Review: Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

Posted January 14, 2012 in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Waiting for Godot
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

My rating: 1 of 5 stars 

I had to read this play as part of the Open University course A300. I had little prior knowledge of it, except that Patrick Stewart and Sir. Ian Mckellan had recently starred in it. As a big fan of both actors, I had high hopes that it was going to be an interesting play.

However, the plot of this play is practically non-existent and would be best-described by the following quote: “Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it’s awful!” Two men sit around all day waiting for someone called Godot to show up, and he never does. Meanwhile they engage in a lot of incomprehensible and repetitive conversation about putting on their boots, urinating and suicide. The lack of action, while obviously intentional, made it difficult for me to enjoy and engage with the play, as I just found it mind-numbingly boring and depressing most of the time. I didn’t find the characters particularly interesting or likeable either, and so I couldn’t really identify or empathise with them. In the end I didn’t really care whether Godot showed up or not.

The language and style of the play are quite unusual as the characters inexplicably jump from one topic to another, interrupt each other and ignore each other. I suppose that the dialogue is quite realistic, but nevertheless I did not find it easy or enjoyable to read. Much of what the characters say is seemingly nonsense, and it’s hard work trying to look for something meaningful in it.

My emotional response to this play was mostly boredom, and irritation at the lack of action. I understand that the play can be interpreted symbolically as an existential view of the meaningless of human existence and that it can offer some insights into human nature and possibly man’s relationship with God. However, Beckett actually denied this, saying : ‘the early success of Waiting for Godot was based on a fundamental misunderstanding, that critics and public alike insisted on interpreting in allegorical or symbolic terms a play which was striving all the time to avoid definition’. The whole point of the play seems to be that it is open to a number of different interpretations, but doesn’t have one true meaning-just like life. I can understand why some readers would enjoy that irony, but unfortunately I felt that it detracted from the entertainment value of the play.

The best that I can say about it is that it’s certainly original, and there are some interesting quotes about human existence. But unfortunately it just didn’t live up to my expectations. I didn’t find it particularly thought-provoking or amusing. Part of me thinks that Beckett deliberately filled this play with a lot of meaningless allusions and symbolism to amuse himself as he watched people trying to analyse it for some deep, unifying meaning. I wouldn’t recommend this play to anyone who enjoys action, drama or comedy. However, those interested in existential philosophy might find some value in it.

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2 responses to “Review: Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

  1. It's a pity that the SNL skit "Waiting for Pardo" is not on YouTube, but the transcript is at:

    It was the funniest thing. I read the play in high school and hated it. For the SNL skit, the voice of pitchman Don Pardo kept interrupting, with cheesy sales music in the background. The live audience was literate enough to laugh. This might salve the pain you had from reading that silly play.

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