Samuel Beckett was born in Dublin in 1906 into a Protestant middle-class family. Having graduated from Trinity College he was appointed English lecturer at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris.
At the outbreak of World War II he joined the French resistance.
Made widely popular by Waiting for Godot, Beckett went on writing for the theatre for over twenty years, introducing what is known today as the Theatre of the Absurd. His plays always deal with confinement, the inability to communicate and loneliness.
In Beckett’s theatre we are confronted with a terribly static world, where things never change, but they go on happening in an endless circle. This is emphasized not only by the characters’ physical conditions but also by the absence of plot and by the circular structure of the plays. The characters seem to be confined or imprisoned in a single space. Waiting for Godot is no exception: Vladimir and Estragon continually talk of leaving but they don’t move.
While Beckett’s plays seem to be timeless, his characters are obsessed with the problem of time, as if they were trapped in time and forced to fill it with futile dialogues and gestures.
Beckett’s philosophy of life is close to French Existentialism: there is no meaning to life at all.
In Beckett’s plays talk is made up of absurd exchanges, or linguistic stereotypes through which the writer ironically exposes the vacuity of ready-made phrases.
The dialogues become more and more fragmented in grammar and meaning; for example they are attended with para-verbal language, such as mime, silences, silent cinema-acts and circus-like gags.
It is a play about two French tramps, Vladimir and Estragon, who spend their days waiting for a mysterious Mr Godot who is expected to come and save them from their miserable situation.
In the meanwhile, they desperately try to pass the time by talking about anything they happen to think of.
At the end of each day the hopes of the two characters are revived by the visit of a messenger Boy sent by Mr Godot, who announces that Mr Godot won’t come that day but surely the day after that.
Time is a crucial issue in the passage: time is a void, a series of identical, repetitive days, which the characters must fill somehow, as they are waiting for something or somebody to save them.
While Vladimir and Estragon are exchanging useless remarks the Boy sent by Mr Godot arrives to deliver the usual message. All the leitmotifs of the play are present in this scene: the puzzle of individual identity, the idea of progressive physical decay, the emphasis on unhappiness as a permanent part of the human condition, the temptation of suicide as a possible way out.
The characters are stylized and often interchangeable, there is no story nor development since the play ends it started and there are no events.
The title character Godot never appears: he seem to be a person cruel and indifferent.
Vladimir and Estragon can be considered comic, grotesque and pathetic: they live in a sort of interdependent life as if their existence had a meaning only in there been together: Didi is a sort protector and adviser to Gogo.
The language is repetitive and fragmentary.
The stage directions are very detailed: they compensate for the lack of communication through language. They convey the characters tone of voice and psychological state and tell the actors what movement they have to do on the stage.