EN 2220 – Drama
March 20, 2013
Waiting for Godot
WWII- the most effective and overwhelming demonstration of human self-
destructive nature. The enormous human and material loss, endless stories of
brutality and a sense of hopelessness for human kind.
Connections with a Doll’s House, and with a Servant of Two Masters.
Second World War was worse than the fist.
Holocaust, Stalin’s mass murderers of political opponents and basic destruction
of the moral fiber of the society – posed questions to many intellectuals and
artists of the meaning of human race. All the structure that kept a sense of order
– religion, government, education, science – failed to contextualize WWII in any
meaningful way. Of course there were and political explanations – but they fell
short in giving an overall explanation for what happened.
Similarly to Berthold Brecht after WWII - who found hope in creating a new
socially conscious theater (Epic Theater), Beckett was responding to the
catastrophe of WWII and created a theater that went beyond such hope.
Theater context – The history of 20th century Theater is an endless process of
experimentation. Many artists found themselves unhappy with the state of theater
– realism and especially frilly musicals, melodramas and other genres inherited
from the 19th century just did not fit the world post WWII.
Some movements – Expressionism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Symbolism, Epic
Theatre, Futurism, Biomechanics, etc. are all attempts by various artists to
answer the demand of the new age, something compelling. Seemingly they have
little in common- but some traits are shared- militant antirealism, lack of
psychological cause and effect dynamic, exaggeration, irrationally.
All these traits were to a greater or lesser degree part of the methods
experimental theater used in order to explain, shock, and change the world.
Ideologies were varied as well – in contrast to centuries of debates about the
educational vs. entertainment value of drama we have a chaos of concepts that
clash and penetrate the highest order of commercial consumerist theater.
Samuel Beckett was extremely well educated, studied languages at the Trinity
College in Dublin. Lectured at Ecole Normale Supieure in Paris. Met James
Joyce and other important Irish Poets. Assisted Joyce in research for Finnegan’s
Wake. The two later fell out over Beckett’s relationship with Joyce’s daughter.
By the 1930’s, he has stated publishing poems, short stories (More Picks than
Kicks) and his first novel Murphy. Traveled in Germany in 1936 – where he
observed the Nazi Regime and its treatment of art particularly. In 1938 he was
stabbed in Paris by a pimp who could not explain why he stabbed him. In 1940
he joined the French resistance as a courier. (Nazi resistance group)