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ACT SUMMARIES WITH NOTES - Waiting for Godot
The play opens on a desolate and strange road. It has the feel of a country road, but something about it is bizarre and otherworldly. A ditch and a leafless tree constitute the bare essentials of this wasted roadside landscape.
Estragon, an apparently homeless tramp, is sitting on the ground desperately trying to pull his boots off his feet. One foot is apparently swollen and sore, and he struggles in vain. His companion, Vladimir, joins him. The two tramps are delighted to see each other, apparently after having been separated. Estragon tells Vladimir that he spent last night in the ditch after being severely beaten by "the same lot as usual". The two men seem to be in extremely pitiful condition and have no one in the world but each other. Estragon returns to the task of removing his boots, and complains bitterly about his foot. On the other hand, Vladimir complains about their lot in life. He muses aloud that their days of respectability are a thing of past. Estragon, who also goes by the name Gogo, finally succeeds in pulling off his boot. Vladimir, also known as Didi, plays with his hat and mentions his chronic urinary infection.
Vladimir's thoughts turn to the Bible and various quotes and stories he cannot quite remember. Estragon says he can only remember a map of the Holy Land. He tells Vladimir the very look of the pale blue Dead Sea in the map had made him thirsty. Vladimir remembers quite a bit more, however sketchy. He recalls the story of the two thieves on the cross with Christ. He remarks that only one of the two thieves was saved. Vladimir seems interested in philosophical talk, but his companion seems unable to maintain a conversation about anything abstract.
The tramps are waiting for someone named Godot. They are not certain this is the arranged meeting place, nor are they certain of the time of the meeting. All they know is that the meeting is to take place by a tree, and this is the only tree around; and the meeting was supposed to be Saturday, and they think this is Saturday. They talk about going, but remain in their place by the tree. Estragon falls asleep for a time, then wakes wanting to share his dreams with Vladimir, who is not interested. Estragon then wants to tell Vladimir a joke about a drunk Englishman, and Vladimir gets annoyed. Later, they reconcile and hug each other. They decide out of boredom to hang themselves from the bough of the tree. They argue over who will hang first. They decide that since Vladimir is heavier, he might break the branch. But if Estragon hangs himself first, being lighter, then Vladimir is unsuccessful in his attempt to hang, he will be left alone in the world. Their talk of hanging dissipates as they continue to wait for Godot.
The two men recall that Godot is coming to answer some question they have posed to him, but neither can remember what the question is. In fact, neither really remembers who Godot is. Still, they are committed to waiting to see what Godot has to say. They begin to speak of their bondage to Godot since they are forced to wait for his answer. A slight sound alerts them to someone's approach.
Pozzo and Lucky enter. Pozzo is apparently a master, and Lucky is his slave. Lucky wears a rope around his neck, and Pozzo holds the other end of it. Pozzo also carries a whip. Poor Lucky is loaded down with luggage and Pozzo's constant jerking on the rope makes him stumble and fall. Estragon asks Vladimir if this is Godot. Pozzo introduces himself and asks who Godot is, but the two men cannot explain.
Meanwhile, Lucky has fallen asleep on the ground. Pozzo jerks him awake and asks for his food. Lucky sets up a small picnic for Pozzo, who proceeds to eat chicken and wine. While he is eating, Lucky again falls asleep. Estragon and Vladimir feel sorry for Lucky, noticing he has developed sores around his neck from the constant rubbing of the rope. They try to talk to him about his condition, but are stopped by Pozzo, who says Lucky is happy being his slave. Pozzo magnanimously gives his chicken bones to Estragon, who has begged for them. This begging embarrasses Vladimir. After finishing his meal, Pozzo lights a pipe and mentions he might sell Lucky at the fair. Lucky begins to weep and Estragon tries to comfort him. Lucky responds by kicking Estragon in the legs.
Pozzo instructs Lucky to dance and entertain the two tramps as a way of thanking them for their company. The dance is a silly awkward piece of amusement that is not very good. Next, Pozzo offers to let Lucky "think" for his audience. To do so, he has to put on his hat. Didi cautiously places the fallen hat on his head. Pozzo pulls the rope and the slave begins a long stream of unconnected and incomprehensible thoughts. It is disoriented; unintelligible rambling that is painful to listen to. Finally, to stop him from continuing the nonsense. Estragon and Vladimir remove his hat. He falls to the ground and there is silence at last. Pozzo and Lucky leave.
The two tramps are happy to have passed the time with this silliness, but they soon become restless. A messenger boy approaches. He tells them Godot will not be coming today, but he will probably come tomorrow. The boy explains that he works for Godot, who owns goats and sheep. The boy tells the two that Godot treats his goatherd very well, but beats his shepherd. He leaves. Estragon begins to complain about his sore foot again. The two decide to leave, but do not go. The act ends with the line "Let's go" and the words "They do not move".