Krapp's Last Tape

by Samuel Beckett

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 218


Krapp, the solitary character. He is a sixty-nine-year-old writer living a life filled with sadness and regret. Since reaching adulthood, Krapp has recorded on tape an annual account of personal activities. On the day on which the play’s events occur, Krapp is seen listening to a recording made thirty years earlier. Even though the play has only one character, it successfully captures shifting aspects of identity and shows the younger Krapp, heard through the taped voice, filled with aspirations, becoming the cynical and bitter old man. In fact, there are few common characteristics between these two dramatized aspects of the individual. Remnants of the younger man are to be found mainly in the older Krapp’s addictions to alcohol, bananas, and sexual activity. The younger Krapp’s hope of sacrificing his life to become a successful writer has not been realized. The older Krapp’s attention is visibly occupied in trying to recapture an experience, heard from the taped voice, of lovemaking in a punt on a lake. This incident of Krapp attempting to savor his past experiences contrasts severely with his decision to remain alone to pursue his work. The play forces together a series of opposing characteristics—companionship and solitude, life and death, love and repulsion—to demonstrate the development and division of self.


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Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 238

The title character of Krapp’s Last Tape is a disheveled and sullen man who had dreams of being a writer and creating his ‘‘opus magnum,’’ but who instead has spent his life as a solitary and bitter failure. His only companion is, ironically, his own voice, with which he interacts throughout the play through the use of the tape recorder. His isolation is of his own choosing, however, for he is misanthropic to the point of despising even himself, as his comments to the voice on the tape reveal. As his name suggests, everything about this man, his youth, his old age, his mind, his heart, his ideas of his own talents and impending greatness amount to little more than ‘‘crap.’’ While the scatological joke of the title may strike some readers as juvenile or in poor taste, the name is indeed quite fitting, for it unmercifully points out exactly what Krapp’s ambitions have brought him. The name also alludes to the fact that Krapp complains about his bowel troubles through the entire play and eats bananas in an attempt to prevent frequent movements. Thus, a man with such a name is incapable of one of the most simple and basic human bodily functions; such an ironic situation reveals the depth of what some readers regard as Beckett’s pessimism and which all readers can recognize as the irony that pervades the play as a whole.

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