Town square. Typical small French town, perhaps close to Paris, in which the play opens shortly before noon on a sunny summer Sunday. The grocer’s is open, as is the café-bar with chairs and tables outside. Although the time period is not made clear, it is probably a couple of decades earlier than the time of writing.
Office. Place where Berenger works, in which the play’s second act opens. It may or may not be a government office; it has an old-fashioned air, with pens and an inkwell mentioned, as well as typewriters, chairs, tables, and desks, and an inner office for its chief. The main office is reached by climbing up a set of wooden stairs and is thus beyond the reach of a charging rhinoceros.
Jean’s home. Two rooms of an apartment house in which Berenger’s friend Jean lives and in which the second scene of act 2 is set. Jean is in bed in his bed-sitting room when Berenger calls; the other room is his offstage bathroom. The apartment’s furnishings are simple and sparse. It is still Monday morning, because Berenger has been forced out of his office by the rhinoceros attack. Jean’s metamorphosis to rhinoceros occurs during the second scene of act 2.
Berenger’s room. This is as simple as Jean’s with a bed and a chair, but it also contains a telephone and a radio. The day is unspecified but is probably Tuesday. Outside the building, many of the townsfolk are now rhinoceroses, charging up and down the street in large herds, which grow larger as Berenger is visited by his colleagues, first Dudard and then Daisy the typist, to whom he desperately declares his love. The telephone rings, but only rhinoceroses are on the line. They turn on the radio but it broadcasts only the musical trumpetings of rhinoceroses. There is no hope.
Danner, G. Richard. “Bérenger’s Defense of Humanity in Rhinocéros.” French Review: Journal of the American Association of the Teachers of French 53, no. 2 (December, 1979): 207-214. An illuminating article that explores the beliefs of the main character of Rhinoceros. The author finds a number of complexities in Berenger’s struggle to maintain his own humanity and to justify that of others.
Esslin, Martin. The Theatre of the Absurd. 3d rev. ed. New York: Penguin, 1980. A good place to begin any research on Ionesco’s plays. Examines how Rhinoceros connects with Ionesco’s earlier works and...
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