Krapp's Last Tape

by Samuel Beckett

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Student Question

How does watching, instead of reading, Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape affect your perception?

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This particular play, in its device of retreating into Krapp's past via tapes he has made and is "now" listening to, is a great example of the difference between "imitation by language" vs. "imitation of an action by action"-Not only do we hear the words of the script, but we watch Krapp listening to his own words and reacting to them, to the memories they conjure up for him.  Added to that action is the making of his "last tape".  This layering of time does not translate into the reading experience, but is powerfully felt in watching the performance.

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The experience of watching a play is quite different from that of reading a script. In reading, for example, you control pacing and there is the possibility of backward scanning, while in performance time moves in a linear sequence controlled by the production. Also, the meanings of lines are influenced by both staging and acting; with Beckett's often flat, ambiguous lines, the emotional tone or lack thereof is very much determined by the reader (of a script) or actor (in a performance). Also, as is typical in Beckett's work, light is very much central to the meaning of the play, as seen in Krapp's statement:

“The new light above my table is a great improvement. With all this darkness around me I feel less alone. (Pause.) In a way. (Pause.) I love to get up and move about in it, then back here to... (hesitates) (Pause.)”

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