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Published: 09-12-2019

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Bleak Tones And Visual Sadness In Waiting For Godot

When the Paris curtain opened in 1953 the audience was faced with a minimalist set with a tree and absolutely nothing else. The first sight of ‘En Attendant Godot’ suggests its bleakest tones are presented by Beckett by means of visual sadness and the all round metaphysical state characters are placed in. Already parallels can be drawn amongst this setting and the inescapably related picture from T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Wasteland’: “A heap of broken images, exactly where the sun beats, and the dead tree provides no shelter”

The only resemblance to the audience’s planet is the tree and the road the characters stand on. This setting creates brooding despair roads represents journeys and an alternative to travel away, or towards anything and however characters don’t move, in truth asserting “We Can’t (leave)”(i). The tree, an additional prop with apparently monumental importance compared to the rest of the wasteland stage, represents hope and life in spite of there getting no hope and life ebbing away. Beckett demands for the tree to have leaves during Act two, which symbolises spring to audiences whilst Vladimir and Estragon realise there’s no hope at all. It isn’t a stretch to claim Beckett had a taste for deeply depressing irony and he plays with components of comedy and tragedy most aptly by way of dramatic staging. Even so, it is my opinion that Beckett does produce some of the most comic, and bleakest, parts of the overall performance via his unerring ability to manipulate language.

In Act One particular the words “Nothing to be done”(ii) are spoken by each Estragon and Vladimir and the statement goes on to be a critical philosophy all through the play of the exact same value as “We’re waiting for Godot”(iii). Audiences initially uncover the phrase laugh-out-loud funny simply because it’s paired with the physical sequence of Estragon, who is ‘trying to take off his boot’(iv) whom following an exhausting battle concedes and explains to the audience there’s ‘nothing to be done’. The subtle brilliance of this line is in its most colloquial-sounding ring, which appeals to all audiences as they can relate to locating that a menial activity has turn out to be so extraordinarily hard they see no way of solving it. It is laughable that a complex human becoming cannot in fact take off a boot, that in some way the boot has beaten the human and now he’s defeated…by a boot. This struggle is universal and appeals to audiences creating the underlying query of: Why does Estragon presume that the boot is incorrect? Beckett thus highlights humanity’s arrogance and pompousness. Vladimir is the messenger for this question when he tells Estragon, ‘There’s man all over blaming on his boots the fault of his feet’(v). This sentence holds a lot of debating topics because the bootmaker produced the boot excellent, as in the bootmaker believed it had no faults or he wouldn’t have sold it, similarly if we’re all in God’s image surely Estragon can have no faults either so who is wrong…God or man?

Right after the comic moment Vladimir ushers in undertones of suffering when he explains he too is ‘coming round to that opinion’. Though the line sounds harmless sufficient, Vladimir performs it away from Estragon as he appears out into space which has the implicit which means that he’s unaware of Estragon’s physical struggle and that his response is really more metaphysical. This exchange allows Beckett to introduce the brutal truth of the character’s predicament: there’s literally practically nothing to be carried out. This corresponds to Esslin’s theory that ‘Waiting for Godot’ includes “a sense of metaphysical anguish at the absurdity of the human condition”(vi). The characters are trapped in this barren featureless setting, waiting for a person they cannot define as they ‘wouldn’t know him if I saw him’(vii), unable to have any influence on proceedings which govern their lives.

By way of his exploitation of language Beckett also challenges the way humanity operates in the globe, and ultimately how the disjointed confusing plot of the play parallels our location in the universe. In ‘Waiting for Godot’ a single conversation that exploits the way humanity operates is:

“Estragon: We constantly discover one thing, eh Didi, to give us the impression we exist.

Vladimir: Yes, yes, we’re magicians.” (viii)

Audiences uncover this hilarious due to Estragon’s optimism in their plight and the sudden shift in mood that can be noticed onstage is also humorous simply because it is so abstract and unjustified. The added element of Vladimir’s dismissal of Estragon’s comment and the dismissal of optimism is a stunning contrast which gains audience laughter, but also supports the hypothesis they’re a double act and fully reliant on every other. One more good example of this double act is:

“Vladimir: What do they say?

Estragon: They talk about their lives.

Vladimir: To live is not adequate for them.

Estragon: They have to talk about it.” (ix)

The double act is crucial as a device to exploit language and the claim of “The two most crucial sets of characters in the play take place in pairs”(x). A 1953 audience would have recognised Laurel and Hardy’s silhouettes in Estragon and Vladimir, generating their world closer to the audience’s, but still miles away. In this passage Beckett’s method of the double act is actualised to make a point about the existentialist nature of humanity and our need to rationalise person expertise by explaining it to others. The characters comprehensive each other’s sentences which offers the impression of pondering so the audience understands Beckett desires them to think about the brief conversation. The word ‘magician’ carries the bleakest undertones since it carries concepts of illusion and trickery, therefore Beckett desires to portray to audiences that our attempts to keep the logic that we exist is truly a type of trickery a talent which we’ve acquired over the years but is untrue.

This eloquent point has history in the movement following Globe War Two (which Beckett experienced) in which society believed it was decaying. The comforts that help them move by way of their lives, such as order, could no longer be depended on. Comedy nonetheless remains in the dark outlook on society since characters are living in a globe they pretend to realize, but really do not. There’s a style of dramatic irony at operate as the audience appears into the realm of Estragon, Lucky, Pozzo and Vladimir with arrogance as they comprehend items characters do not, such as the truth Godot will not arrive. Interestingly, the globe developed by the theatrical stage would appear into the audience’s globe with comparable arrogance as they know factors the audience doesn’t, this is what Beckett’s trying to clarify to us the audience does not recognize their world’s nature as well as they believe. Even so, it could be argued only the bleak undertones come from the manipulation of language and the comedy comes from the character’s visual show to audiences. One particular critic argues,

“The stage directions of the play constitute practically half of the text, suggesting that the actions, expressions, and emotions of the actors are as crucial as the dialogue”(xi)

This is a robust argument since the audience responds mainly to the presentation of the lines, which could be regarded the overall performance rather than the actual language.

Beckett once stated, “If by Godot I had meant God I would have stated God, and not Godot” (xii) but I do not think this is the finish of the ‘God is Godot’ debate and I also think this is one of Beckett’s greatest manipulations of language. The play starts with Estragon explaining he spent the evening ‘in a ditch’ (xiii) and a group of individuals ‘beat’ him. These events are quite close to ‘The Excellent Samaritan’ biblical parable except this time there’s no Samaritan. This carries the explicit meaning that Estragon is without having God, he receives no assist from outside sources and no redemption. Examine this with Vladimir who requires the ‘Book of Job’ method and claims Estragon need to have done some thing incorrect to get beaten. Estragon goes onto challenge Godot’s, or God’s, energy when he tells Vladimir they are ‘not tied?’ (xiv). Nevertheless, he says it ‘feebly’ and then they both get scared that Godot’s coming, the implication becoming he will punish them for losing their obedience. Beckett plays with audience suggestions on Godot’s nature when the boy describes him as having a ‘white beard’ which is drawing links in between Godot and God which is laid out so naturally compared to the rest of the play that audiences are surprised, then they laugh. Beckett continues to make us think about God’s nature employing Lucky’s speech. It begins with an virtually academic presentation on religion but then descends into rambling nonsensical rubbish which ends ‘in spite of the tennis’. I interpreted this as which means ‘for causes unknown’ which is a lovely way to describe God’s connection with man as humanity can by no means draw any definite conclusions about him.

In conclusion, Beckett creates the bleakest moments employing his manipulation of language since it is the words that resonate and make us think about the Beckett’s themes. The comedy is not brought out by exploitation of language as a lot as the stage directions and the physical oddities, which are of a much more visual element.

I) Pg. 6, Vladimir

II) Pg.1, Estragon

III) Pg. six, Vladimir

IV) Pg. 1 Stage Direction

V) Pg. 3 Vladimir

VI) Esslin, Theatre of the Absurd

VII) Pg. 16, Estragon

VIII) Pg. 61

IX) Pg. 54

X) Sparknotes

XI) Sparknotes

XII) Samuel Beckett , Wikipedia ‘Waiting for Godot’

XIII) Pg. 1

XIV) Pg. 12
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