Essay on Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Tony Kushner’s Angels in America

Essay on Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Tony Kushner’s Angels in America

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At first glance, Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Tony Kushner’s Angels in America appear to serve as two individual exercises in the absurd. Varying degrees of the fantastical and bizarre drives the respective stories, and their respective conclusions hardly serve as logical resolutions to the questions that both Beckett and Kushner’s characters pose throughout the individual productions. Rather than viewing this abandonment of reality as the destination of either play, it should be seen as a method used by both Beckett and Kushner to force the audience to reconsider their preconceived notions when understanding the deeper emotional subtext of the plays. By presenting common and relatable situations such as love, loss, and the ways in which humans deal with change and growth, in largely unrecognizable packaging, Kushner and Beckett are able to disarm their audience amidst the chaos of the on stage action. Once the viewer’s inclination to make assumptions is stripped by the fantastical elements of either production, both playwrights provide moments of emotional clarity that the audience is forced to distill, analyze, and ultimately, comprehend on an individual level.
From the moment that the curtain rises, Waiting for Godot assumes an unmistakably absurdist identity. On the surface, little about the plot of the play seems to suggest that the actions seen on stage could or would ever happen. At the very least, the process of waiting hardly seems like an ideal focus of an engaging and entertaining production. Yet it is precisely for this reason that Beckett’s tale of two men, whose only discernable goal in life is to wait for a man known simply as Godot, is able to connect with the audience’s emotions so effectivel...


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...list style, gives the audience so little to work with plot-wise that the viewer cannot help but search for deeper meaning. Kushner, whose focus on topical social issues laced with elements of fantasy forces the audience to consider the juxtaposition of the reality on stage against the reality in the real world, and subtly invites the viewer to participate emotionally with the on stage action. Rather than allowing the fantastical to distance the audience from the emotional core of both plays, Kushner and Beckett respectively eschew traditional elements of bourgeois realism in order to enhance the audience’s emotional comprehension of both productions.

Works Cited

Beckett, Samuel. Waiting for Godot : tragicomedy in 2 acts. New York: Grove Press, 1982. Print.

Kushner, Tony. Angels in America. New York, NY: Theatre Communications Group Inc., 1995. Print.

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