Books

Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Waiting for Godot

A Tragicomedy in Two Acts

by Samuel Beckett

“One of the true masterpieces of the century.” —Clive Barnes, The New York Times

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 96
  • Publication Date April 26, 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4442-3
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $14.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date December 01, 2007
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-9882-2
  • US List Price $14.00

About The Book

From an inauspicious beginning at the tiny Left Bank Théâtre de Babylone in 1953, followed by bewilderment among American and British audiences, Waiting for Godot has become one of the most important and enigmatic plays of the past fifty years and a cornerstone of twentieth-century drama. As Clive Barnes wrote, “Time catches up with genius. . . .  Waiting for Godot is one of the masterpieces of the century.”

Praise

“One of the true masterpieces of the century.” —Clive Barnes, The New York Times

“One of the most noble and moving plays of our generation, a threnody of hope deceived and deferred but never extinguished; a play suffused with tenderness for the whole human perplexity; with phrases that come like a sharp stab of beauty and pain.” —The Times (London)

“Beckett is an incomparable spellbinder. He writes with rhetoric and music that . . . make a poet green with envy.” —Stephen Spender

“Reading Beckett for the first time is an experience like no other in modern literature.” —Paul Auster

“[Godot is] among the most studied, monographed, celebrated and sent-up works of modern art, and perhaps as influential as any from the last century. The non-story of two tramps at loose ends in a landscape barren of all but a single tree, amusing or distracting themselves from oppressive boredom while they wait for a mysterious figure who never arrives, the play became the ur-text for theatrical innovation and existential thought in the latter half of 20th century.” —Christopher Isherwood, The New York Times

Awards

Selected as one of Time Out‘s 1,000 Books to Change Your Life
Selected by Michael Foley in The Guardian as one of the top 10 absurd classics—books that best express the absurdity of the human condition (21 April 2010)

Excerpt

ACT I

A country road. A tree.

Evening.

Estragon, sitting on a low mound, is trying to take off his boot. He pulls at it with both hands, panting. He gives up, exhausted, rests, tries again. As before.

Enter Vladimir.

ESTRAGON: (giving up again).
Nothing to be done.

VLADIMIR: (advancing with short, stiff strides, legs wide apart)
I’m beginning to come round to that opinion. All my life I’ve tried to put it from me, saying, Vladimir, be reasonable, you haven’t yet tried everything. And I resumed the struggle. (He broods, musing on the struggle. Turning to Estragon.) So there you are again.

ESTRAGON:
Am I?

VLADIMIR:
I’m glad to see you back. I thought you were gone for ever.

ESTRAGON:
Me too.

VLADIMIR:
Together again at last! We’ll have to celebrate this. But how? (He reflects.) Get up till I embrace you.

ESTRAGON: (irritably)
Not now, not now.

VLADIMIR: (hurt, coldly)
May one inquire where His Highness spent the night?

ESTRAGON:
In a ditch.

VLADIMIR: (admiringly)
A ditch! Where?

ESTRAGON: (without gesture)
Over there.

VLADIMIR:
And they didn’t beat you?

ESTRAGON:
Beat me? Certainly they beat me.

VLADIMIR:
The same lot as usual?

ESTRAGON:
The same? I don’t know.

VLADIMIR:
When I think of it . . . all these years . . . but for me . . . where would you be . . . (Decisively.) You’d be nothing more than a little heap of bones at the present minute, no doubt about it.

ESTRAGON
And what of it?

VLADIMIR: (gloomily)
It’s too much for one man. (Pause. Cheerfully.) On the other hand what’s the good of losing heart now, that’s what I say. We should have thought of it a million years ago, in the nineties.

ESTRAGON:
Ah stop blathering and help me off with this bloody thing.

VLADIMIR:
Hand in hand from the top of the Eiffel Tower, among the first. We were respectable in those days. Now it’s too late. They wouldn’t even let us up. (Estragon tears at his boot.) What are you doing?

ESTRAGON:
Taking off my boot. Did that never happen to you?

VLADIMIR:
Boots must be taken off every day, I’m tired telling you that. Why don’t you listen to me?

ESTRAGON: (feebly)
Help me!

VLADIMIR:
It hurts?

ESTRAGON: (angrily)
Hurts! He wants to know if it hurts!

VLADIMIR: (angrily)
No one ever suffers but you. I don’t count. I’d like to hear what you’d say if you had what I have.

ESTRAGON:
It hurts?

VLADIMIR: (angrily)
Hurts! He wants to know if it hurts!

ESTRAGON: (pointing)
You might button it all the same.

VLADIMIR: (stooping)
True. (He buttons his fly.) Never neglect the little things of life.

ESTRAGON:
What do you expect, you always wait till the last moment.

VLADIMIR: (musingly)
The last moment . . . (He meditates.) Hope deferred maketh the something sick, who said that?

ESTRAGON:
Why don’t you help me?

VLADIMIR:
Sometimes I feel it coming all the same. Then I go all queer. (He takes off his hat, peers inside it, feels about inside it, shakes it, puts it on again.) How shall l say? Relieved and at the same time . . . (he searches for the word) . . . appalled. (With emphasis.) AP-PALLED. (He takes off his hat again, peers inside it.) Funny. (He knocks on the crown as though to dislodge a foreign body, peers into it again, puts it on again.) Nothing to be done. (Estragon with a supreme effort succeeds in pulling off his boot. He peers inside it, feels about inside it, turns it upside down, shakes it, looks on the ground to see if anything has fallen out, finds nothing, feels inside it again, staring sightlessly before him.) Well?

ESTRAGON:
Nothing.

VLADIMIR:
Show.

ESTRAGON:
There’s nothing to show.

VLADIMIR:
Try and put it on again.

ESTRAGON: (examining his foot)
I’ll air it for a bit.

VLADIMIR:
There’s man all over for you, blaming on his boots the faults of his feet. (He takes off his hat again, peers inside it, feels about inside it, knocks on the crown, blows into it, puts it on again.) This is getting alarming. (Silence. Vladimir deep in thought, Estragon pulling at his toes.) One of the thieves was saved. (Pause.) It’s a reasonable percentage. (Pause.) Gogo.

ESTRAGON:
What?

VLADIMIR:
Suppose we repented.

ESTRAGON:
Repented what?

VLADIMIR:
Oh . . . (He reflects.) We wouldn’t have to go into the details.

ESTRAGON:
Our being born?

Vladimir breaks into a hearty laugh which he immediately stifles, his hand pressed to his pubis, his face contorted.

VLADIMIR:
One daren’t even laugh any more.

ESTRAGON:
Dreadful privation.

VLADIMIR:
Merely smile. (He smiles suddenly from ear to ear, keeps smiling, ceases as suddenly.) It’s not the same thing. Nothing to be done. (Pause.) Gogo.

ESTRAGON: (irritably)
What is it?

VLADIMIR:
Did you ever read the Bible?

ESTRAGON:
The Bible . . . (He reflects.) I must have taken a look at it.

VLADIMIR:
Do you remember the Gospels?

ESTRAGON:
I remember the maps of the Holy Land. Coloured they were. Very pretty. The Dead Sea was pale blue. The very look of it made me thirsty. That’s where well go, I used to say, that’s where well go for our honeymoon. We’ll swim. We’ll be happy.

VLADIMIR:
You should have been a poet.

ESTRAGON: I was. (Gesture towards his rags.) Isn’t that obvious?

Silence.

VLADIMIR:
Where was I . . . How’s your foot?

ESTRAGON:
Swelling visibly.

VLADIMIR:
Ah yes, the two thieves. Do you remember the story?

ESTRAGON:
No.

VLADIMIR:
Shall I tell it to you?

ESTRAGON:
No.

VLADIMIR:
It’ll pass the time. (Pause.) Two thieves, crucified at the same time as our Saviour. One—

ESTRAGON:
Our what?

VLADIMIR:
Our Saviour. Two thieves. One is supposed to have been saved and the other . . . (he searches for the contrary of saved) . . . damned.

ESTRAGON:
Saved from what?

VLADIMIR:
Hell.

ESTRAGON:
I’m going.

He does not move.

VLADIMIR:
And yet . . . (pause) . . . how is it—this is not boring you I hope—how is it that of the four Evangelists only one speaks of a thief being saved. The four of them were there—or thereabouts—and only one speaks of a thief being saved. (Pause.) Come on, Gogo, return the ball, can’t you, once in a way?

ESTRAGON: (with exaggerated enthusiasm)
I find this really most extraordinarily interesting.

VLADIMIR:
One out of four. Of the other three two don’t mention any thieves at all and the third says that both of them abused him.

ESTRAGON:
Who?

VLADIMIR:
What?

ESTRAGON:
What’s all this about? Abused who?

VLADIMIR:
The Saviour.

ESTRAGON:
Why?

VLADIMIR:
Because he wouldn’t save them.

ESTRAGON:
From hell?

VLADIMIR:
Imbecile! From death.

ESTRAGON:
I thought you said hell.

VLADIMIR:
From death, from death.

ESTRAGON:
Well what of it?

VLADIMIR:
Then the two of them must have been damned.

ESTRAGON:
And why not?

VLADIMIR:
But one of the four says that one of the two was saved.

ESTRAGON:
Well? They don’t agree and that’s all there is to it.

VLADIMIR:
But all four were there. And only one speaks of a thief being saved. Why believe him rather than the others?

ESTRAGON:
Who believes him?

VLADIMIR:
Everybody. It’s the only version they know.

ESTRAGON:
People are bloody ignorant apes.

He rises painfully, goes limping to extreme left, halts, gazes into distance off with his hands creening his eyes, turns, goes to extreme right, gazes into distance. Vladimir watches him, then goes and picks up the boot, peers into it, drops it hastily.

VLADIMIR:
Pah!

He spits. Estragon moves to center, halts with his back to auditorium.

ESTRAGON:
Charming spot. (He turns, advances to front, halts facing auditorium.) Inspiring prospects. (He turns to Vladimir.) Let’s go.

VLADIMIR:
We can’t.

ESTRAGON:
Why not?

VLADIMIR:
We’re waiting for Godot.

ESTRAGON: (despairingly)
Ah! (Pause.) You’re sure it was here?

VLADIMIR:
What?

ESTRAGON:
That we were to wait.

VLADIMIR:
He said by the tree. (They look at the tree.) Do you see any others.

ESTRAGON: What is it?

VLADIMIR:
I don’t know. A willow.

ESTRAGON:
Where are the leaves?

VLADIMIR:
It must be dead.

ESTRAGON:
No more weeping.

VLADIMIR:
Or perhaps it’s not the season.

ESTRAGON:
Looks to me more like a bush.

VLADIMIR:
A shrub.

ESTRAGON:
A bush.

VLADIMIR:
A—. What are you insinuating? That we’ve come to the wrong place?

ESTRAGON:
He should be here.

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 to-morrow.

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.

ESTRAGON:
What did we do yesterday?

VLADIMIR:
What did we do yesterday?

ESTRAGON:
Yes.

VLADIMIR:
Why . . . (Angrily.) Nothing is certain when you’re about.

ESTRAGON:
In my opinion we were here.

VLADIMIR: (looking round)
You recognize the place?

ESTRAGON:
I didn’t say that.

VLADIMIR:
Well?

ESTRAGON:
That makes no difference.

VLADIMIR:
All the same . . . that tree . . . (turning towards auditorium) that bog . . .

Estragon:
You’re sure it was this evening?

VLADIMIR:
What?

ESTRAGON:
That we were to wait.

VLADIMIR:
He said Saturday. (Pause.) I think.

ESTRAGON:
You think.

VLADIMIR:
I must have made a note of it. (He fumbles in his pockets, bursting with miscellaneous rubbish.)

ESTRAGON: (very insidious)
But what Saturday? And is it Saturday? Is it not rather Sunday? (Pause.) Or Monday? (Pause.) Or Friday?

VLADIMIR: (looking wildly about him, as though the date was inscribed in the landscape)
It’s not possible!

ESTRAGON:
Or Thursday?

VLADIMIR:
What’ll we do?

ESTRAGON:
If he came yesterday and we weren’t here you may be sure he won’t come again to-day.

VLADIMIR:
But you say we were here yesterday.

ESTRAGON:
I may be mistaken. (Pause.) Let’s stop talking for a minute, do you mind?

VLADIMIR: (feebly)
All right. (Estragon sits down on the mound. Vladimir paces agitatedly to and fro, halting from time to time to gaze into distance off. Estragon falls asleep. Vladimir halts finally before Estragon.) Gogo! . . . Gogo! . . . GOGO! Estragon wakes with a start.

ESTRAGON: (restored to the horror of his situation)
I was asleep! (Despairingly.) Why will you never let me sleep?

VLADIMIR:
I felt lonely.

ESTRAGON:
I had a dream.

VLADIMIR:
Don’t tell me!

ESTRAGON:
I dreamt that—

VLADIMIR:
DON’t TELL ME!

ESTRAGON: (gesture towards the universe)
This one is enough for you? (Silence.) It’s not nice of you, Didi. Who am I to tell my private nightmares to if I can’t tell them to you?

VLADIMIR:
Let them remain private. You know I can’t bear that.

ESTRAGON: (coldly)
There are times when I wonder if it wouldn’t be better for us to part.

VLADIMIR:
You wouldn’t go far.

ESTRAGON:
That would be too bad, really too bad.
(Pause.) Wouldn’t it, Didi, be really too bad? (Pause.) When you think of the beauty of the way. (Pause.) And the goodness of the wayfarers. (Pause. Wheedling.) Wouldn’t it, Didi?

VLADIMIR:
Calm yourself.

ESTRAGON: (voluptuously)
Calm . . . calm . . . The English say cawm. (Pause.) You know the story of the Englishman in the brothel?

VLADIMIR:
Yes.

ESTRAGON:
Tell it to me.

VLADIMIR:
Ah stop it!

ESTRAGON:
An Englishman having drunk a little more than usual proceeds to a brothel. The bawd asks him if he wants a fair one, a dark one or a red-haired one. Go on.

VLADIMIR:
STOP IT!

Exit Vladimir hurriedly. Estragon gets up and follows him as far as the limit of the stage. Gestures of Estragon like those of a spectator encouraging a pugilist. Enter Vladimir. He brushes past Estragon, crosses the stage with bowed head. Estragon takes a step towards him, halts.

ESTRAGON: (gently)
You wanted to speak to me? (Silence. Estragon takes a step forward.) You had something to say to me? (Silence. Another step forward.) Didi . . .

VLADIMIR: (without turning)
I’ve nothing to say to you.

ESTRAGON: (step forward)
You’re angry? (Silence. Step forward.) Forgive me. (Silence. Step forward. Estragon lays his hand on Vladimir’s shoulder.) Come, Didi. (Silence.) Give me your hand. (Vladimir half turns.) Embrace me! (Vladimir stiffens.) Don’t be stubborn! (Vladimir softens. They embrace. Estragon recoils.) You stink of garlic!

VLADIMIR:
It’s for the kidneys. (Silence. Estragon looks attentively at the tree.) What do we do now?

ESTRAGON:
Wait.

VLADIMIR:
Yes, but while waiting.

ESTRAGON:
What about hanging ourselves?

VLADIMIR:
Hmm. It’d give us an erection.

ESTRAGON: (highly excited)
An erection!

VLADIMIR:
With all that follows. Where it falls mandrakes grow. That’s why they shriek when you pull them up. Did you not know that?

ESTRAGON:
Let’s hang ourselves immediately!

VLADIMIR:
From a bough? (They go towards the tree.) I wouldn’t trust it.

ESTRAGON:
We can always try.

VLADIMIR:
Go ahead.

ESTRAGON:
After you.

VLADIMIR:
No no, you first.

ESTRAGON:
Why me?

VLADIMIR:
You’re lighter than I am.

ESTRAGON:
Just so!

VLADIMIR:
I don’t understand.

ESTRAGON:
Use your intelligence, can’t you?

Vladimir uses his intelligence.

VLADIMIR: (finally)
I remain in the dark.

ESTRAGON:
This is how it is. (He reflects.) The bough . . . the bough . . . (Angrily.) Use your head, can’t you?

VLADIMIR:
You’re my only hope.

ESTRAGON: (with effort)
Gogo light—bough not break—Gogo dead. Didi heavy—bough break—Didi alone. Whereas—

VLADIMIR:
I hadn’t thought of that.

ESTRAGON: If it hangs you it’ll hang anything.
VLADIMIR:
But am I heavier than you?

ESTRAGON:
So you tell me. I don’t know. There’s an even chance. Or nearly.

VLADIMIR:
Well? What do we do?

ESTRAGON:
Don’t let’s do anything. It’s safer.

VLADIMIR:
Let’s wait and see what he says.

ESTRAGON:
Who?

VLADIMIR:
Godot.

ESTRAGON:
Good idea.

VLADIMIR:
Let’s wait till we know exactly how we stand.

ESTRAGON:
On the other hand it might be better to strike the iron before it freezes.

VLADIMIR:
I’m curious to hear what he has to offer. Then we’ll take it or leave it.

ESTRAGON:
What exactly did we ask him for?

VLADIMIR:
Were you not there?

ESTRAGON:
I can’t have been listening.

VLADIMIR:
Oh . . . Nothing very definite.

ESTRAGON:
A kind of prayer.

VLADIMIR:
Precisely.

ESTRAGON:
A vague supplication.

VLADIMIR:
Exactly.

ESTRAGON:
And what did he reply?

VLADIMIR:
That he’d see.

ESTRAGON:
That he couldn’t promise anything.

VLADIMIR:
That he’d have to think it over.

ESTRAGON:
In the quiet of his home.

VLADIMIR:
Consult his family.

ESTRAGON:
His friends.

VLADIMIR:
His agents.

ESTRAGON:
His correspondents.

VLADIMIR:
His books.

ESTRAGON:
His bank account.

VLADIMIR:
Before taking a decision.

ESTRAGON:
It’s the normal thing.

VLADIMIR:
Is it not?

ESTRAGON:
I think it is.

VLADIMIR:
I think so too.

Silence.

ESTRAGON: (anxious)
And we?

VLADIMIR:
I beg your pardon?

ESTRAGON:
I said, And we?

VLADIMIR:
I don’t understand.

ESTRAGON:
Where do we come in?

VLADIMIR:
Come in?

ESTRAGON:
Take your time.

VLADIMIR:
Come in? On our hands and knees.

ESTRAGON:
As bad as that?

VLADIMIR:
Your Worship wishes to assert his prerogatives?

ESTRAGON:
We’ve no rights any more?

Laugh of Vladimir, stifled as before, less the smile.

VLADIMIR:
You’d make me laugh if it wasn’t prohibited.

ESTRAGON:
We’ve lost our rights?

VLADIMIR: (distinctly)
We got rid of them.

Silence. They remain motionless, arms dangling, heads sunk, sagging at the knees.

ESTRAGON: (feebly)
We’re not tied? (Pause.) We’re not—

VLADIMIR:
Listen!

They listen, grotesquely rigid.

ESTRAGON:
I hear nothing.

VLADIMIR:
Hsst! (They listen. Estragon loses his balance, almost falls. He clutches the arm of Vladimir who totters. They listen, huddled together.) Nor I. Sighs of relief. They relax and separate.

ESTRAGON:
You gave me a fright.

VLADIMIR:
I thought it was he.

ESTRAGON:
Who?

VLADIMIR:
Godot.

ESTRAGON:
Pah! The wind in the reeds.

VLADIMIR:
I could have sworn I heard shouts.

ESTRAGON:
And why would he shout?

VLADIMIR:
At his horse.

Silence.

ESTRAGON: (violently)
I’m hungry!

VLADIMIR:
Do you want a carrot?

ESTRAGON:
Is that all there is?

VLADIMIR:
I might have some turnips.

ESTRAGON:
Give me a carrot. (Vladimir rummages in his pockets, takes out a turnip and gives it to Estragon who takes a bite out of it. Angrily.) It’s a turnip!

VLADIMIR:
Oh pardon! I could have sworn it was a carrot. (He rummages again in his pockets, finds nothing but turnips.) All that’s turnips. (He rummages.) You must have eaten the last. (He rummages.) Wait, I have it. (He brings out a carrot and gives it to Estragon.) There, dear fellow. (Estragon wipes the carrot on his sleeve and begins to eat it.) Make it last, that’s the end of them.

ESTRAGON: (chewing)
I asked you a question.

VLADIMIR:
Ah.

ESTRAGON:
Did you reply?

VLADIMIR:
How’s the carrot?

ESTRAGON:
It’s a carrot.

VLADIMIR:
So much the better, so much the better. (Pause.) What was it you wanted to know?

ESTRAGON:
I’ve forgotten. (Chews.) That’s what annoys me. (He looks at the carrot appreciatively, dangles it between finger and thumb.) I’ll never forget this carrot. (He sucks the end of it meditatively.) Ah yes, now I remember.

VLADIMIR:
Well?

ESTRAGON: (his mouth full, vacuously)
We’re not tied?

VLADIMIR:
I don’t hear a word you’re saying.

ESTRAGON: (chews, swallows)
I’m asking you if we’re tied.

VLADIMIR:
Tied?

ESTRAGON:
Ti-ed.

VLADIMIR:
How do you mean tied?

ESTRAGON:
Down.

VLADIMIR:
But to whom? By whom?

ESTRAGON:
To your man.

VLADIMIR:
To Godot? Tied to Godot! What an idea! No question of it. (Pause.) For the moment.

ESTRAGON:
His name is Godot?

VLADIMIR:
I think so.

ESTRAGON:
Fancy that. (He raises what remains of the carrot by the stub of leaf, twirls it before his eyes.) Funny, the more you eat the worse it gets.

VLADIMIR:
With me it’s just the opposite.

ESTRAGON:
In other words?

VLADIMIR:
I get used to the muck as I go along.

ESTRAGON: (after prolonged reflection)
Is that the opposite?

VLADIMIR:
Question of temperament.

ESTRAGON:
Of character.

VLADIMIR:
Nothing you can do about it.

ESTRAGON:
No use struggling.

VLADIMIR:
One is what one is.

ESTRAGON:
No use wriggling.

VLADIMIR:
The essential doesn’t change.

ESTRAGON:
Nothing to be done. (He proffers the remains of the carrot to Vladimir.) Like to finish it?

A terrible cry, close at hand. Estragon drops the carrot. They remain motionless, then together make a sudden rush towards the wings. Estragon stops halfway, runs back, picks up the carrot, stuffs it in his pocket, runs to rejoin Vladimir who is waiting for him, stops again, runs back, picks up his boot, runs to rejoin Vladimir. Huddled together, shoulders hunched, cringing away from the menace, they wait.