M.A English Part 2 Notes | Waiting For Godot Notes
Question : Bring out the humour of the play, Waiting for Godot.
Write a note on the comic and farcical elements in waiting for Godot.
Answer : A play abounding in comic situations and comic dialogue. In spite or its serrous concern, Waiting for Godot is a funny play. There is no doubt that, in writing this play Beckett was dealing with the "human condition" which is a serious matter. But Beckett treated his serious theme in an apparently light-hearted manner. Beckett himself aptly caned his playa tragicomedy and one of the critics has used the phrase "tragic farce" for it. It is undoubtedly an amusing play that abounds in comic situations and comic dialogue The two principal characters in the play Estragon and Vladimir have aptly been compared by a critic to the famous Hollywood comedians of the nineteen thirties-namely Laurel and Hardy. Quite a few of the actions and antics of the two tramps are reminiscent of those comic actors.
A noteworthy feature pertaining to the comic character of this play is that its humour is entirely of the unconscious kind. There is no conscious humour in the play in other words, none or the characters consciously tries to amuse the audience either by his movements and actions or by his remarks and comments'. Although much of the humour is borrowed from the circus and the music hall the character here do not make a deliberate effort to make the audience laugh. The circus clown makes all conscious effort to arouse mirth by him antics, •and the music hall comedians take pains to amuse the audience by their dialogue known as "cross-talk". But the characters in this play are not at all conscious humorists or comedians; they are not even conscious of the fact that their actions or their dialogue would appear funny to the audience; nor are these characters witty in the sense of trying to make the listeners laugh by clever remarks.
The Comedy of Situation
Many of the actions and movements of Estragon and Vladimir are comic. The play opens with Estragon's repeated efforts to take off one of his boots. Estragon is seen pulling at his boot with both hand panting. Then he given up the effort, feeling exhausted, rests for a moment, and tries again. He gives up the effort again and says "Nothing to done." Eventually he does succeed in pulling off his boot with a supreme effort, but the whole process is one that amuses the audience This situation becomes even more amusing when Vladimir is seen taking off his hat, peering inside it, feeling about 'inside it, shaking it, and putting it on again. The cinema comedians, Laurel and Hardy, used to have a lot of trouble with their boots and hats, and the opening situation here therefore reminds- us or them. Neither Estragon nor Vladimir knowingly tries to make the audience laugh; what each of them does is done in the natural course; but the effect of what they both do is to amuse us. In Act II the two tramps try different hats on their heads several times, the whole elaborate exercise of changing or exchanging hats being undoubtedly comic. At one point in Act I three characters. Estragon, Vladimir and Pozzo try to recollect a question that was asked by one of them a few' moments earlier and, in .their efforts to recollect it, all three take off their hats simultaneously, press their hands to their foreheads, and concentrate.
At the end of this exercise, Estragon triumphantly claims to have recollected the question which he himself had asked, namely why Lucky did not put down the bags he was carrying. AH this is really funny. Again, when lucky is delivering his half-sensible and half-nonsensical monologue and. will not stop, Pozzo calls to the two tramps to snatch away Lucky's hat. Vladimir seizes Lucky's that, whereupon Lucky's mind stops functioning and Lucky stops talking. This too is a comic situation because Lucky could think only with his hat on his head and his thinking faculty becomes paralysed as soon as the hat is snatched away from him. Some of the fun in this play is due also to the various characters stumbling and falling down. When Estragon pulls up his trousers in order to see the wound he suffered because of Lucky's kick, i.e. staggers. As Vladimir holds Estragon's leg they both stagger. A little later Vladimir tries to help Estragon to put on his boots, and both of them stagger about the stage for a couple of moments, Later the two tramps.stagger again, when they try to "do the tree, for the balance." Still later when Pozzo has fallen down the tramps try to help him but themselves fall down one after the other. We are told here that Vladimir tries to pull Pozzo to his feet, fails, tries again, stumbles, falls, tries to get up, and fails. All the three are seen together in a heap on the ground, and Vladimir at that time announces. "We are men." It is amusing also to find Estragon approaching Lucky to sympathise with ,Lucky's wretchedness and being kicked by Lucky in the shins. Later, when Estragon tries to take his revenge by kicking Lucky, he hurts his foot and moves away, limping and groaning.
Then there is the attempted suicide of the two tramps. A suicide is a tragic matter, but here it is made to appear-comic. At the very outset Estragon suggests that the two friends should hang themselves immediately from a bough, but the idea is given up because the bough does not seem to be strong enough. Later, the idea of suicide is revived but now the tramps find that they do not have a bit of rope. Towards the end of the play Estragon says that they can bring a good bit of rope on the following, day in order to hang themselves, because Estragon s belt with which they wanted to hang themselves has ploved too short. The attempted but abortive suicide is funny because of the very incompetence of the two tramps. Yet another action of the two tramps which amuses us is that at the end of both the Acts they announce their decision to leave but they remain standing and do not move at all.
The Humour or Dialogue
Many of the remarks made by the two tramps are amusing, though here again the tramps do not consciously say anything to amuse us. For instance, at the very out set, Vladimir asks where "His Highness", meaning Estragon, spent the night and Vladimir replies that he .spent the night in a ditch. The incongruity of a man who has been referred to as, His Highness", spending the night in a ditch amuses us. And we feel even more amused when we learn that His Highness was beaten as usual by the same lot of persons (although there is something pathetic about these beatings also). Soon afterwards Vladimir asks Estragon if his boots hurt him, and Estragon expresses his misery by saying: "Hurts! He wants to know if it hurts! Estragon speaks as if he were addressing not Vladimir but an imaginary audience. When Estragon, a moment later, asks Vladimir if his ailment namely a weak bladder, hurts him, Vladimir repeats the words which previously Estragon had spoken: "Hurts! He wants to know if it hurts!" Then Estragon advises Vladimir to button his fly, and Vladimir complies, saying: "True. Never neglect the little things of life." When the two friends have embraced affectionately, Estragon shrinks from Vladimir, saying: "You stink of garlic," to which Vladimir replies that he takes garlic for his kidneys. When Vladimir says that they should wait for Godot till they know their exact situation, Estragon says: "On the other hand it might be better to strike the iron before it freezes," thus giving a twist to a well known proverb. Speaking to Pozzo, Estragon explains that he has stinking feet while his friend Vladimir has a stinking breath. All such remarks contribute to the unconscious humour of the play. Lucky's monologue has tragic implications but the manner of its delivery and its general incoherence and prolixity produce a comic effect.
Even more humorous than all these examples are the bit of dialogue which may be described as cross-talk and which is characteristic of the English music hall. A couple or examples of the kind of humour this cross-talk produces may here be given. At one point the two friends, discussing the possibility or Godot arriving and helping them, exchange thefcfollowing comments on the imagined benefactor. Vladimir has just said that Godot promised to think the matter over, and then we get the following dialogue between the tramps:
In the quiet of his home.
Consult his family.
His bank account.
Before taking a decision.
It the normal thing.
The play closes with the following dialogue:
Well? Shall we go?
Pull on your trousers.
Pull on your trousers.
You want me to pull off my trousers.
Pull ON your trousers.
Well? Shall we go?
Yes, let's go. (They do not move).
There are several other bits of dialogue of the same variety. When the two friends decide to pass their time by means or "exercises" they alternately use the following words: "our movement", "our elevations", "our relaxations", "our elongations". When they decide to abuse each other, they employ the following expressions: "moron", "vermin", "abortion", "morpion", "sewerrat", "curate", "critic", All this is surely funny.