Dramatic Devices

(Comprehensive Guide to Drama)

Krapp’s solipsism is suggested at the start of the play by the stage lighting. Krapp occupies the brightly lit center of the stage, sitting at his desk listening to tapes or making a new one. The rest of the stage is in darkness. His nearsightedness and deafness further emphasize that this is a man trapped inside his skull. His fumbling with the ledger, unlocking drawers, and groping in the boxes for a tape all metaphorically suggest the memories an old person contends with day by day and hour by hour.

Yet the tapes themselves are not simply an analogy for memory. The incongruity of life is seen in the contrast between the technologically perfect record afforded by the tapes and the living Krapp. Krapp’s Last Tape thus contributes something new to the technique of drama—an actor not present who is still able to speak. The immediate dramatic impact of younger Krapp is in the difference of sound, a strong, pompous voice brimming with assurance and wisdom, with which older Krapp, thanks to the tape machine, can play. Beckett can play, too, with Krapp’s attitude of listening. As Krapp begins listening to the tape, he settles himself more comfortably and, in the process, knocks a box full of tapes to the floor. He switches off the tape, loses his temper, and throws the boxes and index ledger to the floor before rewinding the tape and starting over. Thus, the drama of listening is portrayed as never before, as an activity of editing, censoring, and rehearing that true listening never can be. The...

(The entire section is 621 words.)