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Beckett Beyond the Normal$
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Seán Kennedy

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781474460460

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474460460.001.0001

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‘He wants to know if it hurts!’: Suffering beyond Redemption in Waiting for Godot

‘He wants to know if it hurts!’: Suffering beyond Redemption in Waiting for Godot

(p.79) Chapter 5 ‘He wants to know if it hurts!’: Suffering beyond Redemption in Waiting for Godot
Beckett Beyond the Normal

Hannah Simpson

Edinburgh University Press

Although the characters in Waiting for Godot exist in near-constant states of physical pain, Beckett’s play repeatedly emphasises obstacles to any shared or empathetic experience of suffering, both onstage and across the auditorium space. Waiting for Godot does not offer any clear model of compassion as a means of relieving another being’s distress. Rather, by delineating its characters’ indifference to each other’s pain, and by foregrounding the spectator’s own impassivity and even recoil in the face of suffering, the play highlights just how narrow these bounds of human compassion seem to be. This chapter draws on contemporary pain studies to read the unsettling charge of Waiting for Godot’s interrogation of pain’s incomprehensibility, resisting previous determinedly optimistic, humanist-inflected reading of suffering as redemptive in Beckett’s play.

Keywords:   Beckett, Waiting for Godot, Pain, Suffering, Empathy, Theatre, Audience

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