Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Waiting for Godot

Manuscripts | Publications | Productions | Reviews


Sylvain Zegel was a French critic who, soon after the premiere of En attendant Godot (Waiting for Godot) in Paris, wrote the first review, published in the 7 January 1953 issue of Libération (translated by Ruby Cohn). Predicting that Beckett’s play would be talked about for years to come, Zegel notes its unconventional plot and the effectiveness of Beckett’s “use of everyday words” to move the audience to tears and laughter.

Jacques Lemarchand, who wrote a regular drama column for Figaro Littéraire, reviewed Godot on 17 January 1953, read the play as a comedy and saw Beckett as a subtle craftsman with a deft hand that catches the viewer unawares.

The French playwright, Jean Anouilh, in the 27 February-5 March issue of Arts Spectacles (translated by Ruby Cohn), succinctly declared Godot “a masterpiece that will cause despair for men in general and for playwrights in particular.”

When a production of the play reached England, Harold Hobson in the 7 August 1955 issue of the Sunday Times, noted the audience’s uneasy applause for a play so “not immediately understandable” but argued that it “will securely lodge in a corner of your mind for as long as you live.”

Kenneth Tynan, in the 7 August 1955 issue of the Observer, called the play a “dramatic vacuum” that nevertheless proves that drama and, by extension, life “is basically a means of spending [time] in the dark without being bored.” Tynan characterized the dialogue as being like “the double-talk of vaudeville” that summoned “the music-hall and the parable to present a view of life which banished the sentimentality of the music-hall and the parable’s fulsome uplift.”