“Waiting for Godot” as a play of Absurd Theater

“Waiting for Godot” as a play of Absurd Theater

Prior adjudging “Waiting for Godot” as a play of absurd theater, it is necessary to know what is theater of absurd. The term “Theater of Absurd” was originally coined by Martin Esslin’s. He published a book titled “Theater of Absurd” in year 1962, in which he mentioned that there was no regular movement of theater of absurd. It is just a device to judge a play. If a play completes the traits of absurd theater, it is called play of absurd. He further says:-

“a device to make certain fundamental traits which seem to be present in the works of a number of dramatist accessible to discussion by tracing features they have in common.”

Thus, there was no special movement regarding theater of absurd; rather it was a group of people who tried to write plays without following the conventional rules. In simple words, performance of plays, which were written by group of unconventional writers, is called theater of absurd. Samuel Becket is most important dramatist of theater of absurd.

There is no clear cut definition of theater of absurd or its traits, however, Martin Esslin has said something about it, through which, we can know the traits of theater of absurd. He writes:-

“If a good play must have a cleverly constructed story, these [plays of absurd] have no story or plot to speak of; if a good play is judged by subtlety of characterization and motivation, these are often without recognizable characters and present the audience with almost mechanical puppets; if a good play has to have a fully explained theme, which is neatly exposed and finally solved, these often have neither a beginning nor an end; if a good play is to hold the mirror up to nature and portray the manners and mannerisms of the age in finely observed sketches, these seem often to be reflections of dreams and nightmares; if a good play relies on witty repartee and pointed dialogue, these often consist of incoherent babblings.”

He has differentiated the conventional plays from plays of absurd, from which definition of plays of absurd can be obtained. Thus, a play of absurd; has no story; it lacks characterization; has no begging nor an end; unexplained themes; nature is not imitated in them; and incoherent babblings.

“Waiting for Godot” definitely fulfills all these requirements. First of all it does not have any plot nor characterization. It does not tell us a story. The play starts with waiting and ends with it. The characters do not go anywhere; they stand still in front of audience and do nothing instead of passing the ball; they talk and pass the time. The play lacks action. If the characters act, their actions are not related to plot but to themselves. Vladimir and Estragon wait for Godot and audience perceives that perhaps real story of the play will start after Godot’s arrival. Till end, Godot does not appear  on stage nor is he introduced to the audience. Eventually, the play ends with waiting. Similarly, we don’t know the past of the characters; they are not introduced to us. We know only their names and their current situation. Their motifs are unclear. Although it is clear that they are waiting for Godot but it is not told to the audience that what purpose Godot will serve if it comes. Hence, lack of plot and characterization proves that the play belongs to theater of absurd.

The play has no beginning nor has it any end. It starts with a situation and ends with it. Even every act starts and ends with same way. For instance, when characters come on stage they reveal their purpose; they say they are waiting but Godot does not come and the act ends with waiting. Second act is also the copy of first act with respect to start and end of the play. The play goes on and eventually ends with wait. Hence, there is no proper start of the play nor does it has a proper ending; it is a journey from nothingness to nothingness. Requirement regarding lack of proper beginning and end has also been fulfilled in “Waiting for Godot”, which includes it in the list of plays of absurd.

Incoherent babblings is also important ingredient of theater of absurd. Whole play is based on delivery of dialogues but these dialogues have no apparent meaning. Every dialogue is full of symbols. Every word refers something in hidden meaning but it lacks the interest of audience because it lacks action. Dialogues create action in the play; without worthy dialogues, action loses its importance. In case of “Waiting for Godot”, no action has been presented in it, therefore, most dialogues are boring and they are written just to pass the ball. Dialogues of the play are meant to pass the time. Word “nothing” has been repeated numerously in the play. It actually indicates nothingness in it. Thus, dialogues of the play are nothing but incoherent babblings.

The play also lacks clear themes. No obvious theme has been observed by the audience in this play. Superiority of a play is always dependant on its themes. “Waiting for Godot” has no obvious theme. If there is any theme; it is hidden. Moreover, it presents individualistic vision of the writer. There is an effect of alienation in the play with regard to themes. These elements also prove that the play is not conventional and is related to theater of absurd.

This play does not hold the mirror up to nature. It does not portray the manners and mannerisms of the ages. Esslin is true in his definition of theater of absurd. This play “seem[s] often to be reflection of dreams and nightmares”.

At last but not the least, the play is entirely unconventional. Samuel Becket violated all dramatic conventions inspite this play is successful. Indeed, every ingredient of theater of absurd has been fulfilled by Samuel Becket. He wrote this play to break the rules, created by traditional dramatists. He remained successful in doing so. As “Waiting for Godot” completes every factor of theater of absurd, therefore, it can successfully be called the play of absurd.

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