Themes and Meanings
Krapp’s Last Tape is a play about the mystery, sadness, and comedy of being a self. The significant operations of selfhood—communicating, thinking, believing—are for Krapp ruts and poses that he continues to attempt performing for reasons not wholly clear to him. He attempts each of the three in his yearly ritual of self-scrutiny, which is nothing less than a search for his self in the various encounters that self experienced. For old Krapp, however, the resources of personhood are nearly extinct, buried at the start of the play under the compulsive performance of senile behavior—banana sucking, mental blankness, and infantile savoring of vocal sounds for the sounds’ sake alone.
The urge to know himself stirs even this slovenly writer-recluse. Alone in his den, surrounded by darkness, sitting at a table holding canned versions of his former voices, Krapp is Samuel Beckett’s image of how far a self is from other selves, even the “I” of which it seems to have sole possession. This “I” is the much-valued self of Krapp to which all the boxes of tapes have been addressed, this “I” which has for some unknown reason been preserving itself in verbal mummification. Yet, for Beckett, estrangement is the fate of pressing outward with one’s “I,” even if the communication is directed to a later self. Attending the voice of his former self, Krapp rejects its wisdom, laughing at the naive visionary of thirty-nine, and this younger Krapp had himself just listened to another earlier self and...
(The entire section is 623 words.)