogus account substantiates a Godot, tragically perpetuating the tramps’
ESTRAGON. How long have you been here?
BOY. A good while, Sir.
BOY. (in a rush). Mr. Godot
told me to tell you he won't come this evening but surely tomorrow.
LUCKY. Given the existence as uttered
forth in the public works of Puncher and Wattmann of a personal God quaquaquaqua with white beard quaquaquaqua
VLADIMIR. (softly). Has he a beard,
BOY. Yes Sir.
VLADIMIR. Fair or . . . (he hesitates) . . . or black?
BOY. I think it's white, Sir.
Erick Verran is a freelance copywriter and poet. He lives in Boston.
Published July 14, 2016.
 Samuel Beckett, Waiting for
Godot (New York: Grove Press, 1982), pp. 10-11;  p. 90;  pp.
19-20;  p. 37; 
p. 98;  pp. 48-49;  pp.
53-55;  p. 45;  p. 106.