- Hardcover: 172 pages
- Publisher: Bloom's Literary Criticism (April 1, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0791097935
- ISBN-13: 978-0791097939
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 289 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,059,771 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, New Edition
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About the Author
Harold Bloom is Sterling Professor of the Humanities at Yale University. He is the author of 30 books, including Shelley's Mythmaking (1959), The Visionary Company (1961), Blake's Apocalypse (1963), Yeats (1970), A Map of Misreading (1975), Kabbalah and Criticism (1975), Agon: Toward a Theory of Revisionism (1982), The American Religion (1992), The Western Canon (1994), and Omens of Millennium: The Gnosis of Angels, Dreams, and Resurrection (1996). The Anxiety of Influence (1973) sets forth Professor Bloom's provocative theory of the literary relationships between the great writers and their predecessors. His most recent books include Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human (1998), a 1998 National Book Award finalist, How to Read and Why (2000), Genius: A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds (2002), Hamlet: Poem Unlimited (2003), Where Shall Wisdom be Found (2004), and Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine (2005). In 1999, Professor Bloom received the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal for Criticism. He has also received the International Prize of Catalonia, the Alfonso Reyes Prize of Mexico, and the Hans Christian Andersen Bicentennial Prize of Denmark.
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The essence of this two act play revolves around two longtime friends by the names of Vladimir and Estragon who are in search of a character called Godot. The reader or theater goer never really knows who Godot is. Is it the search for God? Could be but who knows. Godot could represent anyone or anything.
Beckett gives the impression that Vladimir and Estragon are hobo-like characters who wear bowler's hats and carry on a most nonsensical and repetitious continuing conversation. In fact most of their dialogue is very much like Abbot and Costello's Who's On First. The dialogue goes in circles much like Abbot and Costello.
Also another comedy team comes to mind as I read on in what can only be called a farce of a play dominated by absurd allusions. As Vladimir and Estragon continue with their absurd conversations along comes two other characters which add more speculation into what seems to be like the rabbit in Alice In Wonderland added confusion and wonderment in that rather absurd tale. These characters named Pozzo and Lucky add their own comedic scheme to this rather confusing and jumbled tale. When the seemingly intellectually challenged Lucky, who has the IQ of Rocky Balboa, breaks into an outright intellectual diatribe it made me laugh so hard like I remember when I watched old Laurel and Hardy routines as a young boy.
The play's meaning and plot is an open book. It can mean anything to anybody. It is full of symbolism and begs for a solid debate. To me it represents life and that life in and of itself at times lacks meaning, shows comedy and can be disappointing and hard to really understand. After seeing this play on February 2, 2014 on Broadway I can compare the play to one TV Series that being "Seinfeld" and the classic movie titled "Groundhog's Day." These are the current comparisons but in the end this play represents a mystery for us to interpret. I'll stick with Groundhog's Day!!!
For some reason this play should probably be read and seen multiple times to gain what was in Beckett's mind. I can see why this play is considered a classic. It has all the elements of what the word classic is all about.
Yet while I think this is a spectacular play (one of my personal favorites) it's also a highly intellectual one, so do not pick it up if all you want is a light melodrama.
Too many people forget that this is a PLAY, i.e., something that provides the words for actors on a stage. It is not primarily intended to be read in a book. Unfortunately, this is how most people experience the play, therefore depriving them of most of elements of the performance. Therefore, I am going to make a recommendation for a way of increasing the richness of your performance of the play.
Though an Irishman, Beckett originally wrote the play - as he did with almost all of his works - in French first and then later translated them himself into English (in contrast, Vladimir Nabokov after moving to the United States wrote his books in English, and then translated them into French and Russian, his wife doing the translations into German). The play was originally performed in Paris, while the English-language premiere took place in Ireland. The American debut was not on Broadway, but in Miami, Florida, with Bert Lahr and Tom Ewell.
Instead of merely reading the play, read it while listening to a recording of the original Broadway production of Waiting For Godot, which starred Bert Lahr (best known as the Cowardly Lion in THE WIZARD OF OZ) as Estragon and E. G. Marshall as Vladimir. While you still wouldn't get the visual dimension of the play, hearing the actors bring the characters to life adds new layers to the play that you would never get merely by reading it. Lahr was an unexpected choice to star in the play, given that he wasn't an actor so much as a vaudevillian comedian. His acting style was too over-the-top to be convincing in film (though perfect for the Cowardly Lion); I read somewhere - I don't recall where - that he was more like a cartoon character incarnated than a human. He nonetheless gives a marvelous performance here. Marshall was one of the most distinguished stage actors of his generation and more than holds his own with Lahr while acting as more the straight man.
If you listen to the recording while reading the book, the performance that will most come to life is that of Lucky. I'd read the play 2 or 3 times over the years and seen it once on the stage in which I now realize was a rather tame production, but had not really paid much attention to Lucky. His main contribution was a single, very long speech (not terribly unlike the long speech given by The Fireman in Ionesco's THE BALD SOPRANO in terms of length and its absurdity - a speech that I gave in a college performance of the play). Read on the page it can seem interesting and silly, but hearing the actor (though it wasn't indicated in the recording, Alvin Epstein played Lucky in the original Broadway production and it is almost certainly him here) perform the speech is revelatory. He doesn't say the words so much as shriek, yelp, gasp, bark, and screech them. Hearing Lucky's speech performed by a talented actor transforms your appreciation of both the speech and the play.
This is one of the truly great works of the 20th Century, one of the key plays making up what Martin Esslin dubbed The Theatre of the Absurd, but it is not best experienced by reading it on the page. Try to see it performed instead, or at bare minimum in the Bert Lahr/E. G. Marshall version noted above. You wouldn't think that you had experienced a Bob Dylan song merely by reading the lyrics, and so also you won't experience WAITING FOR GODOT unless you hear or see it performed.
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