Wham, bam! Thank you, Sam!

Beckett muet



A website by Penelope Merritt

Well . . . you know. The following links point to notes that I prepared for a January 2000 college production of Godot in the Pacific Northwest. They were primarily intended for student actors, but I attempted to include information that would be of interest to those who found the play interesting as a purely academic pursuit, whether as a scholar of French or English Literature, the history of Theatre or even the cultural resonances of Existentialist philosophy (in which case, you might be interested in some of the music and film sources listed below).

These pages are a rough mock-up in the most basic quick and dirty HTML — if I have time someday I'll come back and "slick them up" a bit. The text "highlighted" in blue was originally provided for the actors in order to give them the opportunity to grasp the more salient aspect of each entry so that they might use their limited time to locate what material was of most interest or use to them without having to slog through 150 printed pages to do so. I deliberately excerpted text that referred solely to Godot and avoided reference to any other of Beckett's works; however, wherever possible, I included a link to information that could provide an LC or ISBN number for the source indicated.

In a few cases there are some hurried and most likely awkward translations from original French sources. One that provided insights that I genuinely hadn't the time to translate is François Noudelman's excellent study of Godot and Fin de Partie: Beckett, ou la Scène du Pire. It is one that I would recommend highly to anyone wishing to further understand Beckett's two most closely scrutinised works.

I have also included the entire text of the play, complete with links to notes on specific lines. There are reciprocal links from the notes pages to those of the play's text so that they can be located and put into context quickly.


Program Notes







Production History

"Four" Symbolism

Text of Act I

Text of Act II



Finally, I wish to include a list of audio and video sources that I put together for the cast to not only illustrate some of Beckett's influences but to also help illuminate the work through some contemporary and subsequent cultural "resonances" of Godot and the ideals that it embodied:




l'Incoronazione di Poppea by Claudio Monteverdi — Pozzo's reference to himself as "blind as Fortune". The opening sequence involves an exchange between the deities representing Fortune, Virtue and Love. An excellent videotape of the Nikolaus Harnoncourt/Jean-Pierre Ponnelle production with the Monteverdi Ensemble of Zürich is commercially available as well.

O Fortuna and Fortune plango vulnera from Carmina Burana by Carl Orff — more Fortuna references.

Ego sum Abbas Cucaniensis and Ave Formosissima from the same work, not only to illustrate the sermon joyeux that Lucky's speech calls to mind but also — in the case of the former piece — Estragon's reference to the "Cackon country" (a play not only on "Macon country", but also on the mythical land of Cockaigne, or Cucany).

Schicksalslied by Johannes Brahms, the text of which (Hyperions Schicksalslied by Friedrich Hölderlin) is used by Beckett in other sources and is considered an influence in Lucky's speech and some of Estragon's lines. Of particular interest is the choppy, disjointed rhythm that Brahms uses to set the phrase "wie Wasser von Klippe zu Klippe geworfen" ("like water dashed from crag to crag") that finds an echo in the later cadences of Lucky's monologue.



Sinfonia by Luciano Berio. The texts included in the third movement, inspired by Mahler's Second Symphony, provide a very Beckettian view of the process of living: We must collect our thoughts, for the unexpected is always upon us—in our rooms, in the street, at the door, on a stage . . .

Three songs that reminded me of the Pozzo/Lucky relationship:

Fais-moi mal, Johnny by Boris Vian (and additionally, many Boris Vian songs not only help one understand the cultural context in which Beckett was operating — that of 1950s France — but they also contain many musical and textual elements of the music hall tradition that informs Godot).

Master and Slave from the Cherry Poppin' Daddies, Rapid City Muscle Car or Zoot Suit Riot

Happiness in Slavery from Nine Inch Nails, Broken (you'll need to look at the lyric sheet to get all the words)

Finally, if you want a real understanding of the Pozzo/Lucky dynamic, check out Mistress Marisha's column from the San Francisco Bay Guardian or any of the myriad BDSM (bondage/discipline sado masochism) sites available for your perusal on the Web.





Vanya on 42nd Street, André Gregory's superlative production of the Chekhov classic

The Clowns, Federico Fellini, director (a wonderful history of the circus and the clown tradition)

Any good Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin movie (the more physical comedy therein, the better)



Uccellacci ed Uccellini (Hawks and Sparrows), Pier Paolo Pasolini, director

The Seventh Seal, Winter Light and Cries and Whispers, Ingmar Bergman, director

Tom Stoppard's Rosencranz and Guildenstern are Dead (a must-see/read for any Beckett enthusiast — we were fortunate in that a local Equity company presented this piece during our rehearsal process)

Naked, Mike Leigh, director

And for comic relief:

Monty Python's Life of Brian, particularly the shoe scene

Woody Allen's Love and Death

Man Bites Dog for a big dose of black humour

BlackAdder II

Fawlty Towers: The Psychiatrist

There are many, many more movies, pieces of music, plays, novels and poems that illuminate or reflect Godot; this is what I came up with within the time and resource constraints which I found myself. But then, after all, isn't that what we love about this piece: that, like the generic and universal existence that it portrays, it is endlessly referential yet eludes definition?


I hope that you have as much fun with, and find as much to fascinate you in Godot as I did. In case you get bored, check out the Godot game. It's a "load" of fun.



To find a form that accommodates the mess, that is the task of the artist now.
—Samuel Beckett


It would gratify me immensely to receive any questions, comments or suggestions that you may have about this site.

Webmaster's note: This site was originally posted at http://www.geocities.com/kamikaze_contralto/Godot/text_files/Godot_intro.htm.
It is no longer there, and the above "questions" address (Penelope's)
is no longer valid. However she now has two new addresses:
penelope@kamikazecontralto.com and penelope@imadork.ca.
Rest assured that Penelope is not a dor k.

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