comedy in waiting for godot

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Information about comedy in waiting for godot

Published on October 15, 2007

Author: Jancis


Comedy in Waiting for Godot:  Comedy in Waiting for Godot Slide2:  Waiting for Godot is a dramatic enactment of the unrecognized absurdity in the world. The drama is absurd in two senses. In the first place, it is ridiculously funny. Placed in the perspective of eternity. In the shadow of death that the living can never forget (“Where are all these corpses from?” p.64), the antics with which the characters fill their short span are ridiculous. All are levelled down to the same laughable status, Estragon’s lament over his aching feet, Vladimir’s complaints of his friend’s sweaty socks, games of losing, finding, swapping hats and boots, suicide attempts, debates on damnation. Slide3:  That particular translation of ‘absurd’ as comic is Beckett’s translation of its other, philosophical sense. His black, obscene, pantomine humour is an attempt to being life-preserving detachment into a situation so atrocious that to view it head-on could only produce a formless cry of despair. An absurd world is a frightening one. It has in itself no norms, no absolutes, no consoling certainties, and no direction. Nothing and nobody living in it has any pre-ordained sense or purpose. To say that life is absurd is to challenge head on the two great acts of faith on which Western culture is founded- reason and religion. Confidence in reason is the basis of belief in the human ability to control the material world. Religion, especially Christianity and its personal God whose providence directs history, gives an over-arching assurance that everything is in control. These are the two languages with which Vladimir and Estragon must make sense of their world, and they would seem just empty words. Slide4:  Waiting for Godot illustrates the tensions between pathos and comedy, negation and affirmation, inertia and liveliness. The stage directions opening the first act embody such contradictions: ‘Estragon tried to take off his boot, tugging with both hands, panting with effort. He gives up exhausted, and tries again. As before. The repetition of the action emphasizes its importance. ‘ Beckett has said that this is a mime of what the play is about, monotony. Such unsuccessful action helps Vladimir and Estragon pass the time as they persist in waiting for something better, hoping the waiting is not in vain. Beckett subtitled ‘Waiting for Godot’ a tragicomedy’ because his clown heroes will not accept their fate as ‘true tragedy heroes would, and here lies the comedy of the human condition. Slide5:  The tone of Waiting for Godot is skeptical and defiant, the humour ironical. The notions of resignation, apatheia, are firmly resisted, in this celebration of man’s insistence on using his own will, however circumscribed, and determination to persist in his efforts. When Vladimir asks the blind Pozzo what he does, when he falls far from help: the answer is “We wait till we can get up. Then we go on”. Here the waiting and determination to go on are combined, Waiting for Godot catalogues the ploys men use to combat heroic discouragement and doubts, which makes them comic and heroic. Slide6:  The heroes of Waiting for Godot, Vladimir and Estragon, are down on their luck, but have seen better days. They are complementary, one responsive, the other aggressive, one selfless, the other self-absorbed. They relate to each other, yet long to be free, understand each other, yet are opposed. From their wranglings and changes in mood comes the ambivalent comedy. For example, Vladimir remembers landscapes and scenery. The sceptical Estrgon scoffs: “You and your landscapes. Tell me about worms.: Slide7:  Waiting for Godot has become a universal metaphor for existential tedium that cannot be escaped, and comic mileage is got from criticisms not only of existence, but of the play itself . For example when Vladimir and Estragon break off at a hiatus in the development of the Lucky/Pozze theme, to criticize the inconsequentiality and vulgarity of the action, which is a metaphor for life: Slide8:  V: Charming evening we’re having. E: Unforgettable. V: And it’s not over. E: Apparently not. V: It’s only the beginning. E: Its awful V: Worse than the pantomine. E: The circus. V: The music hall. E: The circus Slide9:  Beckett’s humour never takes the form of comic relief. It is never a way of punctuating the horror, of giving the audience a break from pervasive despair. It exists, rather, right at the heart of Beckett’s vision. Beckett is a purveyor of thrilling bleakness, beating his breast about the sorrow of the world and the awfulness of existence. His real interest is in the endless ways we think up to stave off despair, the fabulous, perverse energy we bring to the task to keep going. The words and gestures with which his people defy darkness, because they are pointless, be utterly tragic. But, because they can have no effect, they are also free and loose light, utterly gratuitous and gloriously excessive and therefore, funny.

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