Rhinoceros / A play | Eugène Ionesco, 1959

Le Rhinocéros, pièce en trois actes et quatre tableaux, 1959            Eugène Ionesco

“Berenger: And you consider all this natural?

Dudard: What could be more natural than a rhinoceros?

Berenger: Yes, but for a man to turn into a rhinoceros is abnormal beyond question.

Dudard: Well, of course, that’s a matter of opinion …

Berenger: It is beyond question, absolutely beyond question!

Dudard: You seem very sure of yourself. Who can say where the normal stops and the abnormal begins? Can you personally define these conceptions of normality and abnormality? Nobody has solved this problem yet, either medically or philosophically. You ought to know that.

Berenger: The problem may not be resolved philosophically — but in practice it’s simple. They may prove there’s no such thing as movement … and then you start walking …
[he starts walking up and down the room] … and you go on walking, and you say to yourself, like Galileo, ‘E pur si muove’ …

Dudard: You’re getting things all mixed up! Don’t confuse the issue. In Galileo’s case it was the opposite: theoretic and scientific thought proving itself superior to mass opinion and dogmatism.

Rhinoceros  Eugène Ionesco, Acte I, Jean (William Sabatier) and  Bérenger (Jean Louis Barrault), first performance, Théâtre de l’Odéon, January 20, 1960 

Berenger: [quite lost] What does all that mean? Mass opinion, dogmatism — they’re just words! I may be mixing everything up in my head but you’re losing yours.
You don’t know what’s normal and what isn’t any more. I couldn’t care less about Galileo … I don’t give a damn about Galileo.

Dudard: You brought him up in the first place and raised the whole question, saying that practice always had the last word. Maybe it does, but only when
it proceeds from theory! The history of thought and science proves that.

Berenger: [more and more furious] It doesn’t prove anything of the sort! It’s all gibberish, utter lunacy!

Dudard: There again we need to define exactly what we mean by lunacy …

Berenger: Lunacy is lunacy and that’s all there is to it! Everybody knows what lunacy is. And what about the rhinoceroses — are they practice or are they theory?”

Rhinoceros  Eugène Ionesco, first performance, Théâtre de l’Odéon, January 20, 1960 

”Berenger is unshaven and hatless, with unkempt hair and creased clothes; everything about him indicates negligence.
He seems weary, half-asleep; from time to time he yawns.”

”Berenger: You deliberately misunderstand me.”

“Daisy: I never knew you were such a realist-I thought you were more poetic. Where’s your imagination? There are many sides to reality.
Choose the one that’s best for you. Escape into the world of imagination.”

”Berenger: Can you speak more clearly? I didn’t catch what you said. You swallowed the words.”

“What’s chivalrous about saying you’ve seen a rhinoceros?”

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Rhinoceros, Eugène Ionesco. William Sabatier, Jean Louis Barrault and Simone Velere, Theatre de France Odeon, Paris, January 1960

”Jean: It’s not that I hate people. I’m indifferent to them—rather they disgust me; and they’d better stay out of my way, or I’ll run them down.”

Voice of old man’s wife: Jean, don’t stand there gossiping!

”Botard: It’s all a lot of made-up nonsense.
Daisy: But I saw it, I saw the rhinoceros! ”

”Daisy: They’re like gods.”

”Daisy: You shouldn’t have made him angry.
Berenger: It wasn’t my fault. ”

”Grocer’s wife: Oh, you always have to be different from everybody else.”

”Waitress: Oh, a rhinoceros! ”

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Rhinoceros, Eugène Ionesco, 1960. Jean-Louis Barrault (Béranger)Théâtre de l’Odéon, January 20, 1960 

”Berenger: In any case, to convince them you’d have to talk to them. And to talk to them I’d have to learn their language. Or they’d have to learn mine. But what language do I speak? What is my language? French? Am I talking French? Yes, it must be French. But what is French? I can call it French if I want and nobody can say it isn’t—I’m the only one who speaks it. What am I saying? ”

”Jean: Life is an abnormal business.”

”Berenger: I’ve got no horns. And I never will have.”

”Dudard: I shall keep my mind clear. [He starts to move around the stage in circles]. As clear as it ever was. But if you’re going to criticize, it’s better to do so from the inside.
I’m not going to abandon them. I won’t abandon them.”

“I’m the last man left, and I’m staying that way until the end. I’m not capitulating!”

Eugène Ionesco, Le Rhinocéros, 1959

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Rhinoceros, Eugène Ionesco, 1960. Simone Valère (Daisy), Gabriel Cattand (Dudard) and Jean-Louis Barrault (Béranger) in the last act of the play.

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