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The Transformations of Godot

The Transformations of Godot

Frederick Busi
WITH A FOREWORD BY WYLIE SYPHER
Copyright Date: 1980
Edition: 1
Pages: 160
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt130htt4
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  • Book Info
    The Transformations of Godot
    Book Description:

    Didi, Gogo, Pozzo, Lucky -- the bizarre names stand out strangely against the bare-bones landscape ofWaiting for Godot. In an intriguing new study of one of the most haunting plays of this century, Frederick Busi shows that these names serve important dramatic functions, reinforcing the changing roles assumed by the mysterious characters in their tortuous search for -- and avoidance of -- self.

    Busi also explores Beckett's convoluted literary relationship with James Joyce, especially as revealed in the plays-within-the-play and verbal jigh jinks ofFinnegan's Wake, where, as inGodot, the same characters keep dreamily encountering themselves in different disguises, under shifting names. Beckett's strong affinities with Cervantes and the common debt of these two authors to the traditions of commedia dell'arte lead Busi to important insights into the shifting master-slave relationship so prominent inGodot, as inDon Quixote.

    The religious implications ofGodot-- the subject of so much critical debate -- are placed in a new perspective by Busi's provocative observation that certain early Christian heretical works and certain books of the Apocrypha contain not only the idea of the Devil/God, Judas/Jesus identifications implied in Godot but also a number of names that Beckett seems to have had in mind when he wrote his play.

    Rich in linguistic, historical, and psychological learning, Busi's examination of the names inGodotleads the reader to a fuller awareness of Beckett's extraordinarily complex imagination. As Wylie Sypher writes in the foreword, the book is "an invitation to expand our reading of Beckett in many directions."

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4810-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Wylie Sypher

    This discussion of Beckett’s most-analysed drama extends and refines interpretations which have not been fully explored in the mass of existing commentary onGodot:the role of the clown and Harlequin, and the transforming of the “double” in the play-within-the-play, Beckett’s relation to the commedia dell’arte, to Cervantes, to Joyce’s punning technique, to mythology, to apocryphal tradition, to the particular tyranny implicit in the character of Pozzo, and above all to the significance of stage names. But it would be wrong to take this book as a mere study of influences on Beckett, for Busi has examined the very nature...

  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. 1. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    This book is designed to fill a gap in Beckett studies. It is not another general study ofWaiting for Godot;it is a specialized book that focuses on the significance of onomastic techniques employed by Samuel Beckett in his masterpiece. The questions I ask are simple although the answers are complicated and, I hope, stimulating and revealing. In his workOf GrammatologyJacques Derrida has a chapter called “The Battle of Proper Names.” These words could easily serve as the subtitle to my study, which attempts to shed some light on the names of Didi, Gogo, Pozzo, and Lucky....

  6. 2. The Rebirths of Harlequin
    (pp. 11-27)

    The figure of the clown is a highly fitting vehicle for conveying the onomastic development of Beckett’s characters. His masks and protean nature are suitable for expressing the unfolding of the elusive self throughout its wanderings between knowledge and ignorance. Before considering Beckett’s clowns’ names there is the question of their origins. These buffoons have been compared with a spectrum of types. Considering the narrative frame ofWaiting for Godot,perhaps the clowns described by critic Paul Jennings come closest to resembling what Beckett was trying to express on the stage: “There was that wonderful troupe of acrobats, with doleful...

  7. 3. Transfiguration
    (pp. 28-64)

    Didi and Gogo, though descendants of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, are also rooted in the twentieth century. The play appears to take place nowhere in particular, but the clowns’ costumes and concerns suggest a modern setting. Didi and Gogo exchange roles as their earlier Spanish counterparts do, but Beckett has articulated their specific anguish with an eye to the present – not just that eternal present that he is fond of evoking, but the present of his own generation. Their plight is reflected and amplified by the associations conjured up by their names. The various appellations given to Lucky are...

  8. 4. Advent
    (pp. 65-88)

    Once Pozzo’s name is carefully examined, his position in Beckett’s dramatic scheme will be made clearer. It is but a short step from the author’s use of the play-within-the-play to his creation of interchangeable character parts. This is the whole point of Didi’s and Gogo’s little performances — the pantomime and skit — in which they alternately assume the roles of Lucky and Pozzo. Most critics have paid scant attention to this kind of play-acting: they are for the most part drawn to questions they believe to be of greater importance. In general, one type of Beckett criticism prefers an abstract frame,...

  9. 5. Conclusion
    (pp. 89-100)

    The main function of character names in Beckett’s play is to suggest the multiple dimensions of dramatic roles. At the heart ofWaiting for Godotis the double desire to recognize and to ignore the awaited one, to see and not to see, to affirm the will to exist and to die. The ability to exist as more than one person at a time is the chief reason for the exchange of character roles and their shifting names. Beckett has charged his clowns to remain in perpetual conflict in order to emphasize the basic strain of agnosticism which frustrates them...

  10. APPENDIX A. Theological Impact of Marcion
    (pp. 101-104)
  11. APPENDIX B. Political & Aesthetic Influence of Marcion
    (pp. 105-112)
  12. NOTES
    (pp. 113-134)
  13. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 135-140)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 141-143)