Beckett: Waiting, Repetition, Habit
The Theatre of the absurd strives to express its sense of
the senselessness of the human condition and the
inadequacy of the rational approach by the open
abandonment of rational devices and discursive
—Martin Esslin, The Theatre of the Absurd
A country rode. A tree. Evening.
V: . . . Everything’s dead but the tree.
E: What is it?
V: It’s the tree.
E: Yes, but what kind?
V: I don’t know. A willow.
“You cannot step twice into the same stream”
Wait. Five months. Molecules all change. I am other I
now. Other I got pound.
V: . . . I was saying that things have changed here since yesterday.
E: Everything oozes.
V: Look at that tree.
E: It’s never the same pus from one second to the next (51).
Sisyphus, the Absurd Hero
If this myth is tragic, that is because
its hero is conscious. Where would
his torture be, indeed, if at every step
the hope of succeeding upheld him?
The workman of today works every
day in his life at the same tasks, and
this fate is no less absurd. But it is
tragic only at the rare moments when
it becomes conscious.
—Albert Camus, The Myth of
Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter.
Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
—Beckett, Worstward Ho
Sisyphus, Titian (1549)
Dialogue that says “Nothing”
Apart from names, pronouns, and articles, many of the most frequently
recurring words in Waiting for Godot indicate stasis and delay: Silence
(118); pause (84); Nothing (45).
Furthermore, the dialogue is riddled with questions, many of them
unanswered. Interrogatives: Note that some of these words appear in
relative clauses instead of questions.
Dialogue Without Progression
Estragon: In the meantime let us try and converse calmly, since we are
incapable of keeping silent.
Vladimir: You’re right, we’re inexhaustible.
E: It’s so we won’t think.
V: We have that excuse.
E: It’s so we won’t hear.
V: We have our reasons.
E: All the dead voices.
V: They make a noise like wings.
E: Like leaves.
V: Like sand.
E: Like leaves. (52-53)
A Culture of Waiting
Wait times for technological
products, movies, consumers
goods have generated a market
for “seat holders.”
Estragon: We always
find something, eh
Didi, to give us the
impression we exist?
Vladimir: Yes yes,
we’re magicians. . . .