Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot: A Reference Guide

Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot: A Reference Guide

Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot: A Reference Guide

Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot: A Reference Guide

Synopsis

No modern play in the western dramatic tradition has provoked as much controversy or generated as much diversity of opinion as Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. Since its initial production in 1953, it has revolutionized the stage through its existentialism and apparent rejection of plot. This book is a valuable introduction to the play. It begins with a summary of the play and its origins and editions. It then explores the play's meaning and the historical and intellectual contexts informing Beckett's work. The book then examines Beckett's dramatic art and gives full coverage of the play's performance history. A bibliographical essay surveys the most important critical studies.

Excerpt

Over a half century ago, theatergoers and readers began waiting for Godot to come. In theaters throughout the world and in reading venues too numerous to count, they also began arguing about the play's meaning, its strangeness, and the ways in which it confounds conventional expectations even as it fascinates, perplexes, and provokes. Sometimes the arguments take place in theater lobbies after a performance or on the way home after the play; sometimes they occur in classrooms, and sometimes they occur in print. This volume is a chronicle of those arguments and ongoing discussions—and a guide for the perplexed.

Since the beginnings of Western drama in ancient Greece in the fifth century B.C., three plays have generated more diverse interpretations, raised more profound questions, captivated more audiences' imaginations, and provoked more arguments than any others—or even, quite possibly, more than all others combined. The first, Sophocles' Oedipus Rex (also known as Oedipus Tyrannus or Oedipus the King), was written in the fifth century B.C. in ancient Athens; the second, William Shakespeare's Hamlet, was first performed in London circa 1602; the third is Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, which had its premiere in a very small theater in Paris in 1953. Each of these plays has a seemingly endless ability to fascinate—and to perplex—its audiences, in part because its plot raises questions for which there can be no easy answers or final resolutions: Did Oedipus have free will in taking the actions that he did, even when he unknowingly killed his father? Or was his fate entirely determined or predestined by the gods? Is Prince Hamlet mad, or is he not? Is the ghost that he sees real, or is it . . .

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