Nothing to be done: A comparative analysis of Waiting for Godot in Performances

Vladmir and Estragon are waiting for Godot, with a tree next to them and nothing else. They have being waiting for more than 50 years, and they are waiting still—


It is without doubt that Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett, is a perplexing play. Widely acknowledged as a classic tragicomedy, it is written by Samuel Beckett in 1954, and has inspired numerous productions of theatre performance and films ever since. Although the plot is simple—Vladimir and Estragon are waiting for Godot, and during the endless wait they met Pozzo, his slave Lucky, and the messenger boy—the simplicity is what complicates the play. Take one scene for example, where Vladimir questions Estrogen whether he has read the Bible, and proceeds to introduce the story of four thieves of whom only one was saved. Although this discussion explicitly refers to religious stories, it is impossible to pin down a religious interpretation of this play.

The context of this scene gives no prior suggestion of a religious theme, neither does the following dialogue connect with this discussion. It almost seems as if the two characters randomly jump into this religious story just to left it to be forgotten. In fact, such sporadic pattern of topics can be found throughout the play’s dialogue, thus the reader maybe as unsure about this scene as they are about Waiting for Godot in general. Is it just like what Estragon says in the play:“Nothing to be done”?


photo of waiting for godot, broadway 2013

Nevertheless, the interpretation of Waiting for Godot as a representation of human’s vulnerability with regard to existential forces holds true. Although the broadway production magnifies the comedy component of Waiting of Godot, it is understandably so, considering the nature of a modern broadway production and its all-star cast. Furthermore, there are substantial similarities between the two productions in resonance to the theme of vulnerability of the play. In the broadway production, the stage is similarly set as a post-disaster environment where architectural remnants lie on the ground and no signs of habitability are to be found. The overall setting is grey and black, which is the same as the Tarver production where there’s sense of desolation. Aside from the humor, the conversation between the two characters still ended with no conclusion, and the ridiculous performance becomes a comedic illustration of Estragon’s line: “Nothing to be done!”. Indeed, Waiting for Godot is encapsulated in this line, as we realize that both production, despite their different performances, deliver the same message of hopeless inquiry and passive subjection to things that are beyond human control.