A: Eugène Ionesco Pf: 1959, Paris Pb: 1959 Tr: 1960 G: Drama in 3 acts; French prose S: Small provincial French town, mid-20th c. C: 11m, 6f, extrasBérenger, a scruffy Chaplinesque figure, meets his fastidious friend Jean in a café. While Bérenger drinks to escape from the tedium of his daily routine, a rhinoceros suddenly thunders past in the street. The following day at work, Bérenger and Daisy, a fellow worker whom he fancies, discuss the damage wrought by the rhinoceros, but the boss insists that work must go on as normal. A woman arrives late at work, pursued by her husband who is transformed into a rhinoceros. The wife leaps on his back and rides off. When Bérenger visits Jean, he discovers that Jean too is turning into a rhinoceros, and that the town is filling with these destructive pachyderms. As all the citizens endure this transformation, soon only Bérenger and Daisy are left as humans. They declare their love for each other but soon end up bickering like an old married couple. Seduced by the gentle lowing of the rhinoceros outside, Daisy leaves to join them. Becoming increasingly embarrassed about his human features, Bérenger contemplates becoming a rhinoceros himself but finally resolves that ‘as the last man left’, he is ‘staying that way until the end’.
A: Eugène Ionesco Pf: 1959, Paris Pb: 1959 Tr: 1960 G: Drama in 3 acts; French prose S: Small provincial French town, mid-20th c. C: 11m, 6f, extras
Rhinoceros, Ionesco's commercially most successful play, was understood internationally to be an allegory about the rise of Nazism, although its implications extend far beyond this. In the scruffy figure of Bérenger, Ionesco portrays an individual courageously holding on to his humanity in the face of conformism – a conformism which can have many other sources than extreme political movements.