Compare And Contrast Krapp’s Last Tape and Death And The King’s Horseman Essay

Compare And Contrast Krapp’s Last Tape and Death And The King’s Horseman

                This paper compares and contrasts several elements of the two plays, Krapp’s Last Tape and Death and The King’s Horseman. The elements which will be compared and contrasted are basic introduction of each play, characters, styles and themes. The following paragraphs will talk about the mentioned elements in detail in order to provide a better comprehension of the main focus of this paper.


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                To start off with Krapp’s Last Tape, the central character Krapp has a firm belief that he has the ability to bring transition in the world by the help of his art. This may define the main character a bit, but this is not the central point of the play and instead the main attention is given to the prospect that how this belief of Krapp turned into something depressive and awful. Eventually Krapp discovers that it is not possible to change this world and therefore his art work will not put any positive impact on this world. Beckett, the author, has presented an ironic piece by showing how Krapp devastates his time by owning such an excessive vision of changing the world. This play consists of simply one character and his dreams as being an artist and as someone who wants to do something fruitful for the world. Krapp signifies all those people who want to benefit other people, and are passionate about accomplishing their goals. Different people will have different opinion about the play and some may even think of Krapp as being an over dramatic character (“Krapp’s Last Tape: Introduction”).

                Among the many plays written by Wole Soyinka, Death and the King’s Horseman are thought by majority of the people as Soyinka’s best play. Soyinka was highly acclaimed for the way he blended Yoruban and European culture in form of poetic drama in Death and the King’s Horseman and Dance of the Forests. The play, Death and the King’s Horseman, talks about a tale of a person Elesin. Elesin is the king’s horseman whose king dies away and therefore due to the traditional ceremony, it was anticipated by him to commit suicide. The story of this play is taken from a historical incident of a royal horseman in 1946 who was stopped from committing suicide. Some events in this play are changed from the ones which actually happened. Soyinka placed the blame on Elesin for not carrying out his duty. This play presents a good example of African drama and tradition for people who want to learn literature of Africa (“Death and the King’s Horseman”).

                Looking at the above mentioned brief introduction of both the plays, it can be judged that in both plays, the characters are committed to their passion. The passion for Krapp is to bring a change through his art and the passion for Elesin is to stay committed to his task and job. On the other hand, Krapp stays limited to just himself only while Elesin works as a royal horseman and therefore interact with many people. Krapp’s life is wasted in struggle of changing the world and Elesin’s life gets wasted when his king dies and he was expected to commit suicide.


As the main characters of both the plays were introduced, now is the time to discuss them in a little more detail in order to get a better picture of the characters and to compare and contrast them accordingly. Krapp is portrayed as a person who is disturbed, distressed and angry since his dream of changing the world via his art of writing is shattered, making him face failure and loneliness. For Krapp, his own voice is his only friend and a tape recorder was the link between him and his voice. He chose solitude and loneliness for himself. At a certain point his voice recordings reveal that he even hates himself. If a close consideration is given to his name, then it can be seen that his name is pronounced as “crap” and the play reveals how his life is full of crap for him. A person can think of all the things which can be categorized under crap and then can relate those things as being part of Krapp’s life. Krapp was even facing bowel problems which he mentioned a lot in his tapes throughout the play and ate bananas to deal with the complication. One can easily see the irony between the name Krapp and his life which did not have any happy aspect to it (“Krapp’s Last Tape (Characters)”). In contrast to Krapp’s Last Tape, there are several characters in Death and the King’s Horseman. Amusa is a black African sergeant who worked for British and faced troubles in gaining trust of British at times due to his race. Bride is a character who plays a role of a silent person throughout the play and despite of being engaged to someone else, she was given to Elesin. Iyaloja plays a role of being the head of all the women in the village who is intelligent, smart and clever. She gives away Bride to Elesin despite Bride’s engagement with her own son. Simon Pilkings is a British district officer and Jane Pilkings is his wife. Praise-Singer is a person who understands Elesin very well. Moving back to the main character, Elesin Oba plays the role of a head horseman of the dead king and due to this he leads a life full with great food and nice clothing. All these luxuries were granted to him as gifts for his honest work as a horseman. At his time, it was a tradition and ritual that if a king dies away, then the horseman has to commit suicide too. The happy times turn into sad ones when the king dies away and Elesin is expected to follow the tradition of committing suicide. Elesin turned out to be purely honest to the ritual and agrees on committing suicide but when he sees Bride, he insists to go to bed with her. After the good time with Bride, he starts to feel like being in another world full of charm, and even when Simon’s men reach to take him in prison, he continued being in the same state again. Eventually, he does not die and creates a scene of disgrace and disarray for himself and the other. On the night, when Elesin was to commit suicide, prince was going to pay a visit to the district and in order to create a pleasant atmosphere in front of the prince; Simon makes effort to prevent the suicide. Though Elesin did this to avoid disorder and chaos in front of the prince, the opposite of this happened as Simon never paid attention to the Yoruba traditions and rituals and as a result of this, there was chaos everywhere in the world (“Death and the King’s Horseman (Characters)”). Now since both the main characters of the plays have been discussed in more depth, it is now easy to compare and contrast more elements of their lives. As it was seen, Krapp led a life full of troubles, agonies, loneliness and pains. In contrast to this, Elesin led a happy and luxurious life with loads of good food and clothing and a festive time. Krapp gets mesmerized by the passion of changing the world, and for Elesin, the world changes as he did not carry out the ritual properly. Krapp has own voice as his only friend and secret shared, while for Elesin, it was Praise-Singer who understood and knew Elesin well enough. Krapp went through physical pain throughout his time while Elesin encountered death as his ultimate pain and sorrow.

                Setting plays an important role in every play and is equally important as the plot of the story and the characters. A strong play needs a strong setting and therefore it is important to compare and contrast the settings of both the plays which are being discussed in this paper. The setting of Krapp’s Last Tape set in Krapp’s room which replicated Krapp’s life and his personality. There are not many things in the room, and the room is mostly empty and a little table further confirms the fact that Krapp led a lonely life with no one to share his feelings and loneliness. Since he was not in contact with any person at all, his room gives a good picture of this very fact. There is a very “strong white light” which can be seen on the table and on a bit of the surrounding area, while the rest of the room stays in darkness. Krapp is a thirty-nine-year-old man who has recorded everything he says and listens to the tapes by himself. The combination of light and dark plays a blended role by representing two different phases of lives, two different characteristic and so forth. For instance, light reveals life while darkness symbolizes death. This combination of life and death can be seen in Krapp’s life with the fact that the year his mother died, he did not die with her and instead focused his attention towards using his art of writing to change the world but did not get any success in selling his books (“Krapp’s Last Tape (Style)”).

                Death and the King’s Horseman is set in a Nigerian town of Oyo during the time of the year 1943. In the nineteenth century, Nigeria was taken over by the Great Britain as a colony and during the 1940s; the British officers began to look after a little group of White Europeans residing in Nigeria. The black Africans living there were the people who followed the traditions of Yoruba and therefore did not want to follow the traditions of the white people living there. The market was the main people where people used to hang out, celebrate and gather up (“Death and the King’s Horseman (Style)”). Now the settings of both the plays can be compared easily that how Krapp’s life was limited to his small room while for Elesin, there were friends, people, places to socialize at and a girl whom he found very beautiful. Krapp led a life of his own choice while Elesin lived in a place full with customs and traditions. Both the plays present two different prospects of lives and how one event can change the whole life in either a positive or a negative way.

Works Cited:

1-      “Krapp’s Last Tape: Introduction.” Drama for Students. Ed. Marie Rose Napierkowski. Vol. 7. Detroit: Gale, 1998. January 2006. 6 August 2008.

2-      “Death and the King’s Horseman.” Notes on Drama. Answers Corporation, 2006. 06 Aug. 2008.

3-      “Krapp’s Last Tape (Characters).” Notes on Drama. Answers Corporation, 2006. 06 Aug. 2008.

4-      “Death and the King’s Horseman (Characters).” Notes on Drama. Answers Corporation, 2006. 06 Aug. 2008.

5-      “Krapp’s Last Tape (Style).” Notes on Drama. Answers Corporation, 2006. 06 Aug. 2008.

6-      “Death and the King’s Horseman (Style).” Notes on Drama. Answers Corporation, 2006. 06 Aug. 2008.