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Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot And Tony Kushner’s Angels In America

1648 words - 7 pages

At first glance, Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Tony Kushner’s Angels in America appear to serve as two individual exercises in the absurd. Varying degrees of the fantastical and bizarre drives the respective stories, and their respective conclusions hardly serve as logical resolutions to the questions that both Beckett and Kushner’s characters pose throughout the individual productions. Rather than viewing this abandonment of reality as the destination of either play, it should be seen as a method used by both Beckett and Kushner to force the audience to reconsider their preconceived notions when understanding the deeper emotional subtext of the plays. By presenting common and relatable situations such as love, loss, and the ways in which humans deal with change and growth, in largely unrecognizable packaging, Kushner and Beckett are able to disarm their audience amidst the chaos of the on stage action. Once the viewer’s inclination to make assumptions is stripped by the fantastical elements of either production, both playwrights provide moments of emotional clarity that the audience is forced to distill, analyze, and ultimately, comprehend on an individual level.
From the moment that the curtain rises, Waiting for Godot assumes an unmistakably absurdist identity. On the surface, little about the plot of the play seems to suggest that the actions seen on stage could or would ever happen. At the very least, the process of waiting hardly seems like an ideal focus of an engaging and entertaining production. Yet it is precisely for this reason that Beckett’s tale of two men, whose only discernable goal in life is to wait for a man known simply as Godot, is able to connect with the audience’s emotions so effectively. Often, there is little on stage that captivates; the setting is bleak, the interactions are repetitive and largely irrelevant to the plot, and the actual occurrence of significant actions is infrequent. Much of this passivity is a result of Beckett’s decision to eschew basic narrative convention and ignore the conflict-resolution format that most stories assume. There is conflict, but certainly not in the conventional sense. Vladimir and Estragon spend much of the play embroiled in verbal conflict, but it is largely irrelevant and circuitous. There is no change in tone between their discussion about boots and their discussion about committing suicide, suggesting that neither Vladimir nor Estragon possesses a fully developed level of emotional comprehension (p. 8). In a broader sense, the only conflict that exists outside of petty arguing between characters is the process of waiting for the arrival of Godot. Much like the characters and setting, this conflict appears largely incomplete. There is never a sense that the predicament of waiting for Godot will ever be resolved; both Vladimir and Estragon make it clear that they know nothing about Godot, yet will continue to wait for him, unfailingly, until his...

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