VLADIMIR: Your Worship wishes to assert his prerogatives?  

ESTRAGON: We've no rights any more?  

Laugh of Vladimir, stifled as before, less the smile.  

VLADIMIR: You'd make me laugh if it wasn't prohibited.  

ESTRAGON: We've lost our rights?  

VLADIMIR: (distinctly). We got rid of them.

This exchange of dialogue occurs toward the beginning of Act One after Vladimir explains to Estragon that they should wait to hear what Godot offers them before they make any rash decisions. Estragon then asks how they fit into the picture, or what their role in the exchange will be, and Vladimir laughs at the idea that they would have the ability to do anything during their meeting with Godot. Their banter about losing their rights speaks to the play’s broader themes of meaninglessness and the characters’ inabilities to take control of their lives. Beckett also seems to suggest that Vladimir and Estragon have made the choice to give up their freedom in order to wait for Godot, a choice which inevitably keeps them trapped in an endless cycle of nothingness. In addition to the language of the dialogue itself, the line delivery that the stage directions indicate adds further significance to this moment. The lighthearted and straightforward tone that Vladimir takes in his discussion of rights, a presumably serious topic, highlights the absurdity of their situation and works to create an unsettling mood for the audience.

Each individual line contributes to the construction of these themes and feelings. Vladimir’s initial rebuke of Estragon’s question relies on formal sounding language, particularly the phrase “Your Worship,” in order to create mocking tone. This banter contrasts with the sincerity and simplicity of Estragon’s question “we’ve no rights any more,” invoking a tragicomedic sense of uncertainty. Vladimir’s suppressed laugh mimics the way in which the audience must negotiate between responding to the play’s humor and its bleakness, and his mention of laughter being prohibited reinforces this absurd dynamic. In the final two lines of this moment, the thematic implications of their exchange emerge as Vladimir suggests that they made a choice to get rid of their freedoms and privileges. His use of a definitive tone suggests that their helplessness is a mere fact of life, rendering the very idea of “rights” something pointless to consider.

VLADIMIR: Oh he's a . . . he's a kind of acquaintance.  

ESTRAGON: Nothing of the kind, we hardly know him.  

VLADIMIR: True . . . we don't know him very well . . . but all the same . . .  

ESTRAGON: Personally, I wouldn't even know him if I saw him.

When Pozzo and Lucky first appear in Act One, Estragon accidentally mistakes Pozzo for Godot. This exchange of dialogue occurs after Pozzo inquires about who exactly they mistook him for, and they struggle to offer a clear description of the person that inspires their endless waiting. The degree of uncertainty that both Estragon and Vladimir express in this moment, which Beckett emphasizes through the use of ellipses, calls attention to the pointlessness of their daily efforts to meet Godot. They have virtually no concrete knowledge of who he is or what he can do for them, meaning that they let vague concepts and hope drive the direction of their lives. Godot’s ambiguous identity renders the entirety of the play’s action meaningless as Vladimir and Estragon essentially wait for an empty, unfounded idea. Given that Beckett leaves room in the script for the possibility that Godot may never come or that he may not exist at all, this early exchange serves as a key indicator that Estragon and Vladimir’s goal is completely absurd.

In addition to emphasizing the futility of Estragon and Vladimir’s struggle, this brief exchange also highlights the distinctness of their characters. While both offer vague answers to Pozzo’s question about who Godot is, Estragon replies in a more direct and honest manner while Vladimir tries to maintain an optimistic point of view. Estragon emphasizes that they have no idea who Godot really is, and this detail speaks to his simple, grounded nature. The fact that he struggles with his memory may contribute in part to his cluelessness, although Vladimir’s uncertainty seems to corroborate Estragon’s answer. The hesitation that Vladimir expresses in his response reflects his attempts to search for a thoughtful reply that captures his naïve hope. All he actually manages to do, however, is reinforce Estragon’s point and call attention to the illogical nature of their perpetual waiting.

ESTRAGON: We always find something, eh Didi, to give us the impression we exist?

VLADIMIR: (impatiently). Yes yes, we're magicians

This exchange of dialogue occurs in Act Two as Vladimir tries to convince Estragon to try on the pair of boots that he had left the day before. Estragon resists the idea at first, but after Vladimir promises to help him with the boots, he agrees and suggests that the two of them are often successful when it comes to finding activities to pass the time. Beyond the surprising hint of optimism that Estragon expresses, this moment is significant because it represents one of the few times in which the characters seem aware of the meaninglessness of their existence. The idea that Estragon, who tends to be the less philosophical of the two, views his life as an impression rather than something concrete suggests that he intuitively senses his lack of purpose. He understands that their actions only create the illusion of living a life of importance, and this admission supports the nihilistic view of the universe that Beckett seems to take throughout the play.

Equally as important as Estragon’s suggestion that their actions only create an impression of existence is Vladimir’s response. Although he uses an impatient tone in this moment, his mention of magicians serves as a key metaphor which furthers Beckett’s argument about the emptiness of the universe. A magician, who performs tricks to create an illusion, has no actual power to change reality. Similarly, Vladimir and Estragon have no way to ensure that their individual lives are meaningful as the world is inherently unpredictable and uncontrollable. Making this comparison allows Beckett to emphasize the idea that any attempts to identify meaning in the universe are merely tricks that go against reality. This perspective is central to understanding the play as a whole, especially for the way in which it illuminates the pointlessness of Vladimir and Estragon’s insistence on waiting for Godot.

But that is not the question. What are we doing here, that is the question. And we are blessed in this, that we happen to know the answer. Yes, in this immense confusion one thing alone is clear. We are waiting for Godot to come—

As Pozzo cries out for help in Act Two, Vladimir delivers a monologue in response to his debate with Estragon about whether or not to respond and help their blind companion. Estragon does not remember meeting Pozzo and Lucky the day prior, but Vladimir attempts to convince him that they should come to Pozzo’s aid because it will give them the opportunity to do something while they wait for Godot to arrive. These particular lines occur at the end of the monologue after Vladimir has confidently argued that they, as the only ones present to hear Pozzo’s cries to mankind, must step in. Given how much uncertainty and confusion characterizes the play, Vladimir’s definitive tone in this moment creates a sense of irony. His argument that they “know the answer” to their purpose contradicts the reality of their situation in that they have no idea who Godot really is or what he can do for them. They only have a vague notion that Godot may be able to help them in some way, and the contrast between this ambiguity and Vladimir’s confidence adds to the absurd nature of the play.

This section of the monologue also emphasizes the inherent unknowability of the universe, especially when considered in the context of Vladimir’s earlier assertion that “all mankind is us.” Beckett seems to use this monologue in order to suggest that the confusing and complex nature of the play applies to the audience’s world as well. By ironically using an assured tone in a monologue where the hopelessly clueless Vladimir and Estragon become a symbol for mankind, he argues that humans desire a sense of purpose so much that they create false sources of meaning for themselves. Vladimir and Estragon’s emphasis on waiting for Godot in spite of how little they know about him represents a broader need to find stability within the world’s chaos.

But habit is a great deadener. (He looks again at Estragon.) At me too someone is looking, of me too someone is saying, He is sleeping, he knows nothing, let him sleep on. (Pause.) I can't go on! (Pause.) What have I said?

In his last major monologue of the play, Vladimir ignores Estragon’s pleas for help with his boots in order to consider notions of reality and truth. He reflects on Estragon’s forgetfulness, the time they spend waiting for Godot, and, finally, his own role in the play’s lack of action. This moment serves as the culmination of Vladimir’s philosophical reflections and marks the height of his uncertainty. Although he does not mention it explicitly, he suddenly realizes that his devotion to waiting for Godot, the act which he believed would bring purpose to his life, has actually done the opposite. The primary “habit” of the play is Estragon and Vladimir’s waiting, and the idea that this repetition is deadening suggests that it has only caused him to feel emptiness and suffering. Once he has this epiphany, he is able to picture his position as an unassuming figure in a harsh and meaningless world through a metaphor in which sleep represents his blindness to reality. Vladimir imagines someone shielding him from the bleakness of human existence much like he attempts to help Estragon navigate his daily struggles.

The final two sentences of Vladimir’s monologue, which are inherently contradictory, reveal the absurd and hopeless nature of his response to this epiphany. His initial exclamation that he “can’t go on” implies that he sees the futility of his actions and wants to resist the impulsive habits that keep him trapped in an endless cycle of waiting. Following this sentiment with a question, however, reflects his fear of embracing life’s uncertainty. Instead, Vladimir quickly abandons his realizations and reverts back to desire to wait with Estragon for Godot to arrive, a move which highlights the human need for stability. Beckett cements the cyclical nature of the play’s plot in this moment, ensuring that none of its characters make any progress toward their goal and creating a hopeless mood in the process.

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