compare and contrast between act1 and act2 in samual becketts play waiting for godot

Compare and Contrast between ACT1 and ACT2 in Samual Becketts play Waiting for Godot

Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot was meant to represent the bleakness and the repetition of one’s senseless life.  This play, despite its redundancy, is filled with symbolism and such profundity that despite 2 acts that seem exactly the same, audiences are kept in their seats fascinated by the action, or the lack of it thereof, on stage.

The main reason for this is that, there are subtle differences between Act 1 and Act 2 of the play.  However, these subtle and seemingly insignificant changes in the plot have great and deep meaning that totally changes the aura of the second act.

To be able to appreciate these changes, it is imperative to understand the first act.

The first acts sets up the theme of the whole play.  It begins with 2 vagabonds, Vladimir (Didi) and Estragon (Gogo), talking by the street, near a dead tree as they wait for a man named Godot.  While waiting, Didi and Gogo talk about numerous things, the more important point being that the tree by which they are standing by is dead and can no longer weep; that there were 2 thieves that died beside Christ and only one Evangelist out of 4 said that one of the thieves were saved; that they had better lives before; that they cannot leave the area because they are waiting for Godot, who they don’t even know or cannot recognize; and that they will receive a reward for waiting for him.  Yet, upon further discussion this reward is uncertain.  Even with waiting for Godot they are not sure whether or not Godot will give them the reward.  What’s worse is that they do not know what Godot looks like nor are they sure if they are in the right meeting place.

Their conversation says a lot about their own convictions and belief.  The talk about the thief being saved by Christ and because of it their desire to repent shows that they are waiting for their salvation.  This can be equated with the 2 vagabonds as thieves and Godot as Christ.  It is quite apparent that the two men believe that their salvation lies with Godot – by which their fate will change upon his arrival.  However, the problem lies with fact that all they’re doing is waiting and that everything else is insignificant in the light of waiting for Godot.

This brings about the significance of the dead tree.  The dead tree represents their belief that they would be better off dead because the “weeping” or their burdens will end.  However, the tree also signifies that they are living their lives like the living dead where there really is no meaning to their lives and that they have to constantly find something to do, inane or otherwise, to pass the time while waiting either for their death or their salvation.

Killing the boredom is the arrival of Lucky who is tied to a long rope driven by Pozzo.  The long rope mirrors how Didi and Gogo are similarly tied to Godot.  But when Pozzo mentions that the 2, like him, are made in the image of God, it’s supposed to signify that like Pozzo, Didi and Gogo could lead their lives the same way that he is leading Lucky to the fair.  This sense of leadership, however, fades, when we realize that everything that Pozzo knows came from Lucky and that it is only through the years that their relationship deteriorated; which brings to mind that in time Didi and Gogo will end up like Lucky, nothing more than automatons, the longer they remain tied to Godot.    Lucky cannot do anything without Pozzo’s say so.  He dances when told and thinks when told given that he wears his hat.  Without his hat he cannot think again showing the character’s dependence on something outside of him to function.

The first act ends with a boy arriving informing the Didi and Gogo that Godot will not come but will surely come the next day, to which Didi answers that the boy has to tell Godot that they were there.  This shows the need for man to have his existence acknowledged and by doing so, he becomes somebody instead of just being nobody.

It is important to note Gogo’s last words before he leaves.  He leaves his boots for someone with smaller feet to use so that the new user of the boots will be happy and for this he was willing to sacrifice going barefoot.  This act of kindness sets the mood for the next act which, although the same as the first is very much different.

The second is almost exactly the same as the first – Vladimir constantly reminding Estragon of what happened the previous day, the senseless banter, the boredom, the finding of something to do, and the arrival of Pozzo and Lucky.  But there were a few “small things” that were different – the tree has leaves and is no longer dead, somebody got the boots Gogo left the night before and replaced them with another, Lucky left his hat and got a new one and Pozzo was blind.

The leaf filled tree shows that somehow there is new life and hope.  This was reinforced when the boots that Estragon left were changed.  Somebody else got his boots and for this somebody, Gogo served as his salvation – by giving him new boots that fit and that don’t hurt.  In return, that somebody became Gogo’s salvation, at least for his feet, because now the boots fit and his feet no longer hurt.  In the same light, now that Didi is wearing Lucky’s hat somehow a sense of intelligence and insight has seeped through Didi and has given him awareness of his plight.  Essentially, Gogo was now living in somebody else’s boots while Didi was looking through life with somebody else’s hat.  This is significant because by looking in a different perspective the two characters are able to elevate themselves from the limited existence that they were living in prior.

When Pozzo and Lucky arrive, the positions between the two have changed.  Pozzo is blind and Lucky is now leading Pozzo despite him still barking the orders.  This shows how man’s position in life can change in a blink, Pozzo who was once the leader is now the dependent.  In the same light, Lucky’s humanity comes to the fore by showing his faithfulness and compassion despite the fact that he can actually flee.  Moreover, now, Lucky is Pozzo’s salvation.  Without Lucky he will be lost.  The roles between the two have changed but the dependence and the need for each other remain the same and it is this need or someone else needs that define one’s existence in this world.  This need was properly voiced out by Didi, “Let us do something, while we have the chance! It is not every day that we are needed…To all mankind they were addressed, those cries for help still ringing in our ears! But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not. Let us make the most of it, before it is too late!”  (Beckett, Act II) With these words, Didi became Godot.  His existence and presence in the world was given meaning and purpose by Pozzo’s cry for help.

This is a realization that Didi made which could actually save him without the help of Godot.  But then because of human frailty, both Didi and Gogo go back to what they know and what they’re used to – to habit –because it is safe.  People are afraid of change, no matter how constant it is.  “The air is full of our cries. But habit is a great deadener.”  (Beckett, Act II) And so most, like Didi and Gogo miss the opportunity to put meaning in their lives, instead they choose to wait for Godot.

The play ends in exactly the same way as the first act but the difference between the first act and the second allowed Samuel Beckett to drive a point to his audience –which is mostly filled with Vladimirs, Estragons, Pozzos and Luckys.


Samuel Beckett. “Waiting for Godot.” 08 August 2008. 12 August 2008. <>


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