Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 584
The Lesson follows a session between the Professor and the Pupil, who are not named, with some interruptions by Marie, his maid.
Initially the Pupil seems to be catching on well, and the Professor praises her as “magnificent.” As they move on from addition to subtraction, she starts to stumble, and he encourages her to count, asking how high she can go.
PUPIL: I can count to . . . to infinity.
PROFESSOR: That's not possible, miss.
PUPIL: Well then, let's say to sixteen.
PROFESSOR: That is enough. One must know one's limits.
When he tells her that he will next teach her linguistics and comparative philology, the Maid opposes him.
MAID: No, Professor, no! . . . Professor, especially not philology, philology leads to calamity.
He ignores her and begins, telling an anecdote about a friend who mispronounced the sound “f.” He states that the friend mistook “f” for “f,” using a large number of examples (it seems that these sounds are indistinguishable). As he ends the story by telling how he hid the fault, the Pupil complains of a toothache.
PROFESSOR: He managed to conceal his fault so effectively that, thanks to the hats he wore, no one ever noticed it.
PUPIL: Yes, I’ve got a toothache.
Through a lengthy interchange, the Professor continues to instruct the Pupil in language, with a fantastic array of misinformation, as she complains of her toothache until he threatens to pull the tooth out or to lose his temper.
He next tells her that he will start teaching her “all the translations of the word ‘knife.’” Consulting with Marie about translation and ‘knife,’ she cautions him against continuing on this path. The stage directions next say:
He goes quickly to the drawer where he finds a big knife, invisible or real according to the preference of the director.
As he brandishes it and tries to make the Pupil say knife “in all the languages,” repeating “knife” or just “kni,” her toothache grows even worse and her ears begin to hurt from his voice. The Professor threatens to tear off her ears. As she complains of each body part that starts to hurt, she touches that part and he continues telling her to say “knife.”
With two swift...
(The entire section contains 584 words.)
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