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Rhinoceros and Other Plays

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  2,337 ratings  ·  97 reviews
In Rhinoceros, as in his early plays, Ionesco startles audiences with a world that invariably erupts in explosive laughter and nightmare anxiety. A rhinoceros suddely apears in a small town, tramping through its peaceful streets. Soon there are two, then three, until the "movement" is universal: a transformation of average citizens into beasts, as they learn to "move with ...more
Paperback, 141 pages
Published January 11th 1994 by Grove Press (first published 1959)
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Jun 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
As many of you know, I believe that God is love in the form of pure being.

That faith first made me human-all-too-human, as Nietzsche says.

But now it has made me relax into the general peace of unvarnished simplicity, within the more jarringly complex, human-all-too-human affectivity I had previously known.

That too-human over-complex affectivity got me into loads of trouble in my life, like it did to the character Berenger. And Berenger is Ionesco’s doppelgänger.

Robert Craft, in one of his memo
May 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays-drama

How can you pass up a title like that?

Ionesco, a man who spent his life in Romania and France, is an exceptional writer.

This collection was of his plays, but he writes prose and poety also.

There were three or four plays in this collection, but the most outrageous one was ‘Rhinoceros.’

It can be understood on many levels.

We can find several sentiments that recur throughout these four plays.

His thought carriage contains; a disdain for material things, a lack of trust in the communication
Apr 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: dystopian
Rhinoceros is a brilliant allegorical theater play, subversive of social pressure, mass brainwash and animalism. The advocacy not to conform to an animalistic society puts the audience to a great moral test. Some of the questions that arise during this magnificent work of literature are: To conform or not to conform? To rebel or not to rebel? It makes one wonder about one’s own role in society and about the madness of the social rank. Brilliant.
Jun 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Rhinoceros by Eugen Ionesco

My name is Ionescu, and Eugen Ionesco and I used to share the same name, although we are not related, alas. Ionescu is like Smith where I come from.
I do not have a penchant for the absurd theater, although I went to two performances of Eugen Ionesco’s plays: The Lesson and The Chairs which I have thoroughly enjoyed. But that was because the stage productions were inventive, dynamic, witty and inspiring.
On my own, with an audio recording, I am not into Eugen Ionesco. A
Feb 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone!!!
Recommended to Liam by: Michael Roy Williamson
My father suggested that I read this play in the late summer of 1983. I was not quite thirteen years old, and had already begun to have great difficulty socially due to my innate abhorrence of mindless conformity and complete disregard of so-called "peer pressure". I don't know what my old man was thinking, but as hard as this is to believe, I'm pretty sure he was not expecting that after reading this play I would be encouraged to be even more stubborn and flagrant in my eccentricity... Every y ...more
Bryan--Treasurer, Middlemarch Appreciation Society
Delightfully absurd. I don't care what Ionesco was trying to say with this play, although I think there are definitely some ideas about conformity and independence in there somewhere. It doesn't matter--this is one of those experiences where I feel like trying to pin labels on it and decipher all its possible meanings only reduces it. I just enjoyed the absurdity of it.

As far as the other plays, I have to say that I didn't care for them at all. Both The Leader and The Future is in Eggs seemed so
Kirstin Dobson
Apr 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
At first this play seemed ridiculous and I could not get into it. However, I started to catch the symbolism. Then, it got a lot better. Realizing this play wasn't really about rhinoceroses escaping from the zoo but about people metamorphosizing made all the difference-- true personification.
Sep 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I am a HUGE fan of "Theater of the Absurd". Eugene Ionesco is one of my favorite writers of this genre of theater and literature. I read his works and the work of others like him in a college course I took at Berklee College of Music (too many moons ago). "Rhinoceros" is a fine example of Theater of the Absurd. And like ALL works of this genre, it has a lot of deeper ideas to present to the theater-goer (and reader of the book). Although read 30+ years ago, this one book has influenced how I see ...more
Greg Brozeit
Jan 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
Wow. How is it that I never read Rhinoceros before? I had a college professor recommend it to me and ignored her. Regret doesn’t quite capture how I feel now. But at least I found it after all these years. Rhinoceros is about conformity and uniformity in all their possible guises—political, social, cultural, commercial, religious, artistic: you name it—and how they can creep up and overtake society before people take notice; before it is too late. The imagery and pace of Ionesco’s writing doesn’ ...more
Oct 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
I only read Rhinoceros, it was pretty good, and really funny. But it does have quite a bit of philosophy, odd logic, and a little latin. My favorite character was the logician.

This is part of the book, but it doesn't really spoil anything:
My favorite part was when the logician said (This is not an exact quote) "Cats have four legs, your dog has four legs, therefore, your dog is a cat." I love this because the logician is not very good at what he does, which make the book really funny.

But all i
Jul 24, 2017 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed reading all three of these plays, but would love to see any of them, most especially "Rhinoceros," on stage. For these plays, I think actually seeing their stories unfold live would be more enjoyable than just reading the texts.
Katie Boothroyd
May 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Rhinoceros may have been written as a criticism of fascism and nazism, but its critique of conformist culture can be applied to all the “viral” ideals that consume every generation (tik tok dances…). The fears, the tropes, the public shaming and cancel culture of the early 21st century are absurdly scrutinized by Ionesco’s character’s inane bickering over Rhinoceritis. This play holds up a mirror, and it’s brutal.

The Future is in Eggs is a short and full of stage direction, but I’ve never laughe
Sep 05, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Clovis
I like to pretend that absurdist theater is pretty uncommon, but it probably isn't. Martin Esslin came up with the concept in his The Theatre of the Absurd, a book that has somehow come into our lives and home in the last few months. I've flipped through it a few times and have been interested, but am not prepared to read what Esslin has to say until I read some of the plays he references in his text. I've had a copy of Ionesco's Rhinoceros on my own shelf for years so it seemed fitting to start ...more
Jeremy Tibbetts
Nov 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Ionesco cleverly and articulately makes his point. His characters are comically absurd and telling.
Oct 15, 2014 rated it liked it
With outrageous comedy and unforgettable imagery, Ionesco tackles the most serious subjects: blind conformity, totalitarianism, grief and death. Truly witty, and bold.
Jan 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
very absurd very true. ARE THOSE RHINOCEROS?
Danielle Gilaberte
May 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
"[...] you'll never become a rhinoceros, really, you won't... you haven't got the vocation!"

Hopefully, thankfully.
May 04, 2019 rated it liked it
I thought the scene where one character was literally turning into a rhino in front of the other character was so fun!
Wade Arthur
Jul 26, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2018
The turn from comic to paranoic over the course of the play is really effective, and the dialogue of the first two scenes is swift and funny and does great work guiding us into the lives of these characters and their relationships. I could do without the philosophical grandstanding that dominates the final act.
Graham Wilhauk
I am both confused and blown away by this. I had NO expectations about this play going into it. In fact, the only reason I read it was because it was sitting on my shelf and I picked it because I was in the mood for a play tonight. Well, this play was amazing and has officially become one of my new personal favorites. So, what is so good about this play? Let's find out.

The story is bizarre and wacky and wonderful. It is literally Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" on steroids and I absorbed every seco
Lisa Cook
Sep 07, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm on the horns of a dilemma about Rhinoceros (buh, dum, ch!). In trying to teach a unit about existentialism to my high school seniors, this was one of the books I had the option of teaching. I'd honestly never heard of this play or this author before. But then again, I don't often delve into the Theatre of the Absurd. While the idea of this play was intriguing at first, in reading it I realized two things. One, no way in hell would I attempt to teach this play to seniors. The amount of work i ...more
Michael David
Mar 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'Sometimes one does harm without meaning to, or rather one allows it go unchecked.'(p. 97)

The play could be anything. That's the beauty of absurdist theatre: it can mean so many things to so many people, but its undercurrent is pessimism toward the human condition.

Because I think I'm rooted and situated in the world I live in, though, I've interpreted Rhinoceros as a criticism against blind conformity. We have had two movements in the twentieth-century that resulted in the unnecessary loss of m
May 13, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
So, I'm not a huge Ionesco fan to begin with, in fact I would say I'm not a fan at all, but I do admire and have a soft spot for Rhinocerous, which is a pretty creative and scathing satire of conformity and how a population can be overrun or even annihilated from within. Depending on how you see, and play, the ending, you can see Berenger either as a hero or a fool, and I like the ambiguity of it all, as the play makes it clear that our perceptions of right and wrong, beautiful and ugly, true an ...more
Momina Masood
Jan 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Rhinoceros has been reviewed earlier and separately.

The other two plays are much shorter: The Leader is a political satire, while The Future Is In Eggs is a social satire. Though I haven't read the first part of this play, the sequel is still comprehensible and could be treated as a separate piece and does not depend so much on the first part for its meaning. Man's want for immortality as expressed through the act of procreation is seen through dismal eyes. The word "production" that is used re
Grace Leneghan
Jul 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Leader and The Future is in Eggs are both a part of this book too. Super weird and absurdist but clever as hell.
Minor notes: the translation, by Derek Prouse, a film critic for the Sunday Times at the time, transposes the colloquial language of the play's conversations to British, while retaining references to setting and spoken language and set dressing as the original French (from the final monologue: "Am I talking French? Yes, it must be French. But what is French?") — this, combined with this edition's ungainly way of representing overlapping dialogue means that, well, it's a play that would be far be ...more
Christopher Sutch
Jul 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
_Rhinoceros_, Ionesco's most famous play (at least in America), is still quite entertaining. It's almost like a zombie story, but with little cues (often contradictory) about the kinds of meta-textual targets the audience (or author?) has in mind: governments, totalitarians, colonialists, liberals, conservatives, capitalists, etc. When the entire world has changed does it make sense to pride oneself on remaining steadfast and ugly? The other two plays in this collection are very minor works, "Th ...more
Jan 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
I read this English translation of Ionesco's play mainly because I am currently reading Rhinoceros in the original French for a class, and I wanted to get the gist of the play before slogging through it line-by-line in French.

This remarkable example of absurdist theatre is quite an indictment of the way conformity and "group think" allow evil to flourish; it is an allegory for both the head-in-the-sand and the go-along-to-get-along attitudes that allowed the rise of Fascism and Nazism prior to W
Christopher Tirri
Jan 18, 2013 rated it liked it
Only ended up reading the feature play of this collection, that is "Rhinoceros," but I actually enjoyed it the more I read it. A lot of the dialogue seemed unnecessary, and reading involved a lot of sifting through excruciatingly-detailed stage direction, but overall the social commentary of the play was quite compelling. I'm curious, however, if the metamorphosis that the civilians undergo isn't just a statement about fascism and herd-poisoning: to me, it seemed as if the whole human-to-rhinoce ...more
Apr 26, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: classics
Ionesco, Eugène had written very complex book. I've read this one and La Cantatrice chauve so far. Both when I was young (14-15 years old).

First I remember thinking "WTF is that?!". Yes indeed, I was a pain in the ass (I still am by the way).

Anyway, the book is about believing in people, misunderstanding, fear and mistrust.

I didn't like it younger, I do now :)
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Eugène Ionesco, born Eugen Ionescu, was a Romanian playwright and dramatist; one of the foremost playwrights of the Theatre of the Absurd. Beyond ridiculing the most banal situations, Ionesco's plays depict in a tangible way the solitude and insignificance of human existence.

Excerpted from Wikipedia.

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