The Second Coming and
This paper was written for a Contemporary Drama
class I took a few years ago. I'm fairly happy with it, although I now notice
holes in the logic so big you could drive a truck through... in any case, enjoy.
Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett's existential masterpiece, for some
odd reason has captured the minds of millions of readers, artists, and
critics worldwide, joining them all in an attempt to interpret the play.
Beckett has told them not to read ANYTHING into his work, yet he does
not stop them. Perhaps he recognizes the human quality of bringing
personal experiences and such to the piece of art, and interpreting it
through such colored lenses. Hundreds of theories are expounded, all of
them right and none of them wrong. A play is only what you bring to it,
in a subconscious connection between you and the playwright.
One popular interpretation of Waiting for Godot is the Second Coming
aspect. There is significant "clues" and "evidence" to back up this
claim, and as the main tenant of the Existentialist movement, which grew
out and of WWII experiences of not only Beckett, but all the other great
Existentialists, Camus, Sartre, and Ianesco. It also developed using the
writings of Hegal, Schopenhaur, and Nitchze. The main philosophy of
Existentialism can be summed up in one statement - "How can one
reconcile one's existence with a world devoid of order, norms, or divine
guidance." Thus, there is an implied aspect of religion and the
questioning there of in any Existential piece, as this is a facet of
human society that helps us deal with the Existential Dilemma.
First and foremost is the title itself. Waiting for Godot. Who IS
VLADIMIR: (Softly) Has he a beard, Mr. Godot?
BOY: Yes Sir.
VLADIMIR: Fair or... (he hesitates)...or black?
BOY: I think it's white, Sir.
(p. 59 A)
Look at any portrait of Yahweh in the last 1500 years, and you will see a
Caucasian male with a long flowing white beard, a la "Creation of Man".
What else is revealed about Godot's personality?
ESTRAGON: And if we dropped him? (Pause.) If we
VLADIMIR: He'd punish us.
(p. 59 B)
VLADIMIR: ...Unless Godot comes.
ESTRAGON: And if he comes?
VLADIMIR: We'll be saved.
(p. 60 B)
Godot is vengeful, yet is also a savior to them. If they leave, they
will be punished. Stay, and they are rewarded. Sounds an awful lot like
the Judeo-Christian-Islam God. Godot represent a relief from this empty
and boring stage, which perhaps represents life. We are all waiting for
something, it's how we fill in the time until whatever is going to
happen happens that is the subject of the play. Life has no meaning -
this play has no meaning.
VLADIMIR: How time flies when one has fun!
(p. 49 A)
Time is flying? But these two can not measure time; for them there is no
beginning, and until Godot shows up, there is no end. The time
in-between two indeterminate points is one of the subject of this play.
What are we supposed to do with our time in this life while waiting for
the Judgement Day? Didi and Gogo have fun.
Another good shot at Godot as God is his name, Godot. Let me say that
again... GOD-ot. Well, maybe it's a stretch, but the very fact that you
could say, without resorting to actually moving the letters around,
Waiting for God, seems to have some significance. Further, the title in
French include the pronoun On, which has the connotation of meaning People,
as in the Race of Man. Therefore, We (Humans) are Waiting for Godot. We
as a People, the Human Race, are waiting for God.
The stage is bare, except for the actors and the tree. No works of man
exist here, except for what the actors bring with them. So therefore,
the tree is terribly important to the setting, and hence the play.
Ancient and medieval belief place the universe and world that we live in
as the upper bows of the Tree of Existence, with the nether regions
being somewhere below the roots. As a symbol in the modern day world,
the tree could represent the cross that Jesus was crucified upon, adding
to the Christian symbolism and questioning that is happening here. Not
that the tree is dead? What implications does this have? Beckett, in
creating a dead tree, and then a tree that is barely alive for Act Two,
makes the Existential statement that Christianity is empty and dying,
and in the aftermath of the horrors of World War Two, it is easy to see
how this could be viewed. Goodness and holiness were no protection from
death and pain during those years, and God was an empty promise. Did
Jehovah or the Messiah come to the aide of the Jewish peoples?
Vladimir and Estragon rely on each other for counsel and support. In the
absence of a supreme being, they have turned to each other for to take
that role. Each finding the other less than perfect, their despair turns
to anger before they realize that they are all each has.
VLADIMIR: I felt lonely.
ESTRAGON:...Who am I to tell my private
nightmares to if I can't tell them to you?
(p. 11 A)
And what about that carrot?
ESTRAGON: Give me a carrot. ...It's a turnip!
VLADIMIR: Oh pardon! I
could have sworn it was a carrot.
Can you imagine on Judgement Day, if we are disappointed by Heaven? Come
to find out the Holy City, that carrot dangled before our noses, the
object which create a Sisyphus within us all, only turns out to be a
In the play, Vladimir is the one who constantly and consistently
remembers who they are waiting for. Estragon always wants to leave, or
at least suggests it as an option, although he never does. Vladimir
represents the clergy, constantly interpreting things as signs of God,
giving weekly pep-rallies in order to bolster our lagging faith.
Vladimir is the only one who sees the boy, which is a whole other barrel
of moneys to untangle.
The boy represents the Angel or prophet, sent directly from Heaven to
inform us on what to do and where to go. Vladimir, acting as the
interpretive intermediary, is the only one who speaks to or acknowledges
the boy presence. Somehow, he is the only one worthy enough to be gifted
with these visitations. Estragon in fact feels threatened by the boy,
because the boy represents the unknown, the fearful edges of the known
world. Also, the boy is the only one in the play who actually has even
SEEN Godot, much less spoken to him. He is just a messenger and errand
boy, much as the angels are said to be, the only inhabitants of Heaven.
Enter Lucky and Pozzo. Lucky seems to have chosen this bondage and
existence, as pseudo-slave to Pozzo. He does everything Pozzo asks, and
feels no resentment towards him. Only when Estragon come nears him does
he lash out. Estragon, as a "free" thinker, a person whose ideas are
different than Lucky's, presents a threat to his entire world. Only when
Lucky begins to think and comprehend his situation does he resent it,
and in fact revolts. Commanding him to think, Pozzo places his hat on
Lucky's head, Illuminating him and causing a virtual torrent of garbled
information to come spewing forth. Once tackled and the hat (or
Illumination) removed, he will no long carry Pozzo's bags or submit to
his will. It takes a while for him to return to his former subservient
self. Does Lucky represent the worst of mankind? He is threatened by new
ideas, and once free of the mental bondage placed upon him by others, he
will not submit any longer to such servitude. Could this be another
aspect Existentialism, and one of the reasons why it was and is attacked
so harshly by those it questions?
ESTRAGON: Do you think God sees me?
VLADIMIR: You must close your eyes.
(p. 49 B)
Existentially, there is a segment of thinkers that believe in the
divinity of the self, and I believe Beckett, by this statement and
others in other plays, feels that way as well. Godot will never show up.
Estragon and Vladimir must find him for themselves, rather than letting
him come to them. They must take action and make the world around them
exist, a world with more than a dead or dying tree.
This is the Existential solution. To exist in a world devoid of reason,
one must create that reason, else be doomed to endless years of waiting
for enlightenment to come, which it never will, appearing only on the
horizon of tomorrow's forever. Beckett is telling us to get up off our
butts and exist. God isn't coming, and if you want to wait forever for
him be our guest, but the rest of us are going to be human BE-ings.