The play begins as Bérenger and other patrons are having a drink at an outdoor café. A rhinoceros charges down the street. The characters remark about this strange incident, but soon the initial surprise wears off. The same reaction is repeated when another animal gallops through the street from the opposite direction.
Act 2 begins in the office where Bérenger works. His colleagues are discussing the newspaper account of the animal incident. Mrs. Boeuf rushes in and announces that a rhinoceros has chased her and realizes that it is Mr. Boeuf transformed. Bérenger then visits his friend John, who defends the rhinoceroses, eventually turns into one, and attempts to run Bérenger down.
In act 3, Dudard, one of Bérenger’s colleagues, explains the motives of the rhinoceroses, making it sound like Bérenger, who does not share his views, is abnormal. Daisy, Bérenger’s girlfriend, informs him that Botard, who had supported Bérenger’s views, has joined the animals’ ranks. Bérenger receives only excuses and protests when he rallies the others against the bestiality that has overcome the town. Daisy herself fails to hear him; she gives in to the attraction of the herd and leaves the stage to metamorphose. Bérenger misses the force that belonging to a community provides, but he stands his ground, alone and miserable, in his humanity.
A few elements of fantasy appear in the play; for example, Mr. “Boeuf” means Mr....
(The entire section is 511 words.)