Themes and Related Quotes From "Waiting for Godot"

Samuel Beckett's Famous Existential Play

Druid Theatre's Production Waiting For Godot At The Royal Lyceum Theatre In Edinburgh
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"Waiting for Godot" is a play by Samuel Beckett that premiered in France in January 1953. The play, Beckett's first, explores the meaning and meaninglessness of life through its repetitive plot and dialogue. "Waiting for Godot" is an enigmatic but very significant play in the absurdist tradition. It is sometimes described as a major literary milestone.

Becket's existential play centers around the characters Vladamir and Estragon who are conversing while waiting beneath a tree for a someone (or something) named Godot. 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. Though Vladamir and Estragon then say they will leave, they do not move as the curtain falls.

Theme 1: Existentialism

Nothing much happens in "Waiting for Godot," which opens very much as it closes, with very little changed—except the characters' existential understanding of the world. Existentialism requires the individual to find meaning in their lives without reference to a god or afterlife, something that Beckett's characters find impossible. The play begins and ends with similar words. Its final lines are: "Well, shall we go. / Yes, let's go. / (They do not move)."

Quote 1:

ESTRAGON
Let's go!
VLADIMIR
We can't.
ESTRAGON
Why not?
VLADIMIR
We're waiting for Godot.
ESTRAGON
(despairingly) Ah!

Quote 2:

ESTRAGON
Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it's awful!

Theme 2: The Nature of Time

Time moves in cycles in the play, with the same events recurring over and over again. Time also has real significance: Though the characters now exist in a never-ending loop, at some point in the past things were different. As the play progresses, the characters are mainly engaged in passing the time until Godot arrives—if, indeed, he ever will arrive. The theme of the meaninglessness of life is woven together with this theme of the recurrent and pointless loop of time.

Quote 4:

VLADIMIR
He didn't say for sure he'd come.
ESTRAGON
And if he doesn't come?
VLADIMIR
We'll come back tomorrow.
ESTRAGON
And then the day after tomorrow.
VLADIMIR
Possibly.
ESTRAGON
And so on.
VLADIMIR
The point is—
ESTRAGON
Until he comes.
VLADIMIR
You're merciless.
ESTRAGON
We came here yesterday.
VLADIMIR
Ah no, there you're mistaken. 

Quote 5

VLADIMIR
That passed the time.
ESTRAGON
It would have passed in any case.
VLADIMIR
Yes, but not so rapidly.

Quote 6:

POZZO

Have you not done tormenting me with your accursed time! It's abominable! When! When! One day, is that not enough for you, one day he went dumb, one day I went blind, one day we'll go deaf, one day we were born, one day we shall die, the same day, the same second, is that not enough for you? They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it's night once more.

Theme 3: The Meaninglessness of Life

One of the central themes of "Waiting for Godot" is the meaninglessness of life. Even as the characters insist on staying where they are and doing what they do, they acknowledge that they do it for no good reason. The play confronts the reader and audience with a void of meaning, challenging them with the blankness and boredom of this situation.

Quote 7:

VLADIMIR

We wait. We are bored. 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.

Theme 4: The Sadness of Life

There's wistful sadness in this particular Beckett play. The characters of Vladamir and Estragon are grim even in their casual conversation, even as Lucky entertains them with song and dance. Pozzo, in particular, makes speeches that reflect a sense of angst and sadness.

Quote 8:

POZZO

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.

Theme 5: Witness and Waiting as a Means to Salvation

While "Waiting for Godot" is, in many ways, a nihilistic and existential play, it also contains elements of spirituality. Are Vladimir and Estragon merely waiting? Or, by waiting together, are they taking part in something bigger than themselves? Several aspects of waiting are invoked in the play as containing meaning in themselves: the togetherness and fellowship of their waiting, the fact that the wait itself is a kind of purpose, and the faithfulness of continuing the wait—of keeping the appointment.

Quote 9:

VLADIMIR

Tomorrow when I wake or think I do, what shall I say of today? That with Estragon my friend, at this place, until the fall of night, I waited for Godot?

Quote 10:

VLADIMIR

...Let us not waste our time in idle discourse! Let us do something, while we have the chance....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! Let us represent worthily for once the foul brood to which a cruel fate consigned us! What do you say?

Quote 11:

VLADIMIR

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. ...We are not saints, but we have kept our appointment.