Vladimir (Didi), Estragon (Gogo), Pozzo, and Lucky
France: In Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett: 1952/ 1954)
A timeless, clownesque country somewhere out of this world. Four characters in symmetry with two-syllable names. Acts and actions that repeat, more or less. Performers performing for the sake of performance, spectators watching spectators, and all of it in order to pass the time while waiting for a last routine and an ultimate clown. But neither will ever come, and everyone is forever condemned to another repetition. So goes Godot.
Paris, after World War II, was a fertile proving ground for literature as experiment. In the theater this was aptly described by a terminological fusion of science and art known as the "laboratory." Inventive playwrights like Samuel Beckett, Arthur Adamov, Jean Genet, and Eugene Ionesco, each writing for himself, testing out alternatives in solitude, were nevertheless manifestly together in writing against the conventional French drama, naturalist, historical, or boulevard.
Their plays, which we call with hindsight "avant-garde," "absurd," or even "antitheater," made of the stage " a place of the new real," in Antonin Artaud's term. In the wake of the visions of revolution and renewal set forth in Artaud The Theater and Its Double ( 1938/ 1958), the death knell of realistic presentation rang loudly. Finished was the psychology that reduced the unknown to the known, finished were identifiable situations, and, finally, finished were familiar characterizations. From this point on, as Robbe-Grillet would later say about Godot, the dramatic character's only purpose was being there, "pure presence."