Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape is written as a monolog with two voices on stage and dealt with the protagonist Krapp’s self-recording behaviour in two phases in his lifetime. The play takes up the theme of repetition by his circular actions-playing the recorded tape. At the beginning of the play, a wearish old man with white face, purple nose and disordered grey hair, living in the darkness of his “den,” provides the readers a vivid image of the protagonist’s shabbiness, clown-like figure and deepening isolation from the crowd. He was in his sixties and he tried to retrospect his thirty-nine recorded tape. He embedded his old memories into the tape and then he suddenly found himself stupid and ridiculous. This mechanically fixed memory turned out to be his self-mockery; to make things worse, the memories in his sixties are decaying and never coming back. The recursion is such an irony that his mother’s death, his love affair, and the break of his self-recording faith. During the retrospect, he came to realize that his whole life was such a repeated waste without any meaning for him.
To analyze the theme of repetition, I found that Krapp had already led the same life in the past and the present. Apparently, Krapp has a notable characteristic that he is a life recorder. He tends to record some peak experiences in life in case that one day he would barely remember all. “Farewell to-(he turns the page)-love” shows that he deliberately looked for his remembrance of the past things by flipping on the page. His uncertainty of those past key memories, “the black ball,” “memorable equinox” proved his aged fact. Then, he began his routine job on birthday-playing the tape. The self-satisfaction in his young age could be found in the first tape: The language is pompous and the tape has been high-toned recorded. He seemed to be overly self-tolerant toward his own personal weak habits, such as eating bananas, drinking, and so on. In the meantime, his reliance on the indigenous pattern of lifestyle could be little distinguished from the thirty-year later; the den, the rag, remained the same. At that time, he is self-indulgent in the way it was. But the indulgence soon worn off because he found himself nothing proved in a significant way. Later on, the tone moderated into the quietness, as quiet as his life would be. He was emotionally affected by the key experiences that he has been through, his love story as he had written “Farewell to love”, or his mother’s death in the black ball memory. He seemed to be relieved that he was over with Bianca. He mocked his past for being so resolved and then the two laughs between past and present burst out together. He even “thanks God it’s over,” which completely showed his inability to control his own fate but to thank God as a foundation of belief. The same action recurred again in the later life and the habit of mockery recurred as well. However, the replay of the sex scene could be seen as an incidental surprise for him that even if the he sneered at the younger self a lot, he was still attracted by the feverish sex life. Actually I am quite fascinated by the description of the scene of making out especially when he replayed again to recall the most vigorous moment as a lovable person. To him, it seemed the best moment happening in his lifetime and it symbolized the flashy hope and a chance to organically break through all these mechanical life. Another part that I like so much is that after replaying, two Krapps were virtually debating among the past love that the young one is affirming, and the old one is denying on the feeling that he had. “Just been listening to that stupid bastard I took myself for thirty years ago, hard to believe I was ever as bad as that.”(The old one) “The eyes she had!” (The young one) I love the dramatic irony because we audience all know Krapp was suffering his elderly isolation but he kept repeating his denial and he kept denying his repetition on and on…… Once he sneered himself by calling himself stupid bastard and the next minute he repeated his sneer, anger, and rejection. “When there was a chance of happiness. But I wouldn’t want them back. Not with the fire in me now. No, I wouldn’t want them back.” Krapp’s reluctance of change repeated again even if happiness came back. Also, in terms of time issue, we could see the recursion and repetition on lifestyle revolving in two phases at the same time.
This theme of repetition reminds me of Pina Bausch’s Bluebear: While Listening to A Tape Recording of Bela Bartok's Opera--Duke Bluebeard's Castle. The dance-theater piece is noted for its repeated physical abuse signaled by tapes. I think my introduction is too brief to precisely depict the violence and strength in Bluebeard. The repetition in Bluebeard symbols the fixed mechanical movements could be gradual accumulated into physical violence and abuse. In my opinion, to compare the two different genres of art Krapp’s Last Tape and Bluebeard, the repetition symbols the same: the flow of life. It is the process of life that we all suffer, from birth to death, which is mechanically recurred. It is just like rituals, embodying and furthermore ensuring the necessity of daily routines. Just as the case in Krapp’s Last Tape, we could see the misery of how he rejects the attempts against the indigenous lifestyles and how the indigenous lifestyle constantly goes on……
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