"Waiting for Godot": Is it useful to consider this play a comedy?

Essay by ttoledoCollege, UndergraduateA+, December 2006

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"Waiting for Godot" is a particularly funny play revolving around two seemingly homeless men who are waiting for someone named Godot who, in no uncertain terms, will never arrive. There are multiple scenes revolving around the characters, particularly Estragon and Vladimir, acting out as clowns and being nonsensical, that appear to be fabricated with the sole purpose of invoking laughter. Undoubtedly, Waiting for Godot can be considered a comedy. However, the play is a prominent example of the group of plays considered of the theatre of the absurd genre. Considering this, and what the theatre of the absurd stands for (acknowledged or not), it can be said that while Waiting for Godot is a comedy, it is not necessarily useful to consider it as such.

It is useful to examine many plays as comedies, if for nothing else than to apply theories to them to further analyze exactly why we, as human beings, laugh.

Waiting for Godot is not one of them because none of the theories of comedy apply to it. The excerpts from Esslin's book outlines the traditions typically associated with the theatre of the absurd, and Beckett's play clear lies within the limits. He quotes Ionesco in his introduction as saying "Absurd is what which is devoid of purpose... Cut off from his religious, metaphysical, and transcendental roots, man is lost; all his actions become senseless, absurd, useless." and this conveys the play's premise; Estragon and Vladimir continue to do things with no stated or assumable purpose other than to pass the time. They are constantly anticipating nightfall, simply because it marks the end of the day that they have spent doing nothing other than waiting. While it is known that the theatre of the absurd does not claim to be conscious of its...