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Waiting for Godot

Waiting for Godot

by Samuel Beckett

Waiting for Godot Act I Summary

  • Waiting for Godot is basically already in plot-summary form. Think short, staccato, bare-bones bullet points.
  • This is a play, so we start with a description of the scene. Except by "description" we mean three sparse "sentences": "A country road. A tree. Evening."
  • The scene opens with a man named Estragon sitting on a mound and trying to remove his boot.
  • A second guy named Vladimir shows up, and Estragon comments (seemingly about his boot) that there’s "nothing to be done." Vladimir agrees, but adds that he struggles nonetheless.
  • Estragon reveals that he’s spent the night in a ditch, and that "they" (perhaps "the same lot as usual") beat him up.
  • Vladimir declares that Estragon would be dead if not for him, adding that "It’s too much for one man."
  • Estragon is angry that Vladimir isn’t helping to take off his boot. Vladimir claims he’s in pain, too, and at his friend’s suggestion, he buttons his fly.
  • It’s unclear whether or not the unbuttoned pants had anything to do with the pain. In fact, it’s unclear what the heck is going on at all. And it’s only going to get worse.
  • Vladimir comments that "Hope deferred maketh the something sick," which is his mangling of the Biblical proverb "Hope deferred makes the heart sick; but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life." (Proverbs 13:12)
  • Vladimir takes off his hat and looks in it. He taps to see if anything is inside.
  • There’s nothing inside. Or if there is, it’s REALLY STUCK.
  • Vladimir is relieved and appalled.
  • Estragon succeeds in taking his boot off. He taps it to see if there’s anything inside.
  • There’s nothing inside.
  • Estragon puts his boot back on in order to see if there’s something inside it afterward, and Vladimir takes off his hat again. It’s like the Hokey-Pokey.
  • Vladimir wonders if things would be different if they repented.
  • Estragon jokes that they would repent having been born.
  • Vladimir laughs and then stops after feeling genital pain.
  • Vladimir calls Estragon by a nickname: Gogo.
  • He then asks him whether he’s read the Bible before. Estragon believes so, since he remembers the pretty pictures; he used to want to go there (to the Holy Land) for a honeymoon.
  • Vladimir tells Estragon the story about the two thieves who were crucified on either side of Jesus; one was saved, and one was condemned to hell.
  • The problem is, of the four gospels, only one speaks of the thief getting saved; so why do we believe the minority opinion, Vladimir wants to know.
  • Estragon moves to the center of the stage, peers into the audience, and announces "interesting prospects."
  • Estragon goes to leave, but Vladimir responds that they can’t: they’re waiting for Godot.
  • The men aren’t sure if they’re in the right place for the meeting, but since there’s a tree nearby, they assume it’s the right tree.
  • Stellar.
  • The tree is a willow without any leaves. Or a bush, according to Estragon, which would mean they are definitely not in the right place.
  • Estragon says if Godot doesn’t come today, they’ll wait for him tomorrow, and so on and so on, until everyone gets bored and stops reading.
  • Then the men worry that Godot showed up yesterday and maybe they missed him.
  • They realize that not only do they not know where they were yesterday; they don’t know what day yesterday was. They don’t even know what day today is, although they’re fairly certain it’s either Saturday, Sunday, Monday, or Friday.
  • Or Thursday.
  • Estragon suggests they stop talking.
  • He then goes to sleep, but Vladimir gets lonely and wakes him up.
  • Estragon starts to discuss his dream, but Vladimir (who is now called by his own nickname, Didi) doesn’t want to hear about it.
  • Hurt, Estragon suggests they part ways.
  • They don’t part ways.
  • Estragon begins telling a joke about an Englishman who goes to a brothel, but he wants Vladimir to finish telling the joke.
  • Vladimir responds by…running off stage.
  • Shortly thereafter, he comes back and they make-up with a hug.
  • Clearly pleased with the situation, Estragon cheerily suggests that they hang themselves.
  • Vladimir responds that this would give them an erection, the thought of which excites Estragon.
  • They quarrel over who should hang first. Estragon figures that, since he is light, he’ll hang himself just fine, but Vladimir is heavy and will break the bough (instead of his neck).
  • Vladimir is distressed over what to do, and Gogo responds, "Don’t let’s do anything. It’s safer." (Go ahead and highlight that sentence there.)
  • So the men go back to waiting for Godot, which seems to be some sort of common theme around these parts.
  • They reveal that they’ve asked Godot for a "vague supplication," but Godot has to "think it over" and "he couldn’t promise anything."
  • Estragon asks about their rights, and Didi replies that they’ve "gotten rid of them." That’s important, too.
  • Estragon’s hungry, so Vladimir offers him a carrot and then gives him a turnip.
  • OK so he does actually have a carrot, somewhere in the bowels of his pockets, which he removes and gives to Estragon.
  • After a nonsensical exchange, Vladimir concludes that he and Gogo are "tied" to Godot (it seems in the sense of obligations, not in the sense of rope, although it’s not like we can be sure in any way).
  • Gogo repeats his earlier line that "There’s nothing to be done" after Vladimir affirms that he’s "used to the muck" by now since "the essential doesn’t change." Hmm.
  • Both men hear a "terrible cry" and rush to the wings of the stage, terrified, but not so terrified that Estragon can’t run back for his carrot.
  • (By the way, if you’re having a hard time keeping their nicknames straight, just note that there’s a "go" in "EstraGOn" and a "di" in "VlaDImir," which probably has something to do with it.)
  • Right, back to the terrifying shout: a man with a rope around his neck enters the stage, trailing behind him the rest of the leash.
  • Another man enters after him, holding the rope and a whip in his hand and generally abusing the poor man.
  • Vladimir thinks it is Godot, but the man holding the leash introduced himself as Pozzo and marvels that both Gogo and Didi are the same species as himself, "made in God’s image."
  • He then wants to know who this Godot character is, but both Vladimir and Estragon admit that they don’t really know the guy.
  • Pozzo then insists that both of them are on HIS land. But he then says that the road is free to all and changes the subject.
  • Pozzo proceeds to boss about his manservant/guy on a leash, whose name is Lucky.
  • Vladimir and Estragon examine a sore on Lucky’s neck made by the rope, which Pozzo keeps not-so-helpfully jerking on.
  • They try to ask Lucky a question to see whether he’s a half-wit, but Pozzo demands that they leave the guy alone.
  • Pozzo eats some chicken; Estragon asks for the bones, but Pozzo says they belong to Lucky and he must ask permission.
  • Lucky doesn’t respond when asked, so Estragon gets the bones.
  • Vladimir, who has apparently been boiling with humanitarian anger all this time, blows up at Pozzo about treating a man (meaning Lucky) in such a horrible way.
  • Pozzo fails to react in any meaningful way and instead smokes a second pipe; Vladimir tries to leave with Gogo, who is hoping to score more discarded food.
  • Pozzo admits that perhaps he is "not particularly human."
  • He then warns the two men not to leave, on account of Godot.
  • Estragon is oblivious to this entire conversation and focused solely on the fact that Lucky hasn’t put down the bags he’s been carrying. He wants to know why.
  • Pozzo addresses his pet/servant as "Pig," and forgets what they were all discussing.
  • Finally he explains that if Lucky wanted to put down the bags, he would. He continues to take a vaporizer out of his pocket, spray it in his mouth, and put it back, all the while ranting about how Lucky doesn’t want to get fired (or freed?).
  • Lucky starts crying, and at Pozzo’s orders Estragon tries to comfort him by wiping away his tears with a handkerchief.
  • Unfortunately, Lucky responds by kicking Estragon in the shins.
  • Pozzo waxes poetic about tears and then declares that Lucky has taught him all this.
  • Author Samuel Beckett takes this moment to inform us that all four men are wearing bowler hats.
  • Anyway, Lucky (upon command) takes off his bowler to reveal a ton of white hair. Pozzo then takes off his hat to reveal a bald head.
  • Seeing how old Lucky is, Vladimir is even more disgusted with the treatment he’s receiving.
  • Then they all change the subject again; Pozzo has lost his pipe, and Vladimir exits.
  • Then they all stand around and watch the sky darken. Pozzo wants to sit down, but he can’t manage to do so until Estragon explicitly invites him – twice.
  • He then decides he’d best be going at this hour, though Vladimir counters that "time has stopped."
  • Gogo and Didi start fiddling with their boot and hat again, so neither pay attention when Pozzo starts rambling about the twilight.
  • So he cracks his whip until everyone drops what they’re doing.
  • Pozzo asks Estragon his name and doesn’t listen to the reply, which is "Adam." Then he gets all poetic about the sky. Again.
  • Pozzo asks for feedback on his performance and reveals that his memory is poor.
  • Pozzo says they have been nice to him and he wants to repay them.
  • Estragon suggests ten francs.
  • Vladimir insists that they are not beggars.
  • Estragon suggests five francs.
  • Pozzo decides that his gift will be one of Lucky’s talents: either reciting, singing, dancing, thinking, or other things we don’t get a chance to hear about since Gogo and Didi interrupt.
  • Estragon wants to see him dance, but Vladimir wants to know more about this thinking business. They decide to ask him to dance first and then think.
  • Lucky acquiesces, dancing and doing an encore. Pozzo says that he calls the dance "The Net" because he feels like he’s trapped in a net.
  • Pozzo starts talking but forgets what he was going to say; he asks for help, so all three men (Vladimir, Estragon, and Pozzo) all take off their bowlers and press their hands to their heads in heavy-duty thought.
  • Estragon remembers that the question was about Lucky and why he never puts down his bags. Pozzo says it’s no longer a relevant question since Lucky has put down his bags.
  • Pozzo tells Vladimir to give Lucky his bowler so he can think. Vladimir puts it on top of his head, but from a distance (because of what happened to Estragon and, more specifically, Estragon’s shins).
  • Pozzo then orders Lucky to think. Lucky proceeds to soliloquize, except it’s not so much a soliloquy as a collection of phrases that together amount to nothing.
  • While Lucky "thinks," Vladimir and Estragon alternate between listening raptly and protesting violently, while Pozzo groans in suffering.
  • Finally, when the three men just can’t take it anymore, they tackle Lucky, who despite being assaulted in all directions continues to rhapsodize on essentially nothing.
  • Finally, at Pozzo’s orders, Vladimir takes off Lucky’s hat (which was enabling him to "think") and the man falls silent.
  • Pozzo orders him around in different directions and concludes that Lucky is fit to walk again.
  • Pozzo freaks out because he’s lost his watch (an heirloom); he tries to listen for the sound of ticking, but he hears nothing except what Vladimir explains is the heart (presumably meaning the beating of the heart).
  • Pozzo says that they smell, and Estragon explains that Vladimir has bad breath and he has stinky feet.
  • Pozzo decides it’s time to leave. They bid each other adieu, but no one moves. Then they thank each other, but no one moves.
  • Pozzo says he cannot seem to depart. Estragon replies "Such is life."
  • At that, Pozzo takes a "running start" and leaves stage with Lucky.
  • Didi is glad that the time passed more quickly with Pozzo there, but Estragon counters that it would have passed anyway.
  • Vladimir says that Lucky and Pozzo have changed, but Estragon isn’t sure that he’s met them before. He says that everyone else can change but he and Didi who, incidentally, are still stuck on stage because they are still… waiting for Godot.
  • A boy enters timidly and calls Vladimir "Mister Albert." He has a message from Mr. Godot.
  • They want to know what took him so long, and the Boy replies that he was afraid of the whip, the roars, and the two big men.
  • Estragon says he’s unhappy, and can’t remember when his sadness started.
  • Vladimir wants to know if the Boy is the one who came yesterday. The Boy says no.
  • He then announces that Mr. Godot sent him to tell Vladimir and Estragon that he can’t make it this evening, but he’ll definitely be there the next day.
  • Through his answers to Vladimir’s questions, we find out that the Boy works for Mr. Godot, who doesn’t beat him but does beat his brother. He doesn’t know why.
  • He also doesn’t know if he’s unhappy or not.
  • Vladimir asks the Boy to tell Mr. Godot that he saw them there, but has to affirm with the Boy that, in fact, the Boy did see them. (!?)
  • The Boy agrees and leaves.
  • Night suddenly and quickly falls. As the moon rises, Estragon remarks that it is "pale for weariness […] of climbing heaven and gazing on the likes of us."
  • Estragon is now holding his boots and hand and plans to leave them there for someone with smaller feet. He says he can walk barefoot, like Christ, but Didi berates him for comparing himself to Jesus.
  • The two men take shelter under the tree and wish they had a bit of rope.
  • The men reveal in conversation that they’ve known each other about fifty years; Estragon recalls that one fun time he threw himself into the Rhone (a major river in France and Switzerland).
  • Both of them are cold. Estragon wonders aloud if maybe they wouldn’t have been better off alone, each to fend for himself.
  • They conclude that it isn’t certain, that in fact nothing is certain. They decide to leave, so of course neither of them moves.
  • And the curtain falls on Act 1.

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