Storia dell'arte

The Theatre of the Absurd
and Samuel Beckett

Samuel Beckett was born on April 13, 1906 at Foxrock, near Dublin. He travelled to Paris where he first met the fellow Dubliner who would become an important influence and close friend, James Joyce. Beckett assisted Joyce in the construction of "Finnegan’s Wake", but also began writing himself, inspired by the fervent Parisian literary circle. In 1952 he wrote “En attendant Godot”, translated in English two years later, with the title of “Waiting for Godot”. In 1969, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He died on December 22, 1989.

Beckett is generally regarded as the most important author in what is commonly referred to as the “Theatre of the Absurd”. The term, coined by Martin Esslin, refers to a group of dramatist in the 1950’s “who did not regard themselves as a coherent group or as a school, but who all seemed to share certain attitudes towards the predicament of man in the universe”. Absurd means the dichotomy between man and his life; in fact, for these dramatists the human being is a bewildered person who is dipped in an immense and purposeless universe. Beckett renders this conception through the anxiety, the solitude and the total incommunicability, which are yielded by unreal situations and dialogues. This new kind of drama seems to reflect the world of dreams and nightmares of the subconscious mind. He chooses the French language for its simplicity and clarity, in according to his concept of reality that pervades all his works: a radical pessimism based on perception of folly, dreariness and meaningless of human life. The life, mysterious and incomprehensible, is reproduced in language through silence, short and nonsensical dialogue and through the repetitive and circular structure of the plot. In reality, in “Waiting for Godot”, there is no plot, because nothing happen and there is neither beginning nor conclusion; both acts start and end in the same way, place and time. Beckett uses language like a barrier of the communication; in fact, even if his language is simple and quite easy to understand, the sentences have lost any logical meaning and have become merely a way of passing time. Time is another important theme of the work, another example of “absurdity”. All characters (Vladimir, Estragon, Lucky and Pozzo) are worried about the passage of time even if there is no action. In the plot there isn’t also any kind of moral message and this lack of meaning created anxiety in the characters, an anxiety that is mainly hidden and that manifests itself only through the character’s few actions. Like language and actions, the stage is minimalist: a stylized tree, no more than a stem with two or three leaves attached (in the second act become four or five), by a country road. The road suggests the homelessness of the characters (Vladimir and Estragon are tramps) and emphasizes the fact that they are going nowhere; instead of providing shade and comfort, the tree inspires only suicide, a suicide that doesn’t happen.

“Waiting for Godot” can be defined as a tragicomedy, a mix of tragedy, music hall, circus clowning and Chaplin’s film, constructed around the condition of the wait. At last, this work can be read also through symbols: the road, the tree (real thing + symbolic meaning) and the unknown character, Godot. The critics have given many interpretations: “who is Godot?” is a frequent question. However, there are only hypothesis, Beckett himself said that he did not know who Godot was, otherwise he would have indicated it inside the drama.

Percorso interdisciplinare di gaia millo anno scolastico 2004-2005 liceo scientifico "G.Oberdan" Trieste


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