Quotes from "Waiting for Godot"

Samuel Beckett's Infamous Existential Play

Outdoor performance of Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot". Getty Images

"Waiting for Godot" is a play by Samuel Beckett that depicts the meaninglessness of life with its repetitive plot where nothing much happens, which opens very much as it closes with very little changed except the characters' existential understanding of the world.

The play starts with "Let's go. / Yes, let's go. / (They do not move)." in Act 1, emphasizing the uselessness of motion in the play itself, the existential crisis one faces when waiting for another for an undisclosed amount of time, especially in an unfamiliar place.

Beckett further expounds upon this notion with short quips from his characters like "Nothing to be done" and "Such is life" as a means of expressing their contentedness in the waiting—the suspension of time, space, and indeed responsibility for existing.

The Quiet Nihilism of Waiting

Becket's existential play operates in a cyclical nature and centers around Vladamir and Estragon who are conversing while waiting for a man named Godot beneath a tree. Another man called Pozzo wanders up and talks with them briefly before venturing off to sell his slave Lucky, then another man comes with a message from Godot saying he will not be coming that night, but though Vladamir and Estragon say they will leave, they do not move as the curtain falls.

There's a certain nihilism in this particular Beckett play, expressed when Becket writes, "We are all born mad. Some remain so." and again when he posits:

"The tears of the world are a constant quantity. For each one who begins to weep somewhere else another stops. The same is true of the laugh. Let us not then speak ill of our generation, it is not any unhappier than its predecessors. Let us not speak well of it either. Let us not speak of it at all. It is true the population has increased."

The characters of Vladamir and Estragon are grim even in their casual conversation, even as Lucky entertains them with song and dance. At one point, Becket writes "Astride of a grave and a difficult birth. Down in the hole, lingeringly, the gravedigger puts on the forceps," and the next day, when Lucky and Pozzo return, Lucky is dumb and Pozzo blind and neither remembers meeting Vladamir and Estragon the day before.

Perhaps most strikingly nihilistic, though, is Beckett's writing in the final act of the play, where he writes: 

"We wait. We are bored. (He throws up his hand.) No, don't protest, we are bored to death, there's no denying it. Good. A diversion comes along and what do we do? We let it go to waste... In an instant, all will vanish and we'll be alone once more, in the midst of nothingness!"

Still, despite all this, Vladamir says to Estragon, "I don't seem to be able... (long hesitation) to depart," emphasizing the character's reluctance to venture back to the monotony of everyday life at the risk of missing the chance to meet Godot.

Conversation as a Means to Salvation

So what interrupts the tedium of waiting, the monotony of stagnation? Discourse, or at least some sort of interaction between two or more people that feels exciting in new—something the characters of Vladamir and Estragon undoubtedly want to find in Godot. The characters ask, "To-morrow, when I wake or think I do, what shall I say of to-day?"

"Our Savior," one says to the other. "Two thieves. One is supposed to have been saved and the other (he searches for the contrary of saved) damned," and the other replies, "Saved from what?" According to Beckett, the answer to this rhetorical question lies in the idleness of conversation:

"Let us not waste our time in idle discourse! (Pause. Vehemently.) Let us do something, while we have the chance! It is not every day that we are needed. But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not. Let us make the most of it before it is too late!"

What the characters arrive at, however, is that this is not the question at all: "Why are we here, that is the question? And we are blessed in this, that we happen to know the answer. Yes, in this immense confusion one thing alone is clear. We are waiting for Godot to come."