Summary and Analysis
Act I: Arrival of Pozzo and Lucky
As Vladimir and Estragon sit in peaceful resignation to their condition, a loud cry destroys the quietness and terrifies them. They immediately run to hide, huddling together and "cringing away from the menace." Suddenly Pozzo and Lucky arrive on the scene. Lucky has a rope around his neck and is being driven forward by Pozzo, who is brandishing a whip. This sudden, surprise entrance lacks only the flair of a drum roll and a band to give the entrance a highly theatrical, circus atmosphere. In the same way that Vladimir and Estragon are parodies of the circus clown or burlesque tramp, we now have the appearance of a character resembling a circus ringmaster and his trained animal. Throughout this scene, circus imagery is used to suggest that life itself can be seen as a circus, and one which will soon be brought to an abrupt end.
Vladimir and Estragon are in awe of' the forceful manner in which Pozzo seems to be in control of Lucky; he seems to absolutely dominate the poor creature. Noting his omnipotence and authority, they inquire about the possibility of this man's being Godot. The mere fact that they have to ask, however, emphasizes their ignorance about the identity and true nature of Godot, the entity whom they are waiting for. They can't even explain Godot to Pozzo:
VLADIMIR: . . . he's a kind of acquaintance.
ESTRAGON: Personally, I wouldn't even know him if' I saw him.
Throughout the scene, Pozzo conducts himself not only as a ringmaster, but also as a person far superior to the two tramps whom he condescends to spend some time with, even though he barely recognizes them as belonging to the same species. Furthermore, Vladimir and Estragon recognize Pozzo's seeming superiority and are dutifully obeisant to him, even after they discover that he is not Godot.
With the arrival of Pozzo and Lucky, we see how two people are physically tied to each other. Estragon and Vladimir are tied to each other by abstract bonds and also by their common act of waiting for Godot, but Lucky is literally and physically tied to Pozzo. And whereas Vladimir and Estragon are waiting, Pozzo and Lucky seem to be going — but where they are going is not stated.
After denying all knowledge of Godot, Pozzo magnanimously decides to rest for awhile. Even though Vladimir and Estragon are terribly inferior to him, Pozzo recognizes that they are "human beings none the less . . . of the same species as Pozzo! Made in God's image!" Thus, Pozzo recognizes these clowns (tramps) as belonging to the same species, albeit they are very imperfect specimens of the species, and he condescends to rest because he has been traveling for six hours without seeing a soul.
After rather elaborate preparations for settling himself, involving his ordering Lucky to set up a stool and picnic, Pozzo sits down to enjoy a meal of chicken and wine. Vladimir and Estragon begin an investigation of Lucky. Pozzo had earlier called the poor fellow "pig" and "hog." Vladimir, in particular, is appalled by Pozzo's treatment of Lucky and is quick to discover a running sore on Lucky's neck. The two conclude that Lucky is a "halfwit ... a cretin." The irony here lies in the levels of humanity which Estragon and Vladimir fail to grasp — that is, Lucky is very much like Pozzo, and he is also very much like the tramps; he is a member of the same species, and his predicament emphasizes the essential oneness of us all.
After Pozzo has finished eating his chicken, Estragon notices the bones lying in the ditch and, to Vladimir's embarrassment, asks Pozzo if he can have the bones. Pozzo refers the matter to Lucky since Lucky has the first right to the bones. Lucky, however, ignores all the questions, and Estragon receives the bones. Meanwhile, Vladimir continues to be shocked by Pozzo's treatment of Lucky. He tries to express his horror over the situation only to be ignored. Vladimir wants to leave, but he is reminded that they must meet Godot.
Pozzo justifies his treatment of Lucky by maintaining that Lucky wants to impress him with his ability to carry things; yet, in reality, Lucky is very bad in that capacity. A basis of any relationship can be seen in Pozzo and Lucky's relationship, where one person has a desire to dominate and command and the other person craves to be dominated and to be a slave. Pozzo points out that the reverse could have easily been true — that he could have been, in other chance situations, Lucky's slave.
As Lucky begins to weep upon hearing that he might be sold at the fair and that the world would be a better place without him ("the best thing would be to kill . . . such creatures"), Pozzo notes that tears in themselves are not unusual: "The tears of the world are a constant quality. For each one who begins to weep, somewhere else another stops." Basically, for Beckett, the misery of human existence will always exist, and man must learn to live with his tears and his misery. For example, when Estragon tries to wipe away Lucky's tears, Lucky rewards him with a tremendous kick in the shins.
Estragon, Pozzo, and Vladimir talk in circles with images of the circus and the music hall dominating their conversation. Pozzo, feeling the need of leaving if he is to keep on his schedule, undertakes a lyrical explanation of "what our twilights can do." His recitation goes from lyrical enthusiasm about the nature of the gentleness of the "sky at this hour of the day" to a realization that more ominous matters lurk "behind this veil of gentleness and peace" and that, eventually, night "will burst upon us . . . when we least expect it . . . that's how it is on this bitch of an earth." The seriousness of this speech and its contents are then undermined when Pozzo lets it be known that he was merely delivering a pompous, memorized oration.
Before leaving, Pozzo wishes to express his appreciation to Vladimir and Estragon and wonders if they have any requests of him. Estragon immediately asks for ten francs (or even five, if ten is too much), but Vladimir interrupts and asserts that he and Estragon are not beggars. Pozzo then offers to let Lucky entertain them by dancing, singing, reciting, or thinking. They decide first on dancing and then on thinking.