Censored script of Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

Description

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.[1]

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.

[1] 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
Created:
1 July 1954
Format:
Manuscript / Typescript / Playscript / Manuscript annotation
Creator:
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
Shelfmark:
LCP 1954/23 No. 6597

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