A collection of quotes on Eugene Ionesco's "Rhinoceros"

In Rhinoceros, Mr. Ionesco is telling an allegory for our time, which has been beset by various blighting uniformities. But he is not preaching. Nor is he concerned with the conventions of routine dramatic construction. He pokes fun unremitingly at conventional ideas, established institutions and all sorts of people, including himself. He cavorts and capers. He exaggerates wildly, and lets some of his actions run on too long. But just when he seems to be losing his touch, he discovers a new vein of fun.

HOWARD TAUBMAN, review, January 10, 1961

Mr. Ionesco may be an avant-gardist, but there is nothing ... difficult about Rhinoceros. Here he uses lighthearted means to remind human beings how easily they can turn beastly.

HOWARD TAUBMAN, review, January 10, 1961

In Rhinoceros at least, Ionesco implies a social purpose. It is an anticonformist cartoon ... a comedy sustained by gags, vaudevillesque stunts, and Marx Brothers jocularity.

HAROLD CLURMAN, introduction, Nine Plays of the Modern Theater

A very important and overlooked aspect of Rhinoceros is the opposition between two fundamental attitudes, the Eastern and the Western. They are embodied in two characters, Jean and Bérenger. Jean is a so-called responsible citizen. He feels superior to his friend Bérenger because he has a well-organized existence. He is punctual and hard working. In fact, he takes pride in the minute-by-minute program he has put together to guide him through the days, and he urges his lackadaisical friend to follow it. Bérenger is not in the least tempted by Jean's plan to refashion him into the ideal social being. It is clear from the start that the self-righteous Jean, so proud of his appearance--hat, tie, well-cut suit, polished shoes--is rhinoceros material, whereas the timid loner, Bérenger, a dreamer, is a flawed but endearing human being.

ROSETTE C. LAMONT, Ionesco's Imperatives

In Rhinoceros Ionesco demystifies the cult of rationalism, Descarte's legacy to Western culture. He shows that this philosophy can serve as blinders at a time of murderous violence.

ROSETTE C. LAMONT, Ionesco's Imperatives

Everyone who adapts, conforms, bows, obeys, who doesn't make waves, becomes a rhinoceros. That's what Ionesco was saying.

ELI WALLACH, quoted in The Actor's Art

The problem of Berenger, in Ionesco's Rhinoceros, is the problem of the human person stranded and alone in what threatens to become a society of monsters. In the sixth century Berenger might perhaps have walked off into the desert of Scete, without too much concern over the fact that all his fellow citizens, all his friends, and even his girl Daisy, had turned into rhinoceroses. The problem today is that there are no deserts, only dude ranches.

THOMAS MERTON, "Rain and the Rhinoceros"

Rhinoceros shows men succumbing to mass suggestion and rule and becoming lumbering, destructive animals.

GEORGE TEST, Satire: Spirit and Art

Rhinoceros is more than a study of conformism and mass hysteria; it is also about the betrayal of man by his own intellect: excessive respect for the laws of cause and effect, willingness to justify anything that can be proved to be inevitable. Rationalism is disguised as fatalism.

DAVID CAUTE, The Dancer Defects

Rhinoceros, looking at a society free to make choices when a new antisocial force moves into a community ... notes the susceptibility of all ranks and types of people to even a very unattractive new fashion. The trouble cannot be attributed to either big guns or small fry as such; establishment and opposition types fail equally. But there is a faint chance that a rather ill-organized young man, more an imperfect bureaucrat than a rebel, may be the seed of survival or revival.

ROBERT HEILMAN, Ways of the World: Comedy and Society


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