This is the rehearsal script of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, submitted to the Lord Chamberlain’s Office for licence on 1 July 1954. Until 1968 the Lord Chamberlain’s Office examined every new stage play before licensing them for public performance; in the process, many plays were censored or altered.
Originally written in French, Beckett’s two-act play premiered in 1953 as En Attendant Godot in Paris. Beckett translated the work into English that same year, although it wasn’t until 1955 that it was staged in Britain in a private production at London’s Arts Theatre, directed by Peter Hall. When the play transferred to the Criterion Theatre later that year, it faced censorship by the Lord Chamberlain’s Office.
Marked up in pink pen and red pencil, this script reveals the cuts and changes that had to be made to 12 passages in the play before it could be publicly performed.
What elements of Waiting for Godot were censored by the Lord Chamberlain?
Many of the Lord Chamberlain’s cuts relate to bodily or sexual language and gestures – for example ‘piss’, ‘arse’, ‘his hand pressed to his pubis’, the falling of Estragon’s trousers – as well as the play’s religious allusions.
Frustrated and exasperated, Beckett found his carefully wrought text deeply compromised. He reflected:
His incriminations are so preposterous that I’m afraid the whole thing is off. … The things I had expected and which I was half prepared to amend (reluctantly), but also passages that are vital to the play … are impossible either to alter or suppress.
This censored script was published in the first British edition, issued by Faber in 1956. In 1965 Faber printed a revised and unexpurgated edition, restoring Beckett’s text to its original form.
 Samuel Beckett to Barney Rosset, quoted in James Knowlson, Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 1997), p. 412.
- Full title:
- Lord Chamberlain's Plays: Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
- 1 July 1954
- Manuscript / Typescript / Playscript / Manuscript annotation
- Samuel Beckett, Lord Chamberlain's Office
- Usage terms
Samuel Beckett: © The Estate of Samuel Beckett. The above selected images reproduced by kind permission of the Estate of Samuel Beckett c/o Rosica Colin Limited, London.
Lord Chamberlain's Office: © Crown Copyright. This material has been published under an Open Government Licence.
- Held by
- British Library
- LCP 1954/23 No. 6597
- Article by:
- Andrew Dickson
- 20th-century theatre, Capturing and creating the modern, Power and conflict, European influence
Waiting for Godot has been performed in many languages and in many contexts: in prisons, in apartheid South Africa, in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and during the Siege of Sarajevo. Andrew Dickson examines the ways in which Samuel Beckett's play has resonated in different communities and political climates.
- Article by:
- Chris Power
- European influence, Capturing and creating the modern, 20th-century theatre
Chris Power explores how Waiting for Godot resists straightforward interpretation, producing audiences as uncertain as its characters.
- Article by:
- William McEvoy
- 20th-century theatre, Capturing and creating the modern, European influence
The main character in Happy Days is a middle-aged woman inexplicably buried in a mound, first to her waist and then to her neck. William McEvoy discusses how Beckett uses this character and her predicament to explore a recurring interest in his work: the failings of bodies and language.