Krapp's Last Tape Essay - Critical Essays (Drama for Students)

Critical Overview

Like many of Beckett’s plays, Krapp’s Last Tape was both praised and disparaged when it was first shown to British and American audiences. Writing in the New Republic, Robert Brustein stated that the ‘‘haunting and harrowing’’ play was Beckett’s best and that it offered its viewers ‘‘the perfect realization of Beckett’s idea of human isolation.’’ To Brustein, the play’s greatness lay in Beckett’s ability to ‘‘sound those chords of compassion which have always vibrated quietly in his other work’’; his enthusiasm for the play can be seen in his lauding the ‘‘extraordinary economy of the writing’’ and the ‘‘absolute flawlessness of the form.’’ Tom Driver, reviewing the play for the Christian Century, offered similar praise, bluntly describing it as ‘‘the best theatre now visible in New York.’’

However, not all critics responded so favorably. Kenneth Tynan, the former manager of England’s National Theater and one of the most powerful drama critics of the 1950s wrote a devastating review of the play. Written not as a traditional review, but as a parody of Beckett’s style, Tynan mocked what he saw as Beckett’s refusal to satisfy an audience’s fundamental need for action and events in a play. The review’s two ‘‘characters,’’ Slamm and Seck, make comments like, ‘‘Nothing is always about to happen,’’ and state that the play ‘‘would have had the same effect if half the words were other words.’’ Tynan’s review ends with Slamm asking, ‘‘Could you do as much?’’ and Seck replying, ‘‘Not as much. But as little.’’

While Tynan was alone in his abject dismissal of the play, other critics found it another example of an experiment that failed to fulfill the basic requirements for drama. Writing in the Spectator, Alan Brien called both...

(The entire section is 783 words.)