A FEW THOUGHTS ON THE NUMBER FOUR

I think that it is significant that Beckett included four major characters in Godot. Four has long been a number of completion, stability and predictability, as well as the representation of all earthly things.

In number symbolism, the logic of the number four follows from that of the previous three. One represents the male principle, the "yang". It is raw energy, positive, original and creative. In the creative process it is the original spark of an idea. Two is the feminine principle, the "yin". It is the gestational period in which things begin to form, the earth into which the seed of oneís idea is planted. In the creative process there is almost always a similar period when an original impulse "cooks" for a time, even if only in sleep or distraction. Three is the synthesis of one and two. It is ideation and self-expression, the creation itself, the finished idea. Four is the material manifestation of three, the actual physical realisation, order and systematisation of the idea. It is the making real of the dream represented by three.

Four has come to be considered the number of labour and stability. In the maxim that art is "25% inspiration and 75% perspiration", four is the effort required to put the idea down on paper, to learn the piece and perfect it in rehearsal, to order the media and create the work of art. It is also the number of living the creation as the process. The first stable element in the periodic table is helium, with its four component particles. The first element in the table with four valence electrons is carbon, the basis of all organic life. Negatively it can mean stagnation, fossilization, paralysis, rigidity, or stubbornness.

Even the inclusion of the fifth character, the Boy, has its place in the pantheon of number symbolism, as five is the number of expansion, of destabilisation, of the catalyst. Five becomes the hand that turns the Wheel of Fortune on which the four elements sit, and is the hub around which it spins. Likewise, the visitation from Godotís representative provides a gravitational centre that forces the four main characters to return to the spot where their collective drama takes place.

Evangelists

One significant representation of four symbology is in the representation of the four evangelists of the four winged beasts in the vision of Ezekiel, later reconstitutes in the New Testament as the four beasts of the apocalypse in the Book of Revelations. In the Kabbalah, there were four worlds of the Tree of Life. There are four creatures on the arms of Freemasonry, four primary mental functions according to Carl Jung, and four dimensions of modern science: length, breadth, width, and time.

The beast with the human face (sometimes considered an angel) represents Matthew, the lion Mark, the eagle John and the ox Luke.

A further expansion of four symbology is represented in the tarot card The Wheel of Fortune. Its connection with Beckett is not really all that whimsical. Beckett had great interest not only in pagan symbology (especially as represented by the figure of Fortune) but also in Jungís psychology of symbolism. Jung had great interest in what are currently considered "frivolous" occult subjects: astrology, numerology, the Tarot, etc, as sources of cultural and psychological symbology.

In the card are included symbolism of the four Evangelists, the four seasons and the four elements (represented by the symbols for the four fixed signs of the zodiac), the Hebrew letters in the name of God (Yahweh: YHVH), and the four grail symbols (the letters T, A, R, and O).

Wheel of Fortune

At its apex sits a sphinx, representing higher consciousness (the superconscious, if you will), holding the two-edged sword of justice (more about that later). To the right of the wheel the figure of a red man-jackal (red being representative of the passions characteristic of our animal nature) peeks its head above the "horizon" of the wheel. This represents the conscious being, the attempt of man to rise above the purely animal or instinctual natureówith only partial success. To the left of the wheel a serpent descends toward its nadir. It represents the subconscious, and the more occult animal urges of the reptilian brain.

The turning of the wheel in a counter-clockwise direction is an attempt to portray our constant cycling between these natures: striving to throw off baser urges in pursuit of spiritual enlightenment, the subsequent descent into our animal nature, and so forth. The movement of the wheel is what creates its very stability. Bruce Lee said, "The stillness in stillness is not the real stillness, only when there is stillness in movement does the universal rhythm manifest." In other words, stillness in movement allows the manifestation of the universal rhythm.

With this in mind, I wish to provide a further explanation of each element in some of these "quadratic systems", and suggest which of the four characters best represents each one.

THE GOSPELS

Matthew [Didi]

Matthew emphasized the humanity of Jesus in his gospel.

Written originally for Greek-speaking Jews, Matthew is essentially the Jewish Gospel because it sets the story of Jesus the Messiah against its Old Testament background. While the other Gospels speak about the kingdom of God, Matthew normally uses the expression Ďthe kingdom of heavení. Matthew is writing for Jews and Ďkingdom of heavení is a Jewish usage. Out of reverence for the Divine Name, the Jews avoided wherever possible using the word ĎGodí and substituted some other term.

In Matthew, we see Jesus as the messiah and as the promised king, fulfilling the Jewish scriptures. It presents the teachings of Jesus that found their roots in the Talmud, thereby representing him as a tsadik, or holy man. To further this idea, the first chapter of the gospel presents a genealogy of Jesus Christ as the son of David, and the son of Abraham. He represents God with a human face, linking the Old and New Testamentsóthe word becoming flesh.

Mark [Pozzo]

Mark wrote of Jesus as a man of action and emphasized his kingship. He is symbolised by the lion, king of the desertóin Roman mythology, a beast whose roar could wake the dead.

Tradition dating from the second century holds that the author of the first written Gospel is identified with John Mark, whose Latin surname is Marcus. He was a companion of Peter and also of Paul in several missionary endeavours. It is generally agreed that the Gospel of Mark was written in Rome, probably for Gentiles there. Pertinent evidence includes Markís quotation of Aramaic words, followed by a translation of them, and his many explanations of Jewish customs; since the explanations were not necessary for Jewish readers, the book must have been intended primarily for Gentiles. He preserves vivid details that draw attention to human difficulties in Jesusí work.

The Gospel of Mark is called the Gospel of Power. Most scholars agree that its primary purpose is neither historical nor biographical, but theological, to emphasize the great power of Jesus and thereby demonstrate that he was the Messiah, the Son of God. By so doing, Mark hoped to give courage and confidence to the Christians enduring the persecutions of the Roman emperors.

A characteristic term which occurs with frequency in this second Gospel is the Greek word "Eutheos," which is variously translated "forthwith, straightway, immediately" etc. Mark records fewer parables than Matthew and Luke. But, on the other hand, Mark describes more miracles, which were a part of the active ministry of Jesus. In Markís Gospel, the hand of Christ is frequently mentioned, and this is peculiarly appropriate in the Gospel which treats of his service. It might well be termed the Ministry of the Hand. The Holy Spirit has also called special attention in this Gospel to the eyes of the perfect Servant.

Luke [Lucky (surprise, surprise)]

Luke, a physician, emphasised the suffering of Jesus and pictured him as one who bore the burdens of the world on his shoulders.

His gospel was written for gentile Christians about 70 to 85 AD, after the fall of Jerusalem and the Destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. Luke portrays a universal, world religion. The narrative is controlled and edited to bring in much teaching and parables, and to omit episodes that would not interest Lukeís non-Jewish readers. The originality of Luke is in his religious mentality: he is the faithful recorder of Christís loving-kindness and he emphasises the necessity for prayers. These qualities, combined with that joy in God and that gratitude to him for his gifts which fill the third gospel, are the ones that go to make Lukeís achievement the warm and human account that it is.

Lukeís Gospel invites us, with "ears to hear," to listen deeply to what the heart is hearing. Those who hear the Word are as essential a part of the Word as those who speak the Word.

In Luke, Christ is seen in racial connections as the Son of Man, contrasted from the sons of men. Matthew is designed specially for the Jews; Mark is peculiarly suited to Godís servants; Luke is adapted to men as menóall men; while Johnís is the one wherein the church establishment has found its chief delight.

Lukeís Gospel, then, is the Gospel of Christís Manhood. It shows us God manifest in flesh. It presents Christ as "The Son of Man", having come down to our level, entering into our conditions (sin excepted), subject to our circumstances, and living his life on the same plane as ours is lived. The "Son of Man" links Christ with the earth. Luke speaks of his personal knowledge of that of which he is about to treat. He refers to what others had done before him in this direction, but feels the need of a more orderly and full setting forth of those things which were most surely believed.

Luke is the only one who records the story of the Good Samaritan ministering to the wounded traveller, and there are many lines in the picture of this incident which bring out, strikingly, the distinctive character of this third Gospel.

Other features which are particularly prominent in this Gospel, and which are in striking accord with its particular theme and scope:

All four gospels are in fact anonymous, but whomever wrote Luke also wrote the Acts of the Apostles.

John [Gogo]

John wrote of Jesus as one who rises above, who transforms and is transformed.

John was written at a difficult time for the early Christians, those who thought that the Second Coming of Jesus was imminent most certainly were frustrated to the point of disbelief. The destruction of Jerusalem is addressed in the Gospel of John, proclaiming Jesus present in the "here and now" through his incarnation, his "lifting up" on the cross, and his return to his disciples through the Holy Spirit. It claims that the signs that Jesus worked had far deeper meanings than originally suspected by the witnesses, and the time had come to deepen their understanding and to lead them into the whole truth through the all-important action of the Holy Spirit.

The whole of Johnís thought is dominated by the mystery of the incarnation, the word becoming flesh; the revelation of Christís glory has a new interpretation that judgment is working here and now in the soul, and eternal life is made to be something actually present. Godís victory over evil, his salvation of the world, is already guaranteed by Christís resurrection. Johnís Jesus is a man who tells no parables and who makes few witty comebacks, but who delivers long discourses on his own divinity.

Johnís Gospel is concerned with the Family of God. The words of 14:2,3 "In My Fatherís House are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." find an eerie echo in the line "in another compartment. There is no lack of void." In Johnís Gospel, His rejection is announced at the beginning, for in the very first chapter we are told, "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not." This perhaps gave rise to the petulant and vicious anti-Semitic tone of this Gospel, especially in his account of the Passion.

Similarly, the dispensational limitations which attach to much that is found in the first three Gospels, do not hold good with Johnís Gospel, for as Son of God, He can be known only by believers as such. On this plane the Jew has no priority.

John is the only one of the four Evangelists to record the Saviourís triumphant cry, "It is finished", and he is the only one to say that after He had expired the soldierís "brake not His legs" ("And they crucified quick").

THE FOUR ELEMENTS

Air [Didi]

The symbol for Matthew, the angel, is also considered in direct correlation with the symbol of the water-bearer for the sign Aquarius. This, in turn, corresponds to the Winter season (in which the constellation has precedence) and the element of air.

This element is that of the intellect and rational thought. It is represented by the double-edged sword of justice, so-called because of its power to heal or to destroy. Like a surgeonís knife, when wielded with reason it has the power to discriminate and separate the good from the evil, to cut out diseased flesh and leave the healthy intact. When guided by passion and emotions, however, it has the potential for great destruction, as it by virtue of its keenness can do infinitely more and deeper damage than that of a blunt object.

Fire [Pozzo]

The symbol for Mark, the lion, correlates with the symbol of the constellation Leo, corresponding to the Summer season and the element of Fire.

Fire is dynamic and ungovernable. In its positive form it presents as creativity and action, as a force persistently striving upwards, willing to take chances and make leaps of faith. In its negative form it is destructive, oppressive, impulsive and prideful. It consumes and reduces to ashes all within its path when uncontrolled. It has the capacity to consume itself and is vulnerable to extinction when its sources of fuel are insufficient. To a certain extent, it is the element most identified with man and his power over Nature.

Earth [Lucky]

The symbol for Luke, the ox, correlates with the symbol of the constellation Taurus, corresponding to the Spring season and the element of earth.

This is the element of the material and the sensual. In its negative presentation it can seem plodding and unimaginative, concerned with only the task at hand. It is the element of manual labour, service and submission, but also of fertility and the source of all fruitfulness.

Of the four characters, Lucky presents with a rich, albeit confused portrait of Western culture: its mythology, its fancy, its physicality (the numerous sport references, viewing the head as the skullóthe bony container for the brainóand not of the mind itself), and its earthiness (the scatalogical references, the allusions to mortality and burying in the ground).

Water [Gogo]

The symbol for John, the eagle, correlates with the higher aspect of that of the constellation Scorpio, corresponding to the Autumn season and the element of water.

Water represents the emotions, the creative impulse and the subconscious. It is the "inner voice" of our intuition and primal brain that our more rational selves attempt to ignore. It is also present in the more "bratty" aspects of our personality as well. Water is the element of emotional excesses, and dreaminess (even unto "flakiness", one could say), it has the potential to displace air, to drown out fire, and to turn earth to consumptive mire. On the other hand, it is the source of all life on the planet and all organic life is predicated on its presence. Certainly without the "interest" of emotion, creativity and subconscious processes, our lives would be more than a little dull. Similarly, according to Jung, it is through the subconscious that we gain access to the universal "collective" superconscious (or whatever he calls it; Beckett calls it Godot).

THE FOUR TEMPERAMENTS

Melancholic [Didi]

The melancholic has been described as the temperament that longs for heaven so that life on this earth always will be a disappointment. The depth and dedication of the melancholic will meet or exceed that of the choleric, but his natural caution and slowness to embrace new courses of action can leave him with a sense of having no way to channel his profound ideals.

The melancholic will base his action on concepts often so lofty that those of other temperaments will be beyond comprehending the motivation. His relationship with God will have the intensity and devotion of a love affair, but his reactions themselves, not only his ideals, will be of such duration that he will lack resilience when his extremely deep feelings meet with great resistance.

The melancholic who is devout will be inclined to seek a high degree of virtue, and it will indeed be God alone that he seeks to please. Even his frequent devotion to the service of others will be focussed on ultimately pleasing the God towards whom his devotion is passionate. But those he serves will have an ability to hurt him to a degree perhaps surpassing those other temperamental types will experience.

He will naturally assume that all human behaviour is based on his own consideration of lofty concepts. He is a most devoted friend or your worst enemy, and either will be "forever." The structure he may have in his own life is as a means to a greater end that he perceives. If the choleric can find his downfall in anger, the melancholicís Achilles heel is despair.

His reality is a blend of that of the world and, if you will, that of heaven. He knows that the union for which he longs cannot be fully attained in this life.

He is a deep thinker and usually has a good memory. On the weakness side, he can be picky, negative and more into theory than practice. When defending standards he will fight for what is right. A melancholic doesnít like change. He tends to be on time, thorough, and finish his job, though he may get lost in details.

Choleric [Pozzo]

The cholericís strength is zeal, his weakness anger. The choleric approach is never in half measure, and what he embraces as most important in his life can make him the greatest of saints or the most picturesque of sinners.

The choleric well may be the leader of an army, and the ideals he champions will be based on a recognition of higher goals than some others can understand. Indeed, such excesses in religious practise as the Middle Ages had to offer, such as the burning of heretics, often showed choleric zeal, often with political goals at heart, though he would have seen his actions as just and charitable.

Then as now, the choleric is likely to be what we today would term an "achiever." Many a choleric has earned glory, but personal acclaim is never his sole concern. If a choleric "goes astray", it will be from bitterness and anger, though his principles generally remain unshaken. Whatever he is and believes is totally genuine, however it may be distorted by misplaced zeal at times. He is as likely to intimidate others as he is to inspire them.

This person is an extrovert on the serious side who thrives on being in charge. He is generally optimistic and hard charging. At best this person is confident and sure. On the negative side he is often controlling, unfeeling and overbearing. He seems to need to be right all of the time. A choleric enjoys telling people what to do. He will work hard for promotion as position and authority motivate him, and often enjoys controlling peopleís personal lives.

Sanguine [Lucky]

The sanguine type often is most obedient in practise, because fitting in as part of a group is most important to him. He needs the approval and attention of others, and not only enjoys the company (and security) of a group setting but seems to derive his energy from such interaction.

The sanguine temperament, obedient and adaptable though he will seem, does not base his behaviour (or his apparent conformity to rules) on deep concepts or high ideals. The sanguine is not seeking truthóhe is looking for acceptance, and that he is likely to find, because even if he becomes involved with a cause or a controversial matter, he will bend with the groupís tendencies.

Being peripheral in his relationships, he is seldom the one who can offer strength and support to others. It would be a sanguine sort who would be puzzled by how others could revolt at injusticeóand his response well may be something like "but the rest of the village had to do it, too."

On the positive side, the sanguine temperament can have a simple, childlike faith that will appeal to those he serves. He will have gratitude for whatever blessings he knows. His desire for obedience sometimes is a cloak for an unwillingness to accept responsibility, and he is likely to be faithful to any state of life he embraces, and to delight in the simple things of life.

Weaknesses include talking too much, disorganization and exaggeration. He likes to give presentations and put on productions.

Phlegmatic [Gogo]

The phlegmatic lacks the sparkle of the sanguine, but is also quite adaptable. He needs positive influences from the authority figures or groups with which he associates himself. When it comes to weaknesses he can be on the lazy side. He can be quietly stubborn and a bit stingy. He is motivated by having security and a peaceful work situation, and especially time off.

Intro   Program Notes   Didi/Gogo   Pozzo/Lucky   Godot   Beckett   Influences/Resonances

Staging   Production†History

Act I text   Act II text