VLADIMIR It hurts? ESTRAGON (angrily) Hurts! He wants to know if it hurts! VLADIMIR (angrily) No one ever suffers but you. I don't count. I'd like to hear what you'd say if you had what I have. ESTRAGON It hurts? VLADIMIR (angrily) Hurts! He wants to know if it hurts! ESTRAGON (pointing) You might button it all the same. VLADIMIR (stooping) True. (He buttons his fly.) Never neglect the little things of life. (1.24-30)
Estragon and Vladimir both have a case of chronic pain. Again, when we see the play as an allegory, it is a statement that pain is a necessary part of the human condition.
VLADIMIR You're not unhappy? (The Boy hesitates.) Do you hear me? BOY Yes Sir. VLADIMIR Well? BOY I don't know, Sir. VLADIMIR You don't know if you're unhappy or not? BOY No Sir. (1.803-8)
Much of the suffering in Waiting for Godot is the result of uncertainty.
VLADIMIR And they didn't beat you? ESTRAGON Beat me? Certainly they beat me. VLADIMIR The same lot as usual? ESTRAGON The same? I don't know. (1.12-15)
Waiting for Godot presents suffering as a regular, expected part of daily life.
VLADIMIR A running sore! ESTRAGON It's the rope. VLADIMIR It's the rubbing. ESTRAGON It's inevitable. (1.348-51)
Estragon literally says that chafing is inevitable when you’ve got a rope around your neck. But he also makes the point, whether intentionally or not, that suffering is inevitable. For everyone.
Vladimir breaks into a hearty laugh which he immediately stifles, his hand pressed to his pubis, his face contorted. VLADIMIR One daren't even laugh any more. (1.45-6)
That Vladimir feels pain when he laughs is a cruel joke, but representative of the play’s nature as a tragicomedy. Tragicomedy should mean a marriage of the tragic and the comic, but Waiting for Godot goes one step further in suggesting that the tragedy (in this case, the pain) is the result of the comedy (in this case, Vladimir’s laughter).
POZZO (groaning, clutching his head). I can't bear it . . . any longer . . . the way he goes on . . . you've no idea . . . it's terrible . . . he must go . . . (he waves his arms) . . . I'm going mad . . . (he collapses, his head in his hands) . . . I can't bear it . . . any longer . . . (1.471)
Pozzo’s character makes the case that suffering is self-imposed. He is upset by Lucky’s predicament, a situation of his own making.
POZZO (Lyrically) The tears of the world are a constant quantity. […] (He laughs.) Let us not then speak ill of our generation, it is not any unhappier than its predecessors. (Pause.) (1.461)
Pozzo would try to ignore suffering because it has always existed. Unfortunately, this sort of rationale leads to men like Pozzo treating men like Lucky the way that, well, the way that Pozzo treats Lucky.
POZZO He used to dance the farandole, the fling, the brawl, the jig, the fandango and even the hornpipe. He capered. For joy. Now that's the best he can do. Do you know what he calls it? ESTRAGON The Scapegoat's Agony. VLADIMIR The Hard Stool. POZZO The Net. He thinks he's entangled in a net. (1.589-92)
Note that Lucky only thinks himself entangled in a net; this is another piece of evidence for the argument that suffering is self-imposed.
ESTRAGON I'm unhappy. VLADIMIR Not really! Since when? ESTRAGON I'd forgotten. (1.766-8)
Waiting for Godot argues that suffering is the constant and eternal condition of man.
VLADIMIR Say you are, even if it's not true. ESTRAGON What am I to say? VLADIMIR Say, I am happy. ESTRAGON I am happy. VLADIMIR So am I. ESTRAGON So am I. VLADIMIR We are happy. ESTRAGON We are happy. (Silence.) What do we do now, now that we are happy? (2.42-9)
Vladimir and Estragon try to fake happiness, only to find that the label "happy" is as meaningless as, well, just about everything else in the play.
VLADIMIR You must be happy too, deep down, if you only knew it. (2.38)
This reinforces the problem with doubt; the men can’t be happy until they are sure they are happy. Since, as Estragon so eloquently says, "nothing is certain," it follows that the men can never be happy.