RHINOCEROS

ACT ONE

(excerpt)

by Eugene Ionesco

 

Published by Penguin1962

Translated by Derek Prouse

 

LOGICIAN [to the Old Gentleman]: Here is an example of a syllogism. The cat has four paws. Isidore and Fricot both have four paws. Therefore Isidore and Fricot are cats.

OLD GENTLEMAN [to the Logician]: My dog has got four paws.

LOGICIAN [to the Old Gentleman]: Then it's a cat.

BERENGER [to Jean]: I've barely got the strength to go on living. Maybe I don't even want to.

OLD GENTLEMAN [to the Logician, after deep reflection]: So then logically speaking, my dog must be a cat?

LOGICIAN [to the Old Gentleman]: Logically, yes. But the contrary is also true.

BERENGER [to Jean]: Solitude seems to oppress me. And so does the company of other people.

JEAN [to Berenger]: You contradict yourself What oppresses you - solitude, or the company of others? You consider yourself a thinker, yet you're devoid of logic.

OLD GENTLEMAN [to the Logician]: Logic is a very beautiful thing.

LOGICIAN [to the Old Gentleman]: As long as it is not abused.

BERENGER [to Jean]: Life is an abnormal business.

JEAN:On the contrary. Nothing could be more natural, and the proof is that people go On living.

BERENGER: There are more dead people than living. And their numbers are increasing. The living are getting rarer.

JEAN: The dead don't exist, there's no getting away from that! Ah! Ah ...! [He gives a huge laugh.] Yet you're oppressed by them, too? How can you be oppressed by something that doesn't exist?

BERENGER: I sometimes wonder if I exist myself JEAN: You don't exist, my dear Berenger, because you don't think. Start thinking, then you will.

LOGICIAN [to the Old Gentleman]: Another syllogism. All cats die. Socrates is dead. Therefore Socrates is a cat.

OLD GENTLEMAN: And he's got four paws. That's true. I've got a cat named Socrates.

LOGICIAN:††††††††††† There you are, you see

JEAN [to Berenger]: Fundamentally you're just a bluffer. And a liar. You say that life doesn't interest you. And yet there's somebody who does.

BERENGER:†††† Who?

JEAN: Your little friend from the office who just went past. You're very fond of her!

OLD GENTLEMAN [to the Logician]: So Socrates was a cat, was he?

LOGICIAN: Logic has just revealed the fact to us.

JEAN [to Berenger]: You didn't want her to see you in your present state. [BERENGER makes a gesture.] That proves you're not indifferent to everything. But how can you expect Daisy to be attracted to a drunkard?

LOGICIAN [to the Old Gentleman]. Let's get back to our cats.

OLD GENTLEMAN [to the Logician]: I'm all ears.

BERENGER [to Jean]: In any case, I think she's already got her eye on someone.

JEAN:Oh, who?

BERENGER:††††††††††† Dudard. An office colleague, qualified in law, with a big future in the firm - and in Daisy's affections. I can't hope to compete with him.

LOGICIAN [to the old Gentleman]: The cat Isidore has four paws.

OLD GENTLEMAN: How do you know?

LOGICIAN:†††††††††††† It's stated in the hypothesis.

BERENGER [to Jean]: The Chief thinks a lot of him. Whereas I've no future, Iíve no qualifications. I don't stand a chance.

OLD GENTLEMAN [to the Logician]: Ah! In the hypothesis.

JEAN (to Berenger]: So you're giving up, just like that...?

BERENGER:†††††††††††† What else can I do?

LOGICIAN [to the Old Gentleman]: Fricot also has four paws. So how many paws have Fricot and Isidore?

OLD GENTLEMAN: Separately or together?

JEAN [to Berenger]: Life is a struggle, it's cowardly not to put up a fight!

LOGICIAN [to the Old Gentleman]: Separately or together, it all depends.

BERENGER [to Jean]: What can [do? I've nothing to put up a fight with.

JEAN: Then find yourself some weapons, my friend.

OLD GENTLEMAN [to the Logician after painful reflection]: Eight, eight paws.

LOGICIAN:††††††††††† Logic involves mental arithmetic, you see.

OLD GENTLEMAN: It certainly has many aspects!

BERENGER [to Jean]: Where can I find the weapons?

LOGICIAN [to the Old Gentleman]: There are no limits to logic.

JEAN: Within yourself Through your own will.

BERENGER:†††† What weapons?

LOGICIAN [to the Old Gentleman]: I'm going to show you

JEAN [to Berenger]: The weapons of patience and culture, the weapons of the mind. [BERENGER yawns.] Turn yourself into a keen and brilliant intellect. Get yourself up to the mark!

BERENGER:††††††††††† How do I get myself up to the mark?

LOGICIAN [to the Old Gentleman): If I take two paws away from these cats - how many does each have left?

OLD GENTLEMAN: That's not so easy.

BERENGER [to Jean]: That's not so easy.

LOGICIAN [to the Old Gentleman): On the contrary, it's simple.

OLD GENTLEMAN [to the Logician): It may be simple for you, but not for me.

BERENGER [to Jean]: It may be simple for you, but not for me.

LOG I CIA N [to the Old Gentleman]: Come on, exercise your mind. Concentrate!

JEAN [to Berenger]: Come on, exercise your will. Concentrate I

OLD GENTLEMAN [to the Logician]: I don't see how.

BERENGER [to Jean]: I really don't see how.

LOGICIAN [to the Old Gentleman): You have to be told every-thing.

JEAN [to Berenger]: You have to be told everything.

LOGICIAN [to the Old Gentleman): Take a sheet of paper and calculate. If you take six paws from the two cats, how many paws are left to each cat?

OLD GENTLEMAN: Just a moment ... [He calculates on a sheet of paper which he takes from his pocket.]

JEAN: This is what you must do: dress yourself properly, shave every day, put on a clean shirt.

BERENGER:††††††††††† The laundry's so expensive

JEAN: Cut down on your drinking. This is the way to come out: wear a hat, a tie like this, a well-cut suit, shoes well polished. [As he mentions the various items of clothing he points self-contentedly to his own hat, tie, and shoes.)

OLD GENTLEMAN [to the Logician]: There are several possible solutions.

LOGICIAN [to the Old Gentleman]: Tell me.

BERENGER [to Jean]: Then what do I do? Tell me

LOGICIAN [to the Old Gentleman]: I'm listening.

BERENGER [to Jean]: I'm listening.

JEAN: You're a timid creature, but not without talent

BERENGER:†††† I've got talent, me?

JEAN: So use it. Put yourself in the picture. Keep abreast of the cultural and literary events of the times.

OLD GENTLEMAN [to the Logician): One possibility is: one cat could have four paws and the other two.

BERENGER [to Jean]: I get so little spare time!

LOGICIAN [to the Old Gentleman]: You're not without talent You just needed to exercise it.

JEAN: Take advantage of what free time you do have. Don't just let yourself drift.

OLD GENTLEMAN: I've never had the time. I was an official you know.

LOGICIAN:†††† One can always find time to learn.

JEAN [to Berenger]: One can always find time.

BERENGER [to Jean]: It's too late now.

OLD GENTLEMAN [to the Logician]: It's a bit late in the day for me.

JEAN [to Berenger]: It's never too late.

LOGICIAN [to the Old Gentleman]: It's never too late.

JEAN [to Berenger]: You work eight hours a day, like me and everybody else, but not on Sundays, nor in the evening, nor for three weeks in the summer. That's quite sufficient, with a little method.

LOGICIAN [to the Old Gentleman]: Well, what about the other solutions? Use a little method, a little method!

[The OLD GENTLEMAN starts to calculate anew.]

JEAN [to Berenger]: Look, instead of drinking and feeling sick, isn't it better to be fresh and eager, even at work? And you can spend your free time constructively.

BERENGER:†††† How do you mean?

JEAN: By visiting museums, reading literary periodicals, going to lectures. That'll solve your troubles, it will develop your mind. In four weeks you'll be a cultured man.

BERENGER:†††† You're right.

OLD GENTLEMAN [to the Logician]: There could be one cat with five paws...

JEAN [to Berenger]: You see, you even think so yourself!

OLD GENTLEMAN [to the Logician]: And one cat with one paw. But would they still be cats, then?

LOGICIAN [to the Old Gentleman]: Why not?

JEAN [to Berenger]: Instead of squandering all your spare money on drink, isn't it better to buy a ticket for an interesting play? Do you know anything about the avant-garde theatre there's so much talk about? Have you seen Ionesco's plays?

BERENGER [to Jean]: Unfortunately, no. I've only heard people talk about them.

OLD GENTLEMAN [to the Logician]: By taking two of the eight paws away from the two cats

JEAN [to Berenger]: There's one playing now. Take advantage of it.

OLD GENTLEMAN [to the Logician]: ... we could have one cat with six paws

BERENGER: It would be an excellent initiation into the artistic life of our times.

OLD GENTLEMAN [to the Logician]: We could have one cat with no paws at all.

BERENGER: You're right, perfectly right. I'm going to put myself into the picture, like you said.

LOGICIAN [to the Old Gentleman]: In that case, one cat would be specially privileged.

BERENGER [to Jean]: I will, I promise you.

JEAN:You promise yourself, that's the main thing.

OLD GENTLEMAN: And one under-privileged cat deprived of all paws.

BERENGER: I make myself a solemn promise, I'll keep my word to myself

LOGICIAN: That would be unjust, and therefore not logical.

BERENGER: Instead of drinking, I'll develop my mind. I feel better already. My head already feels clearer.

JEAN: You see!

OLD GENTLEMAN [to the Logician]: Not logical?

BERENGER: This afternoon I'll go to the museum. And Iíll book two seats for the theatre this evening. Will you come with me?

LOGICIAN [to the Old Gentleman]: Because Logic means Justice.

JEAN [to Berenger]: You must persevere. Keep up your good resolutions.

OLD GENTLEMAN [to the Logician]: I get it. Justice

BERENGER [to Jean]: I promise you, and I promise myself. Will you come to the museum with me this afternoon?

JEAN [to Berenger]:I have to take a rest this afternoon; it's in my programme for the day.

OLD GENTLEMAN: Justice is one more aspect of Logic.

BERENGER [to Jean]: But you will come with me to the theatre this evening?

JEAN: No, not this evening.

LOGICIAN [to the Old Gentleman]: Your mind is getting clearer!

JEAN [to Berenger]: I sincerely hope you'll keep up your good resolutions. But this evening I have to meet some friends for a drink.

BERENGER:††††††††††† For a drink?

OLD GENTLEMAN [to the Logician]: What's more, a cat with no paws at all

JEAN [to Berenger]: I've promised to go. I always keep my word.

OLD GENTLEMAN [to the Logician]: ... wouldn't be able to run fast enough to catch mice.

BERENGER [to Jean]: Ah, now it's you that's setting me a bad example! You're going out drinking.

LOGICIAN [to the Old Gentleman]: You're already making progress in logic.

††††† [A sound of rapid galloping is heard approaching again, trumpeting and the sound of rhinoceros hooves and pantings; this time the sound comes from the opposite direction approaching from back-stage to front, in the left wings.]

JEAN [furiously to Berenger]: It's not a habit with me, you know. It's not the same as with you. With you ... you're Ö it's not the same thing at all

BERENGER:††††††††††† Why isn't it the same thing?

JEAN [shouting over the noise coming from the cafe']: I'm no drunkard, not me!

LOGICIAN [shouting to the Old Gentleman]: Even with no paws a cat must catch mice. That's in its nature.

BERENGER [shouting very loudly]: I didn't mean you were a drunkard. But why would it make me one any more than you, in a case like that?

OLD GENTLEMAN [shouting to the Logician]: What's in the cat's nature?

JEAN [to Berenger]: Because there's moderation in all things. I'm a moderate person, not like you!

LOGICIAN [to the Old Gentleman, cupping his hands to his ears]: What did you say? [Deafening sounds drown the words of the four characters. I

BERENGER [to Jean, cupping his hands to his ear;]: What about me, what? What did you say?

JEAN [roaring]: I said that

OLD GENTLEMAN [roaring]: I said that

JEAN [suddenly aware of the noises which are now very near]: Whatever's happening?

LOGICIAN: What is going on?

JEAN [rises, knocking his chair over as he does so; looks towards left wings where the noises of the passing rhinoceros are coming from]:Oh, a rhinoceros!

LOGICIAN [rising, knocking over his chair]: Oh, a rhinoceros!

OLD GENTLEMAN [doing the same): Oh, a rhinoceros!

BERENGER (still seated, but this time, taking more notice]: Rhinoceros! In the opposite direction!

WAITRESS (emerging with a tray and glasses]: What is it? Oh, a rhinoceros! [She drops the tray, breaking the glasses.]

PROPRIETOR [Coming out of the cafe']: What's going on?

WAITRESS (to the Proprietor]: A rhinoceros!

LOGICIAN: A rhinoceros, going full-tilt on the opposite pavement!

GROCER [Coming out of his shop]: Oh, a rhinoceros!

JEAN; Oh, a rhinoceros!

GROCER'S WIFE [sticking her head through the upstairs window of shop]: Oh, a rhinoceros!

PROPRIETOR:†††††††††† It's no reason to break the glasses.

JEAN: It's rushing straight ahead, brushing up against the shop windows.

DAISY [entering left]: Oh, a rhinoceros!

BERENGER [noticing Daisy]: Oh, Daisy!

[noise of people fleeing, the same 'Ohs' and 'Ahs' as before)

WAITRESS:††††††††††† Well of all things!

PROPRIETOR [to the waitress]: You'll be charged up for those!

††††† BERENGER tries to make himself scarce, not to be seen by Daisy. The OLD GENTLEMAN, the LOGICIAN, the GROCER, and iris WIFE move to centre-stage and say together]

ALL: Well, of all things!

JEAN and BERENGER: Well, of all things!

(A piteous mewing is heard, then an equally piteous cry of a woman.]

ALL:††††††††† Oh!