Below is an original play that puts the book of Job in dialogue with Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot. If you have not read or seen Beckett’s play, this may not make much sense to you. Waiting for Godot is an absurdist play that wrestles with the problems of existence in a universe that gives no answers and offers no certainty. While Job wrestles with similar questions, the play below highlights the significance differences between how the two books respond to such experiences. All quotations are almost verbatim quotes from the book of Job and Waiting for Godot.
Job, sitting before a fire, is scraping the sores on his left arm with a broken piece of pottery. Enter Estragon, hopping on one foot as he tries to take off his boot. Vladimir enters with Estragon, fiddling with his hat.
Vladimir: What ho, Job? You look like little more than a heap of bones—at least, you will be if you keep scraping your skin like that.
Job: Let the day perish on which I was born, and let the night be barren.
Vladimir: I’m beginning to come around to that opinion. All my life I’ve tried to put it from me, thinking I hadn’t tried everything. Double, double, toil and trouble, eh? But I always resume the struggle. What’s the good of losing heart now?
Estragon succeeds in pulling off his boot, peers inside, turns it upside down, and drops to the ground.
Vladimir: There’s men for you, blaming the shoe for the faults of his feet.
Job: But how am I to blame? Why did I not die at birth, come out from the womb and expire?
Vladimir: Suppose we repented.
Estragon: Repented what? Our being born?
Job: But how can a man be in the right before God? If one wished to contend with him, one could not answer him once in a thousand times.
Vladimir: One of the thieves was saved. It’s a reasonable percentage.
Estragon gets up suddenly.
Estragon: I’m unhappy. But I’ve forgotten why.
Vladimir: What tricks the memory plays! Forgetfulness, is it a boon or a burden?
Job: If I say, ‘I will forget my complaint, I will put off my sad face, and be of good cheer,’ I become afraid of all my suffering, for I know he will not hold me innocent. I shall be condemned; why then do I labor in vain?
Vladimir: Nothing can be done about it.
Estragon: No use struggling.
Vladimir: One is what one is. The essential doesn’t change.
Estragon: Nothing to be done. I think I will lie down for a bit.
Estragon lies down as if to sleep.
Vladimir [to Job]: You could sleep like Gogo.
Job: When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me, my couch will ease my complaint,’ then he scares me with dreams and terrifies me with visions, so that I would choose strangling and death rather than my bones.
Estragon jerks himself up and looks at the two of them.
Estragon: That’s a brilliant idea. What about hanging ourselves immediately!
Vladimir: On that bough? I wouldn’t trust the tree to hold our weight.
Job: You are speaking folly. I will not curse him by killing myself. Shall we expect good from him and not evil?
Estragon: I’ve forgotten what to expect. I’ve forgotten why we’re here, actually.
Vladimir: We’re waiting for Godot. We could wait for him and see what he says. I’m curious to hear what he has to offer. Then we’ll take it or leave it.
Job: If I summoned him and he answered me, I would not believe that he was listening to my voice. He passes by me, and I see him not; he moves on, but I do not perceive him.
Estragon: Personally I wouldn’t even know him if I saw him.
Enter Pozzo—blind—and Lucky.
Estragon: Are you Godot?
Pozzo: I’m Pozzo.
Vladimir: O, Pozzo! You’ve returned. But your sight. You’re blind! Poor Pozzo!
Pozzo: Yes. I woke up one fine day as blind as Fortune.
Job: I am like him, blind to all that is good; my eye will never again see good. And would that I would die, and the eye of him who sees me behold me no more.
Estragon: Do you think God sees me?
Vladimir: You must close your eyes.
Estragon [He closes his eyes]: God have pity on me! I’m in hell!
Vladimir: Your only hope left is to disappear.
Pozzo [pulling Lucky on the rope]: Stop, swine! Slave!
Lucky stops. He keeps holding the bags.
Job: Has not man a hard service on earth, and are not his days like the days of a hired hand? Like a slave who longs for the shadow, and like a hired hand who looks for his wages. Are we not all like this man?
Estragon: Why doesn’t he put the bags down?
Pozzo: I’m not sure why Lucky doesn’t make himself comfortable; why he always does what I tell him to. Perhaps he’s trying to impress me.
Job: But how can a man be in the right before God?
Vladimir: We are not saints, but we have kept our appointment. How many people can boast as much?
Lucky remains as he is.
Pozzo: Perhaps he’s trying to mollify me so I won’t get rid of him. He imagines that if he keeps straining to please me I’ll regret my decision. The truth is you can’t drive these creatures away; the best thing would be to kill them.
Job: Surely now he has worn me out; I was at ease, and he broke me apart. If I sin, he watches me and does not acquit me of my iniquity. If I am guilty, woe to me! If I am in the right, I cannot lift up my head. I shall be condemned; why then do I labor in vain? My spirit is broken; my days are extinct; the graveyard is ready for me.
Estragon: I couldn’t have said it better. The best thing would be to kill me, like Job. Like the billions of others.
Vladimir [fiddling with his hat]: To every man his little cross. Till he dies and is forgotten. In an instant all will vanish and we’ll be alone once more, in the midst of nothingness.
Job: Cease your foolish talk. I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
Estragon: That’s all a pack of lies. Tell us the truth!
Vladimir: We could hang ourselves. Pity we haven’t got a bit of rope.
Job: If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my service I would wait, till my renewal should come.
Estragon: Nothing happens, nobody comes, it’s awful!
Vladimir: What does Lucky think? Think for us!
Lucky drops his bags and speaks.
Lucky: Given the existence as uttered forth in the public records by Puncher and Wattman of a personal God quaquaqua with white beard quaquaqua outside time without extension who from the heights of divine apathia divine athambia divine aphasia loves us dearly with some exceptions for reasons unknown but time will tell and suffers like the divine Miranda with those who for reasons unknown but time will tell are plunged into torment who will fire hell and blast hell to heaven so blue still and so calm.
Job: Surely wisdom will die with you! You are proof that wisdom is hidden from the eyes of all living and concealed from the birds of the air. God understands the way to it, and he knows its place. And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.’ Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face.
Vladimir: Hope deferred maketh the something sick.
Estragon: Nothing is certain.
Job: My eye pours out tears to him.
Pozzo [to Estragon]: Here, take my handkerchief and wipe away his tears. He’ll feel less forsaken.
Estragon tries to wipe Job’s face.
Job: My face is red with weeping and on my eyelids is deep darkness.
Pozzo: The tears of the world are a constant quantity. For the one who begins weeping, another ceases. Your tears are another man’s laughter, if you think about it.
Vladimir: Will you stop whining! I’ve had about my bellyful of your lamentations.
Job: Then cease, and leave me alone, that I may find a little cheer before I go—and I shall not return—to the land of darkness and deep shadow.
Pozzo: Suppose you go now while it is still day? The night is charging and will burst upon us just when we least expect it. That’s how it is on this bitch of an earth.
Job: The night is long, and I am full of tossing till the dawn. But the day is no better, for it is like night to me. When I hoped for good, evil came, and when I waited for light, darkness came. Why is light given to him who is in misery and life to the bitter in soul? Why is there no one to help in my distress?
Vladimir [to Estragon]: Let’s help him. If anything, it’ll be a good diversion.
Estragon: Help him?
Vladimir: In anticipation of some tangible return. Let us do something while we have the chance! It is not every day that we are needed. Others might be of greater aid, but in this moment with his cries ringing in our ears, we represent all of mankind!
Estragon: What can we do?
Vladimir: We can wait for Godot.
Job: Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! I would lay my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments. I would know what he would answer me and understand what he would say to me.
The boy enters.
Boy: Mister! Mr. God—
Vladimir: What is it? Is he coming?
Boy: He is coming soon.
Estragon: What’s your name?
Darkness descends, the earth shakes.