Krapp's Last Tape

by Samuel Beckett

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What are the similarities and differences between "the three Krapps" in Krapp's Last Tape?

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The play Krapp's Last Tape takes place during Krapp's sixty ninth birthday and in the moment when Krapp is about to conduct his self-made tradition: recollecting his life experiences on tape, up to that very moment. 

Krapp is presently described as a single man whose only contact with people comes in the form of Fanny, a prostitute who visits him from time to time. Living alone in shabby accommodations, Krapp is an alcoholic whose appearance gives the impression that his habit has "caught up" with him for he is described under a not-so-flattering light:

...a wearish old man....trousers too short for him... White face. Purple nose. Disordered grey hair. Unshaven...very near-sighted (but unspectacled). Hard of hearing.Cracked voice. Distinctive intonation.Laborious walk

This dishevelled old man is presently listening to the tapes that he created on his 39th birthday, exactly thirty years ago.

It is safe to say that the 39 year-old Krapp is the strongest of the three Krapps that are shown in the play. The man on the tape sounds conceited, somewhat pompous, and self-deceived about his chances to become a well-known writer. Secure in his belief that he is some form of "tortured genius", the 39 year-old Krapp talks in researched and overwhelming language about his experiences. He also shuts down meaningful relationships in favor of remaining in isolation. From what can be assumed, these actions make him feel intellectually-superior.

This Krapp also explores the loss of his mother, sadness, and the need to love, but he neglects those emotions. He even gives up on what could have become a solid, lifetime relationship. At this age, Krapp has written a novel that has merely sold seventeen copies. However, he still claims to be riding on the "crest of the wave", and truly believes that he is destined for something major.

The 39 year-old Krapp looks down on the 29 year-old Krapp. From the information that he gives, the 29 year-old Krapp is, or was, just as idealistic and silly as the man that he will become ten years later. Like the 39 year-old, the younger Krapp is bent on ideas that he follows foolishly. As the voice in the tape narrates,

Hard to believe I was ever that young whelp. The voice! Jesus! And the aspirations! (Brief laugh in which Krapp joins.) And the resolutions! (Brief laugh in which Krapp joins.) To drink less, in particular.

Like his ten year older self, the youngest Krapp also abandons someone who he loves, and who could have been with him for good. Similarly, he is bent on the idea that "something bigger" is coming his way. Unfortunately, nothing extraordinary happens to Krapp at either age. 

Now at 69, Krapp is suffering from the consequences of his earlier choices. He remains a lonely man, but there is really no reason why he should be so. His self-imposed exile from society feeds his make-belief idea that he is some kind of misunderstood artist--which, he is not. Hence, it is safe to conclude that Krapp has not changed his attitude towards life, nor his behavior, in the very least.

In all, the three Krapps (notice the scatological nature of his ironic name) are alike in that none of them succeeded because none of them ever changed. Insisting on a destiny not made for him, Krapp has moved life idealistically, and not realistically. All chances of a normal life forfeited, the old man Krapp is now destined to listen to his past, and regret it for good. 

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