In Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, two odd characters are presented to the readers/audiences. Vladimir and Estragon who seems to be stuck in a moment (like that U2 song). Everyday they meet in the same place waiting for someone who would not come. This waiting in vain theme of the story makes the play a tragedy, while the activities that the characters indulge themselves in are comedic, making this play a tragicomedy.Tragic ComedyWhat is tragicomedy in the first place? If tragedy is story with, well, a tragic ending, and a comedy is a story with a happy ending, how can it be both at the same time? Yes, a tragicomedy is a story that uses both elements of tragedy and comedy and merges it into one genre. By this I mean, a tragicomedy have serious themes but is written in a comedic way or light way, hiding its message through irony or satire.
From the beginning of the play, when the characters where just being revealed to the readers/audiences, the relationship of the two main characters Vladimir and Estragon are established. Vladimir told Estragon that without him [Vladimir], Estragon would be “nothing more than a heap of bones.” What Vladimir meant was Estragon needs him in order to survive. The metaphor used by Beckett is comedic and yet serious, the seriousness of certain death for Estragon without the company of Vladimir. Estragon himself is a tragic character. He fails to remember anything that happened the day before.
He needs Vladimir to remind him everyday that they have been waiting for Godot for who knows how long. For all the readers/audiences know, they could have been waiting for years, suggested by the change in leaf count of the tree.Pozzo, the master of Lucky, said something about his second pipe never being as sweet as his first, suggesting a feeling of dullness because of repetition. Repetition is the main pattern of the plot, this is evident with the dialog among the characters and the repetitive action (or lack of action) of waiting for Godot. Vladimir and Estragon seems to have been waiting for Godot for quite some time, as suggested by Vladimir’s recognition of Pozzo, Lucky and the boy that delivers the message from Godot. During their first meeting in the play, Vladimir recognized Pozzo and Lucky but pretends to see them for the first time. Vladimir also recognized the boy who came on the first act to deliver Godot’s message.
These events might mean that they are eternally stuck in that situation, Pozzo and Lucky come everyday, but each time, being different personalities and having no memory of them meeting Vladimir and Estragon. Vladimir pretended to not recognize them in the first act because he might have accepted their situation of “stuckness.” The messenger boy does not remember meeting the two protagonists as well. Everything is just being repeated everyday.
It’s just how Pozzo and Lucky comes that add variation, and thus comedy, to this tragic situation. It’s a scary situation to be in, doing the same things everyday. Vladimir got the worse of it because he realized this situation. Estragon on the other hand is unaware.It kind of makes the readers/audiences think that Vladimir and Estragon are stuck in hell or purgatory. Being stuck in time is a punishment and they are waiting to be saved by Godot, which makes Godot a God figure.If Vladimir and Estragon wants to get out of their situation they have to act upon it, but it seems the two men are damned to stay like that until they die.
Just before the end of each act, Vladimir and Estragon talks about finally going, to where, nobody knew. They would come into a resolution that they would leave the place but would remain in place as the curtains go down. Staying put means that Vladimir and Estragon is hopeless, even if they want to go, somehow, something makes them stay. It is not clear what reasons they have for staying, maybe the realization that they need each other’s company, Vladimir’s sense of duty to watch over Estragon and Estragon’s dependence on Vladimir.
Whatever the reason, this waiting for nothing is comedic. They (or at least Vladimir) already know that Godot is not coming and yet they sit there and wait, waiting for Pozzo and Lucky to entertain them again and again, and waiting for the boy to tell them that Godot is not coming today but would come tomorrow. This inability to act makes their lives dependent on the acts of others to them. They can’t decide what would become of them.As a last resort, Vladimir and Estragon ponder upon the thought of hanging themselves on the nearby tree. Unable to find a rope, they agree that one of them would bring the rope tomorrow. But pattern suggests that the two would just remain where they are and continue to wait for Godot.
The two tried to improvise a little by using the belt of Estragon. Frustrated Estragon complains about waiting forever, and again they decided to leave and hang themselves tomorrow unless Godot comes and “save” them from this endless repetition. Again, they agreed to go but as the play ends, they remain unmoved. – This is the ultimate example that would define tragicomedy in this play.
Vladimir and Estragon are talking about committing suicide and yet they talk about it like it was just a routine thing to do, like everything else in their lives. It’s a dark topic sugar coated with light and humorous conversation between Vladimir and Estragon.ConclusionWaiting for Godot is a tragicomedy.
The characters experience something tragic but the severity of their situation is blanketed by the comedic characters of the play. Comedic conversations and situations among the characters blend with the conflict of the play. As a result, a tragicomedy play.
Beckett, Samuel. Waiting for Godot. New York: Grove Press, 1954.
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