Godot is Dead : Nietzsche and Beckett on Salvation and Suffering in a Godless Universe
There are many parallels and points of similarity between the themes of the play Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett and the themes explored by Friedrich Nietzsche. This essay examines the play in light of some of Nietzsche’s key concepts, such as the Will to Power, the Übermensch or Overman, the Eternal Recurrence, as well as the aesthetic conception of existence.
The essay argues that while Waiting for Godot shares many of the premises and conclusions of Nietzsche’s philosophy, the play can also be interpreted as a critique of the same. The play presents a post-religious world marked by pessimism and resignation rather than affirmation and Nietzschean amor fati. The characters are as far removed from the heroic Overman ideal as can be imagined, unable to harness the Will to Power, which is absent or distorted or even unknowable. Communication is fraught with difficulty and uncertainty. The dynamic of the Eternal Recurrence is present but rather than being affirmed it is a source of crushing boredom, tediousness and existential angst. The characters are unable to embrace the Eternal Recurrence and are in a continual state of mental flight from its implications. They suffer from a vague recollection of the past while projecting their hopes into the future in order to diminish the unbearable suffering of the existing present, or state of perpetual becoming. Beckett can thus be said to be offering a satirical critique of the concept of salvation, both in its traditional religious sense as well as in the sense implied by Nietzsche’s concept of the Eternal Recurrence. However, Beckett does offer a sense of hope by suggesting, paradoxically, that the abandonment of hope of salvation may lead to a sort of salvation of resignation.
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