The play opens with two men, Vladimir and Estragon, meeting by a leafless tree, whose species is later speculated to be that of willow. Estragon notifies Vladimir of his most recent troubles: he spent the previous night lying in a ditch and received a beating from a number of anonymous assailants. The duo discuss a variety of issues, none of any apparent severe consequence, and it is revealed that they are waiting for a man named Godot. They are not certain if they’ve ever met Godot, or if he will even arrive.
Pozzo and Lucky, his slave, subsequently arrive and pause in their journey. Pozzo endeavours to engage both men in conversation. Lucky is bound by a rope held by Pozzo, who forces Lucky to carry his heavy bags and physically punishes him if he deems his movements too lethargic. Pozzo states that he is on the way to the market, at which he intends to sell Lucky for profit. Following Pozzo’s command: “Think!”, Lucky performs a dance and a sudden monologue, a torrent of academic-sounding phrases mixed with sounds such as “quaquaquaqua”. Lucky’s speech, in a cryptic manner, seems to reference the underlying themes of the play. Pozzo and Lucky soon depart, leaving Estragon and Vladimir to continue their wait for the elusive Godot.
Soon a boy shows up and explains to Vladimir and Estragon that he is a messenger from Godot, and that Godot will not be arriving tonight, but tomorrow. Vladimir asks about Godot, and the boy exits. Vladimir and Estragon decide that they will also leave, but they remain there as the curtain falls.
It is the following day. Vladimir and Estragon are again waiting near the tree, which has grown a number of leaves since last witnessed in act 1, an indication that a certain amount of time has passed since the events contained within act 1. Both men are still awaiting Godot. Lucky and Pozzo eventually reappear, but not as they were. Pozzo has become blind and Lucky has become dumb. Pozzo can’t recall having met Vladimir and Estragon the previous night. Lucky and Pozzo exit shortly after their spirited encounter, leaving Vladimir and Estragon to go on waiting.
Soon after, the boy reappears to report that Godot will not be coming. The boy claims that he didn’t talk to Vladimir yesterday which causes Vladimir a great deal more frustration than he exhibits during their initial encounter in the play. Vladimir implores the boy to remember him the next day so as to avoid a similar encounter. The boy exits. Vladimir and Estragon consider suicide, but they don’t have a rope. They decide to leave and return the day after with a rope, but again they remain as the curtain falls on the final act.