Waiting for Godot
by Samuel Beckett
Where It All Goes Down
A country road, over the span of two nights. Unknown time and place.
We are never really sure whether act one and act two take place in the same location, other than the fact that Beckett describes it as such in the stage directions. We also don’t know what lies offstage, since Vladimir and Estragon are always forced back onto the stage in some form or another. Depending on the design of a production, the set is more or less ornate. Sometimes there is literally nothing else onstage than the actors and the tree. The effect of Beckett’s minimally described set is that we have absolutely no idea where Vladimir and Estragon are either in time or in place. The past? The future? Earth? An imaginary place in one of their heads? We just don’t know. It’s almost like uncertainty is a main theme in the play and we as the audience experience it the same way Vladimir and Estragon do.
Also note the fact that the two men are on a road together. Where does this road lead? Again, we don’t know. But it might as well be nowhere since it becomes rather clear that Estragon and Vladimir aren’t making any progress along it. This is sad. Possibly even comically tragic.
The presence of the tree and a rock of some sort is apparently important, at least according to Beckett – the setting, he says, is complete with animal, vegetable, and mineral. This lends a high sense of contrivance to the play. We’ve already seen the meta-fictional quality of Waiting for Godot in certain key lines (like Pozzo’s question of whether or not this is the Board, or stage), so this sort of artificiality fits right in. Having all three elements present – animal, vegetable, and mineral – would seem to suggest that the world of Waiting for Godot is a complete one. Nothing is missing, everything is present, and yet still the world is barren and empty. Still the world is without purpose because characters fail to provide it with meaning through their actions.