Waiting for Godot By Samuel Beckett Summary and Analysis Act I: Lucky's Dance and Speech

Lucky's dance is merely a clumsy shuffling, which is a complete disappointment to Vladimir and Estragon. Thus they decide to have Lucky think. They give him his hat, and after protesting Pozzo's brutality, they arrange themselves for Lucky's performance of thinking. It takes the form of a long, seemingly incoherent speech. The speech is delivered as a set piece, yet it is anything but a set piece. Under different directors, this scene can be variously played. For example, Lucky most often speaks directly to the audience with the other characters at his back, while Vladimir and Estragon become more and more agitated as the speech progresses. Often Vladimir and Estragon run forward and try to stop Lucky from continuing his speech. As they try to stop Lucky, he delivers his oration in rapid-fire shouts. At times, Pozzo pulls on Lucky's rope, making it even more difficult for him to continue with his speech. The frenzied activity on the stage, the rapid delivery of the speech, and the jerking of the rope make it virtually impossible to tell anything at all about the speech and, consequently, emphasize the metaphysical absurdity of the entire performance. Lucky's speech is an incoherent jumble of words which seems to upset Vladimir and Estragon, for sporadically both rise to protest some element of the speech. Therefore, the speech does communicate something to the two tramps or else they would not know to protest. The form of the speech is that of a scholarly, theological address, beginning "Given the existence . . . of a personal God," but it is actually a parody of this kind of address since the nonsensical and the absurd elements are in the foreground and the meaningful aspects of it are totally obscured, as is the God whom Lucky discusses. Here, we have a combination of the use of scholastic, theological terminology along with the absurd and the nonsensical. For example, the use of qua (a Latin term meaning "in the function or capacity of") is common in such scholarly addresses, but Lucky's repetition of the term as quaquaquaqua creates an absurd, derisive sound, as though God is being ridiculed by a quacking or squawking sound. Furthermore, the speech is filled with various academic sounding words, some real words like aphasia (a loss of speech; here it refers to the fact that God from his divine heights now has divine aphasia or a divine silence) and some words like apathia or athambia which do not exist (even though apathia is closely aligned to apathy and thus becomes another oblique comment on the apathy of God in the universe). Other absurd terms are used throughout the speech, and there is also a frequent use of words which sound obscene, interspersed throughout the speech. As an example, the names of the scholars Fartov and Belcher are obviously created for their vulgarity.

Therefore, the speech is filled with more nonsense than sense — more that is illogical than that which is logical. If, however, we remove the illogical modifiers, irrelevancies, and incomprehensible statements and place them to the side, the essence of the speech is as follows:

THE ESSENCE OF LUCKY'S SPEECH

"Given [acknowledging] the existence . . .

of a personal God ...

[who exists] outside [of]

time . . .

[and] who . . .

loves us dearly . . .

and [who] suffers . . .

with those who . . .

are plunged in torment . . .

it is established beyond all doubt . . .

that man . . .

that man . . .

for reasons unknown . . .

for reasons unknown . . .

for reasons unknown . . .

[our] labors abandoned left unfinished . . .

abandoned unfinished . . .

Lucky's speech is an attempt, however futile, to make a statement about man and God. Reduced to its essence, the speech is basically as follows:

acknowledging the existence of a personal God, one who exists outside of time and who loves us dearly and who suffers with those who are plunged into torment, it is established beyond all doubt that man, for reasons unknown, has left his labors abandoned, unfinished.

It is significant that the speech ends at this point because man can make certain assumptions about God and create certain hypotheses about God, but man can never come to a logical conclusion about God. One must finish a discourse about God, as Lucky did, by repeating "for reasons unknown . . . for reasons unknown . . . for reasons unknown . . . ." And equally important is the fact that any statement made about God is, by its nature, lost in a maze of irrelevance, absurdity, and incoherence — without an ending. Therefore, man's final comment about God can amount to nothing more than a bit of garbled noise which contains no coherent statement and no conclusion. Furthermore, Lucky's utterances are stopped only after he is physically overpowered by the others.

After the speech, Pozzo tiles to revive Lucky, who is emotionally exhausted, completely enervated by his speech. After great difficulty, Pozzo gets Lucky up, and amid protracted adieus, he begins to go, albeit he begins to go the wrong way. Pozzo's inability to leave suggests man's reliance upon others and his natural instinct to cling to someone else. But with one final adieu, Pozzo and Lucky depart.

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