Krapp's Last Tape is a one-act play by Samuel Beckett. Originally written in English in 1958, Beckett wrote it after having heard a reading of his novel, Molloy, as performed by Irish actor Patrick Magee. He was apparently taken with the actor’s “cracked” voice, and wrote the piece with Magee in mind.
Krapp is an aging man who records his diary into a tape recorder. He finds a tape, "box three, spool five", in which the voice of his younger self recounts details about his life at that time.
Krapp is dissatisfied with his younger self on listening: he feels he was pompous and had misaligned priorities — Krapp listens particularly to his younger self recounting his past loves (and perhaps sexual encounters, but this is not explicitly stated), especially with one woman, once on a barge.citation needed
Krapp finally records a reel in which he reflects on the experience of listening to his younger self – "Just been listening to that stupid bastard I took myself for thirty years ago" – before wrenching it off the recorder.
The main theme of the play is endings, with the very title implying that Krapp will not live to (or want to) record another tape. The play is also a metaphor for the end of history: all is lost - all we hear on the tapes, the fragments of the past, are nonsensical, dubious, devoid of meaning. As is Krapp's current life: he bitterly implies a half-hearted attempt of intercourse with a prostitute.
The old Krapp sings: "Now the day is over,/Night is drawing nigh-igh,/Shadows--(coughing, then almost inaudible)--of the evening/Steal across the sky."
The great problem with what Beckett calls "loss of meaning" is that it works in retrospect - once life loses meaning, the past does as well. There is no salvation, as the old Krapp recalls going to a church recently, where he "Went to sleep and fell off the pew."
The banana is apparently a symbol for (repressed?) sexuality, with the young Krapp saying: "Fatal things for a man with my condition." The old Krapp still indulges in them, even slips on the peel and falls.
The play was memorably parodied in the television sketch comedy The Fast Show, in which Arthur Atkinson, a music hall comedian, played an altogether more stoic version of Krapp.