Theatre Of The Absurd In The Play Waiting For Godot

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After World War 2 there was a rise in political tension, societal changes and the decline of religious faith. As a result, a theatrical shift took place in which playwrights moved away from the objective aim of realism theatrical approach to explore the subjective attitudes and inner conflict that plagued people following World War 2. Theatre of the Absurd arose from the existentialist philosophy, with the purpose of exposing the lack of meaning in the everyday life of the society at the time to provoke the need for change. In the play, Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett deconstructed the conventional structure and development of literary theatrical elements such as plot, theme, dialogue, and character to comment on the human condition of the society after World War 2. By exposing the lack of meaning in everyday life, Theatre of The Absurd, voiced innovation in the society at the time by forcing audiences to question the meaning of their existence thus evoking change in the perception, attitude, and behavior of millions of people across the world.

The characters in Absurdist plays were a strong contrast to the fixed and psychologically convincing characters shown in Realism, as the Absurdist characters were dull and lacked identity and character development. In the play, Waiting for Godot, the pair of clown-like tramps, Estragon and Vladimir, often engaged in linguistic games, ritualistic behavior and improvised action that lead to nothing. In the opening scene of Waiting for Godot, Estragon struggles take off his boots and declares out of angst, “Nothing to be done.” Vladimir then responds by saying “I’m beginning to come round to that opinion.” The use of the play on words in this scene evokes a comedic effect on the audience, as Estragon is referring to the physical struggle of taking off his boot, whereas Vladimir is referring to the philosophical struggle that they have nothing to do but wait. Throughout the duration of the play Estragon focuses on the physical aspects in situations whilst Vladimir’s focuses on intellectual aspects of situations inhibiting them from adequate communicating and connected which each other, which forms a key theme explored in the play. The conclusion that can thus be drawn is that Estragon symbolizes the human body, whereas Vladimir symbolizes the human mind and in unity create a representation of humankind. By using the comic effect of the characters as a tool to allow audiences to search for a true deeper meaning, Beckett evokes change in the perspective of people in society at the time.

In the play, Waiting for Godot, the movement of the characters are eccentric and heightened and there is a large variety in rhythm and pace used. Beckett comments on the continuous and repetitive actions of humans in the society at the time through the movement of the characters. The characters, Vladimir, and Estragon show a number of realistic humanistic faults such as, the human tendency to spread rumors about others and tendency of repeating each others words and actions. Vladimir and Estragon have mutual dependency and rely on each other for comfort and for meaning however fail to communicate with each other. Beckett comments on relationship between people in society at the time because as just as Vladimir and Estragon feel compelled to be together but at the same time are in isolation from one another, people unconsciously in society tend to behave in the same way. The characters can thus be looked at as symbolic representation or “everyman” of the people in the society at that time. By pointing out the similarities between the people of society at the time to the unlikable miserable tramps, Beckett evoked a sense of realization among people of the society of the time and thus widen peoples perspective.

Throughout the duration of the play, the main characters, Vladimir and Estragon, wait for a character who never arrives to give them a sense of purpose, however their only sense of purpose comes from the act of waiting. By doing this Beckett comments on the fact that people adopt unconscious mechanical routines and ritualistic behaviour however fail to see their significance. This causes them to be stuck in an endless cycle, just as Vladimir and Estragon are in. Beckett is also commented on how people rely on hierarchical society just as Estagon a. We are stuck in a world where our actions dictate what our meaning is. The technique of repetition in the dialogue of the characters emphasise the characters unawareness of and inability to solving problems and thus remain stuck in cycle of similar thoughts and actions.

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The setting in Absurdist Theatre is an important element which showcases purpose of the play and how it reflects on society. In Waiting for Godot, Vladimir and Estragon, exist in a bleak nameless wasteland. These characters are lost and are locked in an isolated incomprehensible world that is devoid of meaning. The space that the characters exist in gives the audience a deeper insight of the playwrights’ perception of the world and view on society at the time. Beckett presents a pessimistic view on human struggle, by allowing the characters in a hopeless situation. Beckett uses an important Absurdist theme of loneliness and isolation of man to reflect on how society is lost in a world deserted by God.

In Absurdist plays language is no longer used a communicative instrument though direct speech; it is rather used as a powerful subjective tool to reveal and conceal truth. In Waiting for Godot, Beckett re-invents language in an attempt to reflect on and expose the issues the people in the are experiencing in the society at that time society. The Absurdist theme of human irrationality, is shown through the irrational use of language in the play, Waiting for Godot. Beckett questions the meaning of language by dissociating the characters thoughts from their speech. The exchange of dialogue between main the characters Estragon and Vladimir consists of fragmentation utterances, repetitions, monologues, contradictions, and silence. Vladimir and Estragon’s incapability to adequate communicate with each other is emphasised through their meaningless conversations filled with poetic and figurative language that often leads nowhere and leaves questions unanswered. Beckett purpose is highlight the similarities between the communication of the characters and communication of people in society at that time. Beckett therefore shows that, the inefficiently communication in society can hinder people’s ability to understand and form meaningful connections with each other, just as it has done with Vladimir and Estragon. Through this, Beckett reveals truth about human connection voicing originality and persuading the audience to change their behaviour.

Absurdist plays, challenged preconceptions of theatre by breaking down structure elements. The structure of Absurdist plays are nonlinear and lack an adequate plot development. The form and action are of Absurdist plays are circular and static filled with an uneven tempo. The structure of Waiting for Godot is in two acts, with one being repeated with very little variation. Beckett took a unique approach to the development of Waiting for Godot, by using genre of Tragicomedy. In A Tragicomedy play the mannerisms of characters are created a comedic effect however contain an underlying dark message. The structure, left people thinking deeply about the message of the play and resulted in many questions being asked. Beckett never gave clear conclusion for the play, Waiting for Godot, thus creating cycle of ambiguity and speculation that mirrors the plot of the play itself, which voiced innovation and raised many questions about the play.

The purpose of the play, Waiting for Godot, was to unravel and face reality to reconcile and reconnect people with the modern world they live in without illusion. Absurdist plays commented on the failure of humanity in the society of the time to overcome absurdity through their everyday behaviours and actions. Tough a subjective approach of revealing the truth about the human condition to the audience, Samuel Beckett and other absurdist playwrights, voices innovation when reflecting on the society st the time.

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Theatre Of The Absurd In The Play Waiting For Godot. (2021, August 26). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 23, 2022, from
“Theatre Of The Absurd In The Play Waiting For Godot.” Edubirdie, 26 Aug. 2021,
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