Places: Krapp’s Last Tape

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1958

First produced: 1958, at the Royal Court Theatre, London

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Absurdist

Time of work: 1950’s

Places DiscussedKrapp’s den

Krapp’s Krapp’s Last Tapeden. The writer’s den suggests the spiritual darkness and utter loneliness in which Krapp lives. The play opens with a series of seemingly unconnected and eccentric actions, as Krapp eats bananas, fingers an old envelope, and retires to a room offstage for a drink. As he listens to one of his tapes, in which a much younger version of himself describes his usual birthday routine, the audience discovers that Krapp is now repeating this ritual on his sixty-ninth birthday.

As the younger Krapp explains on the tape, he is searching for the “grain” of his life, which he defines as “those things worth having when all the dust . . . when all my dust has settled.” Now, thirty years later, the aging and alcoholic Krapp does the same. However, he can only return to a prior tape, on which he recorded what his ledger describes as a “Farewell to love.” The voice on the tape goes on to state with youthful conviction that he would not want the years back, when he was capable of happiness. “Not with the fire in me now.” As the elder Krapp sits in the same room thirty years later, with the fire all but extinguished, he has only the darkness surrounding him. The room embodies the dismal reality of that future which compelled him to bid farewell to love.

BibliographyGontarski, S. E. The Intent of Undoing in Samuel Beckett’s Dramatic Texts. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985. Covers Beckett’s plays. A chapter on Krapp’s Last Tape connects the revision process to evolving interpretation of the play. Selected bibliography.Gontarski, S. E., ed. On Beckett: Essays and Criticism. New York: Grove Press, 1986. Essays by various scholars, including Ruby Cohn’s “Beckett Directs: Endgame and Krapp’s Last Tape,” which discusses Beckett’s adeptness at staging.Kenner, Hugh. Samuel Beckett: A Critical Study. New ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973. Important study of Beckett. Kenner consulted with Beckett in writing it. Does not focus on Krapp’s Last Tape but the preface provides valuable insight into Beckett’s attitude toward his work.MacMillan, Dougald, and Martha Fehsenfeld. From “Waiting for Godot” to “Krapp’s Last Tape.” Vol. 1 in Beckett in the Theatre. New York: Riverrun Press, 1988. Devotes a chapter to Krapp’s Last Tape. Discusses changes Beckett made from early to later drafts. Extensive interpretation of the play in relation to production.Reid, Alec. All I Can Manage, More than I Could: An Approach to the Plays of Samuel Beckett. Dublin: The Dolmen Press, 1968. Accessible and valuable source on plays with publication, first production information, and synopses. Introductory essays on Beckett and his innovative work in broadening the scope of modern drama.
Categories: Places