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When the curtain goes up, Estragon’s boots are seen on the stage with the heels together and toes apart, Charlie Chaplin-style, next to Lucky’s abandoned bowler hat.
Vladimir enters, putzes about a bit, and sings a cyclical song with no end.
Estragon enters, barefoot.
Vladimir calls for him to come close so they can hug, but Estragon, a.k.a. Mr. Grumpy-pants, basically says, "Don’t touch me!"
Finally, they embrace. Vladimir wants to know who beat Estragon last night. (Apparently, he was beaten.)
Though it seems to be the start of the day, Estragon says that for him, "it’s over and done with, no matter what happens."
The two men try to figure out if they’re better off together or apart. Vladimir said he missed Estragon, but he was happier without him. (Gee, thanks. That’s not only confusing, but probably mean.)
They finally decide, through mutual denial, that they are happy. The question is what to do next, and Vladimir declares that they must wait for Godot.
They then discuss whether things are the same today as they were yesterday. Vladimir thinks all has changed, but Estragon doesn’t seem to remember anything. He suggests that perhaps Vladimir dreamed everything, but he also admits that he himself never remembers anything.
Vladimir tries to remind him of Lucky and Pozzo, whom Estragon vaguely remembers, but not by name.
When Didi asks him whether he remembers this place, Estragon flips out; all his life, he says, he’s been crawling about in the mud—so don’t talk to him about the scenery.
Vladimir tries to remind him of their grape-picking in Macon, but Gogo doesn’t remember that either.
When Estragon suggests that the best thing would be for Vladimir to kill him, Vladimir gets poetic about every man having his own little cross.
The tone continues to darken as the men discuss "all the dead voices" that "make a noise like wings." For these dead voices, the men say, neither life nor death was sufficient. Creepy.
When the men run out of things to say, Vladimir is pained by the silence and demands that Estragon say something.
Estragon declares that if they are thinking, there is that much less misery to deal with.
The men quickly tire of talking (understandable, we think) and move on to taking off and putting back on their hats.
Vladimir directs their attention to the tree. He notices that it has leaves, whereas yesterday it was bare.
Estragon insists that they weren’t there the night before. He can’t remember what they did, but it was probably something pointless. He adds that "there’s no lack of void" (or of useless things for them to have been doing the previous night).
Vladimir reminds him of Lucky and Pozzo and orders Estragon to lift up his pant leg to see the place where Lucky hurt his shin.
Unfortunately, the thought of sitting down doesn’t occur to either man, so while Vladimir pulls up Gogo’s pant leg, he stumbles around and nearly falls.
(Note that Vladimir calls Estragon "Pig," which is the same way Pozzo addresses Lucky in Act 1.)
As if the wound were not enough evidence, Vladimir points to the boots as proof that they were both here yesterday.
But Estragon insists that these boots are not his—they are the wrong color, although he can’t seem to settle either on the color of the present boots or on the color of the boots he had yesterday.
Vladimir, not to be thwarted, reasons that someone must have come by and traded boots. Obviously.
Gogo wants to leave, but Didi reminds him that they need to wait for Godot.
Vladimir appeases Estragon with a radish drawn from what is apparently a magical produce aisle in his pants, though Gogo would have preferred a carrot and dislikes the color of the vegetable in question.
Vladimir declares he will go get a carrot, and then fails to move. He comments that this is becoming "really insignificant" (thanks, Sherlock), but Estragon replies "Not enough."
They decide Estragon should try on the boots to pass the time; Gogo says that they always find something to do to give themselves the impression that they exist.
The two men set to putting the boots on Estragon, but once again fail to have him sit down to do so, which makes for some slapstick hilarity.
Finally, after the boots are on, Estragon sits down and decides to go to sleep.
Vladimir, ever helpful, decides to sing him lullaby. Unfortunately, his idea of a lullaby goes something like this: bye bye bye in the loudest tones imaginable, which isn’t so much soothing as irritating.
Miraculously, after Didi quiets down a bit, Estragon gets to sleep. Vladimir takes off his own jacket and puts it over his sleeping companion. He then has to walk around with exaggerated motion to try to keep himself warm.
Estragon wakes up, terrified from a nightmare. Vladimir comforts him, but absolutely refuses to hear the story of the dream. "Don’t tell me!" he yells. (Sound familiar?)
While Vladimir insists that they must wait for Godot, Estragon decides he’ll leave. He makes a big deal out of telling Didi this, but Vladimir is too concerned with Lucky’s hat, which he has only just now spotted.
Both men then go through a slapstick comedy bit of the two of them trying on hats back and forth so that they’re constantly switching bowlers.
Vladimir decides to keep Lucky’s hat after being told that he looks no more hideous than usual while wearing it. Awesome.
Vladimir again ignores Estragon’s declaration that he’s leaving and suggests that they play at being Lucky and Pozzo. Vladimir will be Lucky and Estragon can play Pozzo.
Great plan, except Vladimir ends up telling Estragon what to do, since he doesn’t remember Lucky and Pozzo.
Estragon has had enough and finally exits stage left, only to immediately return and declare that "they’re coming!"
Vladimir, excited, is sure it must be Godot on his way.
Estragon, however, wants to run away. Vladimir sends him toward the audience, since there is "not a soul in sight" in that direction. Gogo tries hiding behind the tree, only to realize that it’s too thin. This, coupled with the fact that they can’t hang themselves on it effectively, renders the tree completely useless to the two men.
When no one, and especially not Godot, enters the stage, Vladimir concludes that Estragon must have imagined whomever he saw.
Both men start a sentence at the same time and then argue about it, since each wants the other to finish his thought first.
Estragon thinks this is great—abusing each other sounds like a good idea. Then he suggests making up, which they do.
They’ve again run out of activities, so they play at being the tree, which is a super-fun alternative to whatever plans you have for next Saturday night.
While pretending to be the tree, Gogo asks Didi, "Do you think God sees me?"
Vladimir replies, "You must close your eyes."
Since it’s time to mix things up a bit, our dear friends Lucky (with a different hat) and Pozzo enter.
Pozzo is blind, so the rope is shorter (this way Lucky can lead him better).
Upon arrival, Lucky drops everything, falls, and brings Pozzo down with him.
Pozzo starts yelling for help while Vladimir actively ignores him and Estragon repeatedly wonders whether Pozzo is Godot.
Vladimir is excited that these new arrivals will help them hold out in their wait for Godot.
He ponders whether or not to help Pozzo, who is at this point beating the ground with his fists in agony.
He tells Estragon they should bargain with the man, get him to promise to give them another bone before they actually help him up.
But then Vladimir grows suddenly serious; he doesn’t want to waste time with all this frippery.
Instead, he soliloquizes (keep in mind that Pozzo and Lucky are still sprawled on the ground).
Vladimir feels that this is his and Estragon’s chance to act—after all, it isn’t every day they are needed like this. He declares to Gogo that at this moment, "all mankind is us, whether we like it or not."
The question, he says, is what are we doing here?
Fortunately, Vladimir has the answer!
Unfortunately, the answer is that they are waiting for Godot.
He adds that the hours of waiting are long and we pass them by forming habits.
Estragon puts in his two cents: we are all born mad, and some stay that way.
Pozzo is still in misery on the ground and now in desperation offers to pay the two men to help him up.
Vladimir, useless, is still harping on what an opportunity this is for him to be useful.
He finally tries to assist Pozzo in getting up, but falls himself in the process. Of course, he then has to cry out for Estragon to help.
Estragon declares he’s going to leave, but is persuaded to help the men up—until he smells a fart and recoils from the trio on the floor.
Needless to say, Estragon himself falls while trying to assist. Now there are four men on the floor.
Estragon, ever helpful, decides sleep is the answer.
Vladimir kicks Pozzo until the man crawls away.
Gogo and Didi call after him by name, but Pozzo doesn’t respond. They decide that, clearly, this means they have his name wrong. Instead, they should try some different names—like Cain. Or Abel.
Needless to say, neither of those names work, so Estragon and Vladimir get up, needing no help from any other man to do so. Vladimir declares that it was a "simple question of will-power."
So then they look over at Pozzo and wonder why he hasn’t yet gotten up.
They set about assisting Pozzo, who asks what time it is.
Vladimir responds that it’s evening.
Pozzo seems incapable of standing on his own two feet. As to his blindness, he says he simply woke up like that one day.
When Vladimir presses as to when exactly that happened, Pozzo freaks out: the blind, he says, have no conception of time. After he calms down, he asks if this is a place called "the Board."
(Note: The original French for "the Board" is "le plateau" and is a term for the dramatic stage. Apparently "the Board" is also an antiquated dramatist’s term, but it sounds cooler in French.)
The men determine that this can’t be the Board, since there’s a tree.
Pozzo tries to get Estragon to help Lucky; when Vladimir asks him what he’s waiting for, Estragon replies that he’s waiting for… Godot.
Still, Estragon goes over to Lucky. To wake him up, he starts kicking him repeatedly.
This hurts his feet, so he stops.
Vladimir, meanwhile, tries to figure out if this Pozzo is the same Pozzo he met yesterday.
Pozzo isn’t sure; then again, he says, he doesn’t remember anything. In fact, tomorrow, he won’t remember today! He then calls Vladimir a pig, for good measure.
Then he decides to gather up his servant and leave.
Desperate for entertainment before the pair leaves, Vladimir asks Pozzo to command Lucky to sing.
Posh, says Pozzo, Lucky is dumb.
Vladimir, having apparently learned nothing from earlier, asks when this happened.
Of course Pozzo again flips out, declaring that time is irrelevant. One day we’re born, one day we’ll die, who cares.
He then sums up the life of man in one famous line: "They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more."
Pozzo and Lucky leave. Vladimir, obviously lonely, shakes Estragon awake and then again violently refuses to listen to him talk about his dream.
Vladimir wants to talk about Pozzo; he isn’t so convinced that the guy was really blind after all.
Estragon asks if he’s sure that Pozzo wasn’t Godot; the more he affirms this, the less Vladimir believes his initial conviction.
Then Vladimir begins to wonder (while Estragon goes to sleep): "Was I sleeping," he asks himself, "while the others suffered? Am I sleeping now? To-morrow, when I wake, or think I do, what shall I say of today?"
He decides that tomorrow he will likely recount today’s events, but that doesn’t mean there’s any truth in his memories. Even tomorrow, he knows, Estragon will still know nothing, and probably ask for a carrot.
Well, on that note, it sounds like it’s time to wrap things up.
So in the spirit of wrapping things up, the Boy comes onstage and, just like in Act 1, calls Vladimir "Mister Albert."
He then insists that he is not the Boy who came yesterday. He has a message from Mr. Godot: he will not come today, but he will come tomorrow.
Vladimir asks what Godot does; the Boy doesn’t know. But he does reveal that Godot has a white beard.
Vladimir makes a request of the Boy: "Tell [Godot] that you saw me." Then he gets violently angry; he wants to make sure the Boy won’t show up tomorrow and claim he’s never seen him before. He even goes so far as to lunge at the Boy, who dodges him and runs off stage.
The moon rises. Estragon wakes, takes off his boots, and arranges them in the same Charlie Chaplin-esque position on the stage that they were when we started.
He asks Vladimir if they can leave, but Vladimir says no, they have to come back tomorrow and wait for Godot.
Estragon suggests they "drop him," but Vladimir replies that Godot would punish them if they did so.
The two men go back to talking about the tree and how, tomorrow, they should bring a bit of rope with which to hang themselves.
Estragon, who clearly has no patience whatsoever, takes off from his belt loop a bit of chord.
His pants fall down.
The two men pull on the cord to see if it’s strong enough to hang themselves; it breaks immediately.
Vladimir smooths over the situation by insisting they will hang themselves tomorrow, unless Godot comes, in which case they will be saved.
Vladimir tells Estragon to pull up his trousers, which until now he didn’t even realize were down.