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Evaluation of Waiting for Godot as an Absurd Play

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Absurdity means meaninglessness, purposelessness, silly, strange, incongruence, ridiculousness, bizarre, and nonsense. An absurdity is a thing that is awfully unreasonable, so as to be foolish or not taken seriously or the state of being so. The Theater of Absurd is, a form of drama that emphasizes the absurdity of human existence by employing disjointed, repetitious, and meaningless dialogue, purposeless and confusing situations, and plots that lack realistic or logical development. In a simple word a type of drama that tries to portray the absurdity of human life using illogical, meaningless, and deliberately confusing action and dialogue.

According to Oxford English Dictionary, Absurdity means ‘the quality or state of being ridiculous or widely unreasonable’. The word absurd was coined by ‘Martin Esslin to delineate the anti-realistic post-war drama of playwrights as Beckett, Arthur Adamov, and Jean Genet’ (Nelson, 1993, p.67). Absurd play is the complete denial of old values. It has no plot, no characterization, no logical sequence, no rising, and falling action, on the story, no clear theme, no proper beginning, middle, and end, no pointed dialogues and finally its language is not poetic.

There are many dramas in the literature world based upon the philosophy of absurdism. Among those Samuel Beckett is more important because he has written many plays. ‘Waiting for Godot’ was his first play which proved to be the most successful absurd play.

Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) is one of the leading literary and dramatic figures of the twentieth century. Samuel Beckett was an author, playwright, and critic. He was born on April 13, 1906, in Dublin in Ireland.

During the 1930s and 1940s, he wrote his first novels and short stories. He wrote a trilogy of novels in the 1950s as well as famous plays like Waiting for Godot. In 1969 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for his outstanding contribution in literature. Samuel Beckett started his literary career as a novelist. He published many stories and poetry. Samuel Beckett is a revolutionary playwright. He is an iconoclast and an image breaker. He has shattered conventions and pioneered a new kind of drama. His drama is above the categories of tragedy and comedy. It is called absurd drama. His plays show the situation in which we are. They expose us in our existential predicament. He was well known for his notable play ‘Waiting for Godot’.

Waiting for Godot is an absurd drama. In fact, the absurd drama presents human life and human situation as absurd. This type of drama is free from the traditional plot, story or division into acts and scenes. Here we get few characters. They have symbolic significance. Dialogues are very short and crisp. Nothing significant happens on the stage. It prefers existential themes. Things are not explained but they are merely hinted at. One can find all these features in Waiting for Godot.

‘Waiting for Godot’ is an absurd drama and it presents the absurdity of human life. There is no female character and the characters of the play are not sure about their identities. The entire situation produces meaninglessness which is another characteristic of absurd play. In this drama, nothing is happening and no development of plot is found.

Characteristics of Absurd Theater:

From the above-said remarks, it is crystal clear that absurd plays were entirely different from traditional plays. These remarks provide us following characteristics of absurd theater:

  • No story or plot
  • No characterization and motivation
  • Neither a proper beginning nor end
  • Unexplained themes
  • Imitation of dreams or nightmares instead of nature
  • Useless dialogues

‘Waiting for Godot’ as an Absurd Play:

‘Waiting for Godot’ fulfills every requirement of an absurd play. It has no story, no characterization, no beginning nor any end, unexplained themes, imitation of dreams and nightmares, and above all it contains useless dialogues.

The title of the play ‘Waiting for Godot’ reflects absurdity in the sense that it too is replete with problems and dilemmas as human existence is. As the title is ‘Waiting for Godot’, but still nobody knows that

Who Godot is. The subject matter of the drama is not Godot, but waiting which is an important aspect of the human condition. It is only while waiting we could experience the passage of time. The way Vladimir and Estragon pass time shows the utter meaninglessness of life and the struggle that existence is. The waiting of Vladimir and Estragon for Godot is endless waiting. They are waiting without knowing the purpose they are waiting for. Again the boy informs them that Godot is not coming and they wait for Godot till the next day. Such endless waiting also seems absurd.

In ‘Waiting for Godot’ the very first dialogue between Vladimir and Estragon has a meaningless and purposelessness of life. Estragon, sitting on a low mound, is trying to take off his boot. He pulls at it with both hands, panting. Estragon, sitting on a low mound, is trying to take off his boot. He pulls at it with both hands, panting. He gives up, exhausted, rests, tries again. As before Enter Vladimir. Estragon says:

ESTRAGON: (giving up again). Nothing to be done.

VLADIMIR: ((advancing with short, stiff strides, legs wide apart). I’m beginning to come round to that opinion. All my life I’ve tried to put it from me, saying Vladimir, be reasonable, you haven’t yet tried everything.

And I resumed the struggle. (He broods, musing on the struggle. Turning to Estragon) so there you are again.

This dialogue brings into exterior the absurd nature of the play. Actually it represents the entire human existence where man of the present world is disappointed.

The basic structure of the drama presents the idea not only about the usefulness and meaninglessness of time but also of life of the present world. The two main characters Vladimir and Estragon with non-sensical existence, in Act one and Act two, they try to commit suicides two times. They cannot bear this life anymore.

They invite each other to kill each other so that they can escape this meaningless of life. This incident is clear from the following dialogue.

VLADIMIR: You always say that, and you always come crawling back.

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ESTRAGON: The best thing would be to kill me, like the other.

VLADIMIR: What other? (Pause) What other?

ESTRAGON: Like billions of others.

The continuous waiting for Godot increases their despair and their lives are disgusted in thus way.

The dialogues of Vladimir and Estragon revolve around one thing. In the whole drama they repeat the same dialogue.

VLADIMIR: Well Shall We Go?

ESTRAGON: Yes Let’s Go. (But they do not move.)

They change the dialogues but they do not take proper decisions. This shows the absurdity of human life especially modern human beings.

Every good drama has motivational characters but in this drama, we have five characters that are not recognizable human beings. They pass their time with doing meaningless activities. We don’t know past of the characters. They are not introduced to the audience. We know only their names and their miserable situation.

Thus this play ‘Waiting for Godot’ contains all the elements of absurdism. The central themes in Waiting for Godot include the human condition, absurdism and nihilism, and friendship. The human condition of the present world: The hopelessness in Vladimir and Estragon’s lives demonstrates the extent to which humans rely on illusions’ such as religion, according to Beckett’to give hope to a meaningless existence.

Here are some following points given about how ‘Waiting for Godot’ as an Absurd play

No story or plot:

‘Waiting for Godot’ does not tell any story nor does it has a plot. The play starts with waiting and ends with it. Lack of action is one of the major characteristics of an absurd play. There is nothing significant in the play. So is the case with Waiting for Godot. In this play nothing significant happens except waiting and waiting. The waiting also becomes meaningless because no Godot arrives. As soon as the play opens, we find Estragon, a tramp. Characters do not go anywhere. They stand still in front of an audience and do nothing except pass the ball. They talk and pass the time. The play lacks action. The actions of characters are not related to plot but to themselves. Vladimir and Estragon wait for Godot and the audience perceive that perhaps the real story of the play will start after Godot’s arrival but Godot does not appear on stage nor is he introduced to the audience. Eventually, play ends with waiting. In this way, ‘Waiting for Godot’ fulfills the first requirement of an absurd play.

‘Waiting for Godot’ is Absurd Play due to Lack of Characterization :

We don’t know past of the characters. They are not introduced to the audience. We know only their names and their miserable situation. Their motifs are unclear. Although it is explicit that they are waiting for Godot yet it is not told to the audience what purpose Godot will serve if he comes. Hence, lack of characterization proves that ‘Waiting of Godot’ is a play of absurd theater.

No Beginning and End:

It has no beginning nor has any end. It starts with a situation and ends with it. Both acts start and end in the same way. For instance, when characters come on stage they reveal their purpose. They say they are waiting but Godot does not come and the act ends with waiting. The second act is also a copy of first act with minor differences. The play goes on and eventually ends with wait. Hence, there is no proper start of the play nor does it has a proper end. It is a journey from nothingness to nothingness as observed by eminent critics.

Useless Dialogues Make ‘Waiting for Godot’ as an Absurd Play:

Most of the dialogue of this play serves no purpose. Incoherent babbling is also an important ingredient of the theater of the absurd as mentioned by Esslin. The whole play is based on the delivery of dialogues but most of them have no apparent meanings. Every dialogue is full of symbols. Every word refers to something in a hidden meaning but it lacks the interest of the audience because it lacks action.

Dialogues create action in every play. Action loses its importance without worthy dialogues. In the case of ‘Waiting for Godot’, no action has been presented, therefore, dialogues are boring and they are written just to pass the ball. Thus, they are meant to pass the time. The Word ‘nothing’ has is repeated numerously in the play. It actually indicates nothingness in it. Thus, the dialogues of the play are nothing but incoherent babbling. ‘Waiting for Godot’ can be called an absurd play due to this trait of absurd theater.

Unexplained Themes:

Unclear themes also make ‘Waiting for Godot’ a play of absurd theater. The audience do not observe any obvious theme in the play. The superiority of a play is always dependent on its themes. ‘Waiting for Godot’ has no obvious theme. If there is any, it is hidden. Moreover, it presents the individualistic vision of the writer. There is an effect of alienation in the play with respect to themes.

Imitation of Nightmares:

This play does not hold the mirror up to nature. It does not portray the manners and mannerisms of the ages. Esslin is true in his definition of the theater of absurd. This play ‘seem[s] often to be a reflection of dreams and nightmares”.


Thus the play ‘Waiting for Godot’ by Samuel Beckett contains almost all the elements of an absurd play. It delineates all the elements of absurdity through the two main characters ‘Vladimir’ and ‘Estragon’.Waiting for Godot emphasizes on the absurdity of human existence by employing repetitions, meaningless dialogues, and purposeless, foolish, nonsensical, silly, and confusing situations which are opposed to truth or reason. Roby Cohn, an American theater scholar and a leading authority on playwright Samuel Beckett, looks upon ‘Waiting for Godot’ as one of the masterpieces of Absurdist Literature. As Nealon puts it ‘Waiting for Godot’ is an attack on modernism with its ideological and Grand Narrative that claims to interpret the world Estragon and Vladimir are trapped by their modernist nostalgia for legitimation in Godot’

At last but not least, ‘Waiting for Godot’ is an entirely unconventional play. Samuel Becket violated all dramatic conventions. Indeed, every ingredient of theater of the absurd has been fulfilled by him. Regardless of that this play is successful. He wrote this play to break the rules of traditional dramatists. ‘Waiting for Godot’ completes every factor of the theater of the absurd, therefore, it can successfully be called the play of the absurd.

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Evaluation of Waiting for Godot as an Absurd Play. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 29, 2023, from
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