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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 233

The Lesson is a play written by Eugene Ionesco. The play is made up of a single act and was performed for the first time in 1951. The play begins in the office of the professor. The office is also used as the dining room. The professor, who is between 50 and 60 years old, is expecting a new student. When the doorbell rings, the maid opens the door only to find a young, vivacious woman dressed in a school uniform standing outside. The maid leads the student inside and shows her where to wait for the professor. The maid is a stout, red-faced lady between 40 and 50 years old. She is worried about the health of the professor.

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The professor soon arrives and introduces himself to the student before the lesson begins. He writes on an imaginary chalkboard as he tries to make the student understand various math equations. As the nonsensical and absurd lesson progresses, the professor becomes agitated, accusing the student of ignorance. His actions make her meek and quiet. She complains of a toothache but the professor brandishes a knife under her nose and tries to have her pronounce the word “knife.” Eventually, what began as a mere toothache turns into a serious ailment, with her entire body aching. Ultimately, the professor stabs the student, killing her on the spot. The scene ends with the maid welcoming yet another student into the house.

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