The scene is a square in a small muggle town. Up-stage a
house composed of a ground ﬂoor and one storey. The
ground ﬂoor is the window of a grocer’s shop. The entrance
is up two or three steps through a glass-patted door. The
word EPICERIE is written in bold letters above the shop
window. The two windows on the ﬁrst ﬂoor are the living
quarters of the grocer and his wife. The shop is up-stage,
but slightly to the left, not far from the wings. In the
distance a church steeple is visible above the grocer’s
house. Between the shop and the left of the stage there is a
little street in perspective. To the right, slightly at an angle,
is the front of a café. Above the café, one ﬂoor with a
window; in front, the café terrace; several chairs and tables
reach almost to centre stage. A dusty tree stands near the
terrace chairs. Blue sky; harsh light; very white walls. The
time is almost mid-day on a Sunday in summertime.
RON WEASLEY and HARRY POTTER will sit
at one of the terrace tables.
[The sound of church bells is heard, which stop a
few moments before the curtain rises. When the
curtain rises, a woman carrying a basket of
provisions under one arm and a cat under the other
crosses the stage in silence from right to left. As she
does so, the GROCER’S WIFE opens her shop door and
watches her pass.]
GROCER’S WIFE: Oh that woman gets on my nerves! [To her
husband who is in the shop:] Too stuck-up to buy from us
nowadays. [The GROCER’S WIFE leaves; the stage is empty
for a few moments.]
[RON WEASLEY enters right, at the same time as HARRY POTTER enters
left. WEASLEY is very fastidiously dressed: brown suit, red
tie, stiﬀ collar, brown hat. He has a reddish face. His
shoes are yellow and well-polished. POTTER is
unshaven and hatless, with unkempt hair and
creased clothes; everything about him indicates
negligence. He seems weary, half-asleep; from time
to time he yawns.]
WEASLEY: [advancing from right] Oh, so you managed to get here
at last, Harry Potter!
POTTER: [advancing from left] Morning, Ron!
WEASLEY: Late as usual, of course. [He looks at his wrist watch.]
Our appointment was for 11.30. And now it’s practically
POTTER: I’m sorry. Have you been waiting long?
WEASLEY: No, I’ve only just apperated myself, as you saw.
[They go and sit at one of the tables on the café
POTTER: In that case I don’t feel so bad, if you’ve only just…
WEASLEY: It’s diﬀerent with me. I don’t like waiting; I’ve no time to
waste. And as you’re never on time, I come late on
purpose—at a time when I presume you’ll be there.
POTTER: You’re right . . . quite right, but . . .
WEASLEY: Now don’t try to pretend you’re ever on time!
POTTER: No, of course not . . . I wouldn’t say that.
[ and POTTER have sat down.]
WEASLEY: There you are, you see!
POTTER: What are you drinking?
WEASLEY: You mean to say you’ve got a thirst even at this time in
POTTER: It’s so hot and dry.
WEASLEY: The more you drink the thirstier you get, popular
science tells us that…
POTTER: It would be less dry, and we’d be less thirsty, if
they’d invent us some scientiﬁc clouds in the sky.
WEASLEY: [studying POTTER closely] That wouldn’t help you any.
You’re not thirsty for water, Harry …
POTTER: I don’t understand what you mean.
WEASLEY: You know perfectly well what I mean. I’m talking about
your parched throat. That’s a territory that can’t get
POTTER: To compare my throat to a piece of land seems,..
WEASLEY: [interrupting him] You’re in a bad way, my friend.
POTTER: In a bad way? You think so?
WEASLEY: I’m not blind, you know. You’re dropping with fatigue.
You’ve gone without your sleep again, you yawn all the
time, you’re dead-tired …
POTTER: There is something the matter with my hair…
WEASLEY: You reek of alcohol.
POTTER: I have got a bit of a hang-over, it’s true!
WEASLEY: It’s the same every Sunday morning—not to mention
the other days of the week.
POTTER: Oh no, it’s less frequent during the week, because
of the oﬃce …
WEASLEY: And what’s happened to your tie? Lost it during your
orgy, I suppose!
POTTER: [putting his hand to his neck] You’re right. That’s
funny! Whatever could I have done with it?
WEASLEY: [taking a tie out of his coat pocket] Here, put this one
POTTER: Oh thank you, that is kind. [He puts on the tie.]
WEASLEY: [while POTTER is unskilfully tying his tie] Your hair’s all
over the place.
[POTTER runs his ﬁngers through his hair.]
Here, here’s a comb! [He takes a comb from his
POTTER: [taking the comb] Thank you. [He vaguely combs his
WEASLEY: You haven’t even shaved! Just take a look at yourself!
[He takes a mirror from his inside pocket, hands it to
POTTER, who looks at himself; as he does so,
he examines his tongue.]
POTTER: My tongue’s all coated.
WEASLEY: [taking the mirror and putting it back in his pocket] I’m
not surprised! [He takes back the comb as well, which
POTTER oﬀers to him, and puts it in his pocket.] You’re
heading for cirrhosis, my friend.
POTTER: [worried] Do you think so?
WEASLEY: [to POTTER, who wants to give him back his tie] Keep the
tie, I’ve got plenty more.
POTTER: [admiringly] You always look so immaculate.
WEASLEY: [continuing his inspection of POTTER] Your clothes are all
crumpled, they’re a disgrace! Your shirt is downright
ﬁlthy, and your shoes… [POTTER tries to hide his feet
under the table.] Your shoes haven’t been touched. What
a mess you’re in! And look at your shoulders…
POTTER: What’s the matter with my shoulders?
WEASLEY: Turn round! Come on, turn round! You’ve been leaning
against some wall. [POTTER holds his hand out docilely to.]
No, I haven’t got a brush with me; it would make my
pockets bulge. [Still docile, POTTER ﬂicks his shoulders to
get rid of the white dust; averts his head.] Heavens!
Where did you get all that from?
POTTER: I don’t remember.
WEASLEY: It’s a positive disgrace! I feel ashamed to be your friend.
POTTER: You’re very hard on me …
WEASLEY: I’ve every reason to be.
POTTER: Listen, Ron. There are so few distractions in this
town—I get so bored. I’m not made for the work I’m
doing … every day at the oﬃce, eight hours a day—and
only three weeks’ holiday a year! When Saturday night
comes round I feel exhausted and so—you know how it is
—just to relax …
WEASLEY: My dear man, everybody has to work. I spend eight
hours a day in the oﬃce the same as everyone else. And
I only get three weeks oﬀ a year, but even so you don’t
catch me… Will-power, my good man!
POTTER: But everybody hasn’t got as much will-power as you
have. I can’t get used to it. I just can’t get used to life.
WEASLEY: Everybody has to get used to it. Or do you consider
yourself some superior being?
POTTER: I don’t pretend to be …
WEASLEY: [interrupting him] I’m just as good as you are; I think
with all due modesty I may say I’m better. The superior
man is the man who fulﬁls his duty.
POTTER: What duty?
WEASLEY: His duty … His duty as an employee, for example.
POTTER: Oh yes, his duty as an employee …
WEASLEY: Where did your debauch take place last night? If you
POTTER: We were celebrating Auguste’s birthday, our friend
WEASLEY: Our friend Auguste? Nobody invited me to our friend
Auguste’s birthday …
[At this moment a noise is heard, far oﬀ, but swiftly
approaching, of a beast panting in its headlong
course, and of a long trumpeting.]
POTTER: I couldn’t refuse. It wouldn’t have been nice…
WEASLEY: Did I go there?
POTTER: Well, perhaps it was because you weren’t invited.
WAITRESS: [coming out of café] Good morning, gentlemen. Can
I get you something to drink?
[The noise becomes very loud.]
WEASLEY: [to POTTER, almost shouting to make himself heard
above the noise which he has not become conscious of]
True, I was not invited. That honour was denied me. But
in any case, I can assure you, that even if I had been
invited, I would not have gone, because …
[The noise has become intense.]
What’s going on?
[The noise of a powerful, heavy animal, galloping at
great speed is heard very close; the sound of
Whatever is it?
WAITRESS: Whatever is it?
[POTTER, still listless without appearing to hear
anything at all, replies tranquilly to about the
invitation; his lips move but one doesn’t hear what
he says; bounds to his feet, knocking his chair
over as he does so, looks oﬀ left pointing, whilst
POTTER, still a little dopey, remains seated.]
WEASLEY: Oh, a rhinoceros!
[The noise made by the animal dies away swiftly
and one can already hear the following words. The
whole of this scene must be played very fast, each
repeating in swift succession: ‘Oh, a rhinoceros!‘]
WAITRESS: Oh, a rhinoceros!
GROCER’S WIFE: [sticks her head out of her shop doorway] Oh, a
rhinoceros! [To her husband still inside the shop:] Quick,
come and look; it’s a rhinoceros!
[They are all looking oﬀ left after the animal.]
WEASLEY: It’s rushing straight ahead, brushing up against the
GROCER: [in his shop] Whereabouts?
WAITRESS: [putting her hands on her hips] Well!
GROCER’S WIFE: [to her husband who is still in shop] Come and
[At this moment the GROCER puts his head out.]
GROCER: Oh, a rhinoceros!
LOGICIAN: [entering quickly left] A rhinoceros going full-tilt on
the opposite pavement!
[All these speeches from the time when says
‘Oh, a rhinoceros‘ are practically simultaneous. A
woman is heard crying ‘Ah!’ She appears. She runs
to the centre-stage; it is a HOUSEWIFE with a basket on
her arm; once arrived centre-stage she drops her
basket; the contents scatter all over the stage, a
bottle breaks, but she does not drop her cat.]
HOUSEWIFE: Ah! Oh!
[An elegant OLD GENTLEMAN comes from left stage, after
the HOUSEWIFE, rushes into the GROCER’S shop, knocks
into the GROCER and his WIFE, whilst the LOGICIAN installs
himself against the back wall on the left of the
grocery entrance. and the WAITRESS, standing, and
POTTER, still apathetically seated, together form
another group. At the same time, coming from the
left, cries of ‘Oh’ and ‘Ah’ and the noise of people
running have been heard. The dust raised by the
animal spreads over the stage.]
CAFÉ PROPRIETOR: [sticking his head out of the ﬁrst-ﬂoor window]
What’s going on?
OLD GENTLEMAN: [disappearing behind the GROCER and his WIFE]
Excuse me, please!
[The OLD GENTLEMAN is elegantly dressed, with white
spats, a soft hat and an ivory-handled cane; the
LOGICIAN, propped up against the wall has a little grey
moustache, an eyeglass, and is wearing a straw
GROCER’S WIFE: [jostled and jostling her husband; to the OLD
GENTLEMAN] Watch out with that stick!
GROCER: Look where you’re going, can’t you!
[The head of the OLD GENTLEMAN is seen behind the
GROCER and his WIFE.]
WAITRESS: [to the PROPRIETOR] A rhinoceros!
PROPRIETOR: [to the WAITRESS from his window] You’re seeing
things. [He sees the rhinoceros:] Well, I’ll be… !
[The ‘Ohs’ and ‘Ahs’ from oﬀ-stage form a
background accompaniment to her ‘Ah’. She has
dropped her basket, her provisions and the bottle,
but has nevertheless kept tight hold of her cat which
she carries under her other arm.]
There, they frightened the poor pussy!
PROPRIETOR: [still looking oﬀ left, following the distant course of
the animal as the noises fade; hooves, trumpetings, etc.]
[POTTER sleepily averts his head a little on account
of the dust, but says nothing; he simply makes a
Well, of all things!
WEASLEY: [also averting his head a little, but very much awake]
Well, of all things! [He sneezes.]
HOUSEWIFE: [she is centre-stage but turned towards left; her
provisions scattered on the ground round her] Well of all
things! [She sneezes.]
[The OLD GENTLEMAN, GROCER’S WIFE and GROCER up-stage reopening the glass door of the GROCER’S shop that the
OLD GENTLEMAN has closed behind him.]
ALL THREE: Well, of all things!
WEASLEY: Well, of all things! [To POTTER:] Did you see that?
[The noise of the rhinoceros and its trumpeting are
now far away; the people are still staring after the
animal, all except for POTTER who is still
ALL: [except POTTER] Well, of all things!
POTTER: [to ] It certainly looked as if it was a rhinoceros. It
made plenty of dust. [He takes out a handkerchief and
blows his nose.]
HOUSEWIFE: Well, of all things! Gave me such a scare.
GROCER: [to the HOUSEWIFE] Your basket… and all your things…
OLD GENTLEMAN: [approaching the lady and bending to pick up
her things scattered about the stage. He greets her
gallantly, raising his hat.]
PROPRIETOR: Really, these days, you never know …
WAITRESS: Fancy that!
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to the HOUSEWIFE] May I help you pick up your
HOUSEWIFE: [to the OLD GENTLEMAN] Thank you, how very kind! Do
put on your hat. Oh, it gave me such a scare!
LOGICIAN: Fear is an irrational thing. It must yield to reason.
WAITRESS: It’s already out of sight.
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to the HOUSEWIFE and indicating the LOGICIAN] My
friend is a logician.
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] Well, what did you think of that?
WAITRESS: Those animals can certainly travel!
HOUSEWIFE: [to the LOGICIAN] Very happy to meet you!
GROCER’S WIFE: [to the GROCER] That’ll teach her to buy her things
from somebody else!
WEASLEY: [to the PROPRIETOR and the WAITRESS] What did you think of
HOUSEWIFE: I still didn’t let my cat go.
PROPRIETOR: [shrugging his shoulders, at window] You don t
often see that!
HOUSEWIFE: [to the LOGICIAN and the OLD GENTLEMAN who is picking up
her provisions] Would you hold him a moment!
WAITRESS: [to ] First time I’ve seen that!
LOGICIAN: [to the HOUSEWIFE, taking the cat in his arms] It’s not
spiteful, is it?
PROPRIETOR: [to ] Went past like a comet!
HOUSEWIFE: [to the LOGICIAN] He wouldn’t hurt a ﬂy. [To the
others:] What happened to my wine?
GROCER: [to the HOUSEWIFE] I’ve got plenty more.
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] Well, what did you think of that?
GROCER: [to the HOUSEWIFE] And good stuﬀ, too!
PROPRIETOR: [to the WAITRESS] Don’t hang about! Look after these
gentlemen! [He indicates POTTER and . He withdraws .]
POTTER: [to ] What did I think of what?
GROCER’S WIFE: [to the GROCER] Go and get her another bottle!
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] Of the rhinoceros, of course! What did you
think I meant?
GROCER: [to the HOUSEWIFE] I’ve got some ﬁrst-class wine, in
unbreakable bottles! [He disappears into his shop.]
LOGICIAN: [stroking the cat in his arms] Puss, puss, puss.
WAITRESS: [to POTTER and ] What are you drinking?
POTTER: Two pastis.
WAITRESS: Two pastis—right! [She walks to the café entrance.]
HOUSEWIFE: [picking up her things with the help of the OLD
GENTLEMAN] Very kind of you, I’m sure.
WAITRESS: Two pastis! [She goes into café.]
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to the HOUSEWIFE] Oh, please don’t mention it, it’s
[The GROCER’S WIFE goes into shop.]
LOGICIAN: [to the OLD GENTLEMAN and the HOUSEWIFE picking up the
provisions] Replace them in an orderly fashion.
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] Well, what did you think about it?
POTTER: [to , not knowing what to say] Well… nothing … it
made a lot of dust…
GROCER: [coming out of shop with a bottle of wine; to the
HOUSEWIFE] I’ve some good leeks as well.
LOGICIAN: [still stroking the cat] Puss, puss, puss.
GROCER: [to the HOUSEWIFE] It’s a hundred francs a litre.
HOUSEWIFE: [paying the GROCER, then to the OLD GENTLEMAN who has
managed to put everything back in the basket] Oh, you
are kind! Such a pleasure to come across the old French
courtesy. Not like the young people today!
GROCER: [taking money] You should buy from me. You wouldn’t
even have to cross the street, and you wouldn’t run the
risk of these accidents. [He goes back into his shop.]
WEASLEY: [who has sat down and is still thinking of the rhinoceros]
But you must admit it’s extraordinary.
OLD GENTLEMAN: [taking oﬀ his hat, and kissing the HOUSEWIFE’S
hand] It was a great pleasure to meet you!
HOUSEWIFE: [to the LOGICIAN] Thank you very much for holding my
[The LOGICIAN gives the HOUSEWIFE back her cat. The
WAITRESS comes back with drinks.]
WAITRESS : Two pastis!
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] You’re incorrigible!
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to the HOUSEWIFE] May I accompany you part of
POTTER: [to , and pointing to the WAITRESS who goes back
into the café.] I asked for mineral water. She’s made a
[, scornful and disbelieving, shrugs his shoulders.]
HOUSEWIFE: [to the OLD GENTLEMAN] My husband’s waiting for me,
thank you. Perhaps some other time …
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to the HOUSEWIFE] I sincerely hope so, Madame.
HOUSEWIFE: [to the OLD GENTLEMAN] So do I! [She gives him a sweet
look as she leaves left.]
POTTER: The dust’s settled …
[ shrugs his shoulders again.]
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to the LOGICIAN, and looking after the HOUSEWIFE]
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] A rhinoceros! I can’t get over it!
[The OLD GENTLEMAN and the LOGICIAN move slowly right
and oﬀ. They chat amiably.]
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to the LOGICIAN, after casting a last fond look
after the HOUSEWIFE] Charming, isn’t she?
LOGICIAN: [to the OLD GENTLEMAN] I’m going to explain to you what
a syllogism is.
OLD GENTLEMAN : Ah yes, a syllogism.
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] I can’t get over it! It’s unthinkable!
LOGICIAN: A syllogism consists of a main proposition, a
secondary one, and a conclusion.
OLD GENTLEMAN: What conclusion?
[The LOGICIAN and the OLD GENTLEMAN go out.]
WEASLEY: I just can’t get over it.
POTTER: Yes, I can see you can’t. Well, it was a rhinoceros—
all right, so it was a rhinoceros! It’s miles away by now…
miles away …
WEASLEY: But you must see it’s fantastic! A rhinoceros loose in the
town, and you don’t bat an eyelid! It shouldn’t be
Put your hand in front of your mouth!
POTTER: Yais… yais… It shouldn’t be allowed. It’s dangerous.
I hadn’t realized. But don’t worry about it, it won’t get us
WEASLEY: We ought to protest to the Town Council! What’s the
Council there for?
POTTER: [yawning, then quickly putting his hand to his
mouth] Oh excuse me… perhaps the rhinoceros escaped
from the zoo.
WEASLEY: You’re day-dreaming.
POTTER: But I’m wide awake.
WEASLEY: Awake or asleep, it’s the same thing.
POTTER: But there is some diﬀerence.
WEASLEY: That’s not the point.
POTTER: But you just said being awake and being asleep
were the same thing …
WEASLEY: You didn’t understand. There’s no diﬀerence between
dreaming awake and dreaming asleep.
POTTER: I do dream. Life is a dream.
WEASLEY: You’re certainly dreaming when you say the rhinoceros
escaped from the zoo …
POTTER: I only said: perhaps.
WEASLEY: … because there’s been no zoo in our town since the
animals were destroyed in the plague … ages ago …
POTTER: [with the same indiﬀerence] Then perhaps it came
from a circus.
WEASLEY: What circus are you talking about?
POTTER: I don’t know … some travelling circus.
WEASLEY: You know perfectly well that the Council banned all
travelling performers from the district… There haven’t
been any since we were children.
POTTER: [trying unsuccessfully to stop yawning] In that case,
maybe it’s been hiding ever since in the surrounding
WEASLEY: The surrounding swamps! The surrounding swamps! My
poor friend, you live in a thick haze of alcohol.
POTTER: [naïvely] That’s very true … it seems to mount from
my stomach …
WEASLEY: ‘It’s clouding your brain! Where do you know of any
surrounding swamps? Our district is known as little
Castille’ because the land is so arid.
POTTER: [surfeited and pretty weary] How do I know, then?
Perhaps it’s been hiding under a stone? … Or maybe it’s
been nesting on some withered branch?
WEASLEY: If you think you’re being witty, you’re very much
mistaken ! You’re just being a bore with… with your
stupid paradoxes. You’re incapable of talking seriously!
POTTER: Today, yes, only today … because of… because of…
[He indicates his head with a vague gesture]
WEASLEY: Today the same as any other day!
POTTER: Oh, not quite as much.
WEASLEY: Your witticisms are not very inspired.
POTTER: I wasn’t trying to be …
WEASLEY: [interrupting him] I can’t bear people to try and make
fun of me!
POTTER: [hand on his heart] But my dear Ron, I’d never allow
myself to …
WEASLEY: [interrupting him] My dear Harry, you are allowing
POTTER: Oh no, never. I’d never allow myself to.
WEASLEY: Yes, you would; you’ve just done so.
POTTER: But how could you possibly think …
WEASLEY: [interrupting him] I think what is true!
POTTER: But I assure you…
WEASLEY: [interrupting him] … that you were making fun of me!
POTTER: You really can be obstinate, sometimes.
WEASLEY: And now you’re calling me a mule into the bargain.
Even you must see how insulting you’re being.
POTTER: It would never have entered my mind.
WEASLEY: You have no mind!
POTTER: All the more reason why it would never enter it.
WEASLEY: There are certain things which enter the minds of even
people without one.
POTTER: That’s impossible.
WEASLEY: And why, pray, is it impossible?
POTTER: Because it’s impossible.
WEASLEY: Then kindly explain to me why it’s impossible, as you
seem to imagine you can explain everything.
POTTER: I don’t imagine anything of the kind.
WEASLEY: Then why do you act as if you do? And, I repeat, why
are you being so insulting to me?
POTTER: I’m not insulting you. Far from it. You know what
tremendous respect I have for you.
WEASLEY: In that case, why do you contradict me, making out that
it’s not dangerous to let a rhinoceros go racing about in
the middle of the town—particularly on a Sunday
morning when the streets are full of children… and
adults, too …
POTTER: A lot of them are in church. They don’t run any risk…
WEASLEY: [interrupting him] If you will allow me to ﬁnish … and at
market time, too.
POTTER: I never said it wasn’t dangerous to let a rhinoceros
go racing about the town. I simply said I’d personally
never considered the danger. It had never crossed my
WEASLEY: You never consider anything.
POTTER: All right, I agree. A rhinoceros roaming about is not
a good thing.
WEASLEY: It shouldn’t be allowed.
POTTER: I agree. It shouldn’t be allowed. It’s a ridiculous
thing all right! But it’s no reason for you and me to
quarrel. Why go on at me just because some wretched
perissodactyle happens to pass by. A stupid quadruped
not worth talking about. And ferocious into the bargain.
And which has already disappeared, which doesn’t exist
any longer. We’re not going to bother about some animal
that doesn’t exist. Let’s talk about something else, Ron,
please; [He yawns.] there are plenty of other subjects for
conversation. [He takes his glass:] To you!
[At this moment the LOGICIAN and the OLD GENTLEMAN
come hack on stage from left; they walk over,
talking as they go, to one of the tables on the café
terrace, some distance from POTTER and , behind
and to the right of them.]
WEASLEY: Put that glass back on the table! You’re not to drink it.
[ takes a large swallow from his own pastis and
puts back the glass, half-empty, on the table. POTTER
continues to hold his glass, without putting it down,
and without daring to drink from it either.]
POTTER: [timidly] There’s no point in leaving it for the
proprietor. [He makes as if to drink.]
WEASLEY: Put it down, I tell you!
POTTER: Very well.
[He is putting the glass back on the table when LUNA
passes. She is a young blonde typist and she
crosses the stage from right to left. When he sees
her, POTTER rises abruptly, and in doing so makes an
awkward movement; the glass falls and splashes
Oh, there’s Luna!
WEASLEY: Look out! How clumsy you are!
POTTER: That’s Luna… I’m so sorry… [He hides himself out of
sight of LUNA.] I don’t want her to see me in this state.
WEASLEY: Your behaviour’s unforgivable, absolutely unforgivable!
[He looks in the direction of LUNA, who is just
disappearing.] Why are you afraid of that young girl?
POTTER: Oh, be quiet, please be quiet!
: She doesn’t look an unpleasant person!
POTTER: [coming back to , now that LUNA has gone] I must
apologize once more for…
WEASLEY: You see what comes of drinking, you can no longer
control your movements, you’ve no strength left in your
hands, you’re besotted and fagged out. You’re digging
your own grave, my friend, you’re destroying yourself.
POTTER: I don’t like the taste of alcohol much. And yet if I
don’t drink, I’m done for; it’s as if I’m frightened, and so I
drink not to be frightened any longer.
WEASLEY: Frightened of what?
POTTER: I don’t know exactly. It’s a sort of anguish diﬃcult to
describe. I feel out of place in life, among people, and so
I take to drink. That calms me down and relaxes me so I
WEASLEY: You try to escape from yourself!
POTTER: I’m so tired, I’ve been tired for years. It’s exhausting
to drag the weight of my own body about…
WEASLEY: That’s alcoholic neurasthenia, drinker’s gloom …
POTTER: [continuing] I’m conscious of my body all the time,
as if it were made of lead, or as if I were carrying another
man around on my back. I can’t seem to get used to
myself. I don’t even know if I am me. Then as soon as I
take a drink, the lead slips away and I recognize myself, I
become me again.
WEASLEY: That’s just being fanciful. Look at me, Harry, I weigh
more than you do. And yet I feel light, light as a feather!
[He ﬂaps his arms as if about to ﬂy. The OLD GENTLEMAN and
the LOGICIAN have come back and have taken a few steps
on stage deep in talk. At this moment they are passing
by and POTTER. ’S arm deals the OLD GENTLEMAN a
sharp knock which precipitates him into the arms of the
LOGICIAN: An example of a syllogism… [He is knocked.] Oh!
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to ] Look out! [To the LOGICIAN;] I’m so sorry.
WEASLEY: [to the OLD GENTLEMAN] I’m so sorry.
LOGICIAN: [to the OLD GENTLEMAN] No harm done.
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to ] No harm done.
[The OLD GENTLEMAN and the LOGICIAN go and sit at one of
the terrace tables a little to the right and behind
POTTER: [to ] You certainly are strong.
WEASLEY: Yes, I’m strong. I’m strong for several reasons. In the
ﬁrst place I’m strong because I’m naturally strong, and
secondly I’m strong because I have moral strength. I’m
also strong because I’m not riddled with alcohol. I don’t
wish to oﬀend you, my dear Harry Potter, but I feel I must
tell you that it’s alcohol which weighs so heavy on you.
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.
POTTER: [to ] 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
POTTER: [to ] Solitude seems to oppress me. And so does
the company of other people.
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] 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.
POTTER: [to ] Life is an abnormal business.
WEASLEY: On the contrary. Nothing could be more natural, and the
proof is that people go on living.
POTTER: There are more dead people than living. And their
numbers are increasing. The living are getting rarer.
WEASLEY: 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?
POTTER: I sometimes wonder if I exist myself.
WEASLEY: You don’t exist, my dear Harry, 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…
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] Fundamentally you’re just a bluﬀer. And a
liar. You say that life doesn’t interest you. And yet there’s
somebody who does.
WEASLEY: 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.
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] You didn’t want her to see you in your
present state. [POTTER makes a gesture.] That proves
you’re not indiﬀerent to everything. But how can you
expect Luna 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.
POTTER: [to ] In any case, I think she’s already got her eye
WEASLEY: Oh, who?
POTTER: Dudard. An oﬃce colleague, qualiﬁed in law, with a
big future in the ﬁrm—and in Luna’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.
POTTER: [to ] The Chief thinks a lot of him. Whereas I’ve
no future, I’ve no qualiﬁcations. I don’t stand a chance.
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to the LOGICIAN] Ah! In the hypothesis.
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] So you’re giving up, just like that … ?
POTTER: 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?
: [to POTTER] Life is a struggle, it’s cowardly not to put up
LOGICIAN: [to the OLD GENTLEMAN] Separately or together, it all
POTTER: [to ] What can I do? I’ve nothing to put up a ﬁght
WEASLEY: Then ﬁnd yourself some weapons, my friend.
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to the LOGICIAN, after painful reﬂection] Eight,
LOGICIAN: Logic involves mental arithmetic, you see.
OLD GENTLEMAN: It certainly has many aspects!
POTTER: [to ] Where can I ﬁnd the weapons?
LOGICIAN: [to the OLD GENTLEMAN] There are no limits to logic.
WEASLEY: Within yourself. Through your own will.
POTTER: What weapons?
LOGICIAN: [to the OLD GENTLEMAN] I’m going to show you …
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] The weapons of patience and culture, the
weapons of the mind. [POTTER yawns.] Turn yourself into
a keen and brilliant intellect. Get yourself up to the mark!
POTTER: 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.
POTTER: [to ] 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
POTTER: [to ] It may be simple for you, but not for me.
LOGICIAN: [to the OLD GENTLEMAN] Come on, exercise your mind.
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] Come on, exercise your will. Concentrate!
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to the LOGICIAN] I don’t see how.
POTTER: [to ] I really don’t see how.
LOGICIAN: [to the OLD GENTLEMAN] You have to be told everything.
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] 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.]
WEASLEY: This is what you must do: dress yourself properly, shave
every day, put on a clean shirt.
POTTER: The laundry’s so expensive …
WEASLEY: 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
[As he mentions the various items of clothing he
points self-contentedly to his own hat, tie and
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to the LOGICIAN] There are several possible
LOGICIAN: [to the OLD GENTLEMAN] Tell me.
POTTER: [to ] Then what do I do? Tell me …
LOGICIAN: [to the OLD GENTLEMAN] I’m listening.
POTTER: [to ] I’m listening.
WEASLEY: You’re a timid creature, but not without talent.
POTTER: I’ve got talent, me?
WEASLEY: 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.
POTTER: [to ] I get so little spare time!
LOGICIAN: [to the OLD GENTLEMAN] You’re not without talent. You
just needed to exercise it.
WEASLEY: 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
LOGICIAN: One can always ﬁnd time to learn.
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] One can always ﬁnd time.
POTTER: [to ] It’s too late now.
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to the LOGICIAN] It’s a bit late in the day for me.
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] It’s never too late.
LOGICIAN: [to the OLD GENTLEMAN] It’s never too late.
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] 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.]
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] 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.
POTTER: How do you mean?
WEASLEY: 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.
POTTER: You’re right!
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to the LOGICIAN] There could be one cat with ﬁve
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] 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?
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] 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
POTTER: [to ] 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…
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] There’s one playing now. Take advantage of
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to the LOGICIAN] … we could have one cat with six
POTTER: 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.
POTTER: 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
POTTER: [to ] I will, I promise you.
WEASLEY: You promise yourself, that’s the main thing.
OLD GENTLEMAN: And one under-privileged cat deprived of all
POTTER: I make myself a solemn promise, I’ll keep my word
LOGICIAN: That would be unjust, and therefore not logical.
POTTER: Instead of drinking, I’ll develop my mind. I feel
better already. My head already feels clearer.
WEASLEY: You see!
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to the LOGICIAN] Not logical?
POTTER: This afternoon I’ll go to the museum. And I’ll book
two seats for the theatre this evening. Will you come
LOGICIAN: [to the OLD GENTLEMAN] Because Logic means Justice.
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] You must persevere. Keep up your good
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to the LOGICIAN] I get it. Justice …
POTTER: [to ] I promise you, and I promise myself. Will you
come to the museum with me this afternoon?
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] 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.
POTTER: [to ] But you will come with me to the theatre
WEASLEY: No, not this evening.
LOGICIAN: [to the OLD GENTLEMAN] Your mind is getting clearer!
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] I sincerely hope you’ll keep up your good
resolutions. But this evening I have to meet some friends
for a drink.
POTTER: For a drink?
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to the LOGICIAN] What’s more, a cat with no paws
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] 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.
POTTER: [to ] 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
[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
backstage to front, in the left wings.]
WEASLEY: [furiously to POTTER] It’s not a habit with me, you know.
It’s not the same as with you. With you . . . you’re . . . it’s
not the same thing at all. ..
POTTER: Why isn’t it the same thing?
WEASLEY: [shouting over the noise coming from the café] I’m no
drunkard, not me!
LOGICIAN: [shouting to the OLD GENTLEMAN] Even with no paws a
cat must catch mice. That’s in it’s nature.
POTTER: [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
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] 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.]
POTTER: [to , cupping his hands to his ears] What about
me, what? What did you say?
WEASLEY: [roaring] I said that…
OLD GENTLEMAN: [roaring] I said that…
WEASLEY: [suddenly aware of the noises which are now very near]
LOGICIAN: What is going on?
WEASLEY: [rises, knocking his chair over as he docs 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!
POTTER: [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 café] What’s going on?
WAITRESS: [to the PROPRIETOR] A rhinoceros!
LOGICIAN: A rhinoceros, going full-tilt on the opposite
GROCER: [coming out of his shop] Oh, a rhinoceros!
WEASLEY: 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.
WEASLEY: It’s rushing straight ahead, brushing up against the
LUNA: [entering left] Oh, a rhinoceros!
POTTER: [noticing LUNA] Oh, Luna!
[Noise of people ﬂeeing, the same ‘Ohs’ and ‘Ahs’ as
WAITRESS: Well, of all things!
PROPRIETOR: [to the WAITRESS] You’ll be charged up for those!
[POTTER tries to make himself scarce, not to be seen
by LUNA. The OLD GENTLEMAN, the LOGICIAN, the GROCER and
his WIFE move to centre-stage and say together:]
ALL: Well, of all things!
POTTER: Well, of all things!
[A piteous mewing is heard, then an equally piteous
cry of a woman.]
[Almost at the same time, and as the noises are
rapidly dying away the HOUSEWIFE appears without her
basket but holding the blood-stained corpse of her
cat in her arms.]
HOUSEWIFE: [wailing] It ran over my cat, it ran over my cat!
WAITRESS: It ran over her cat!
[The GROCER, his WIFE (at the window), the OLD GENTLEMAN,
LUNA and the LOGICIAN crowd round the HOUSEWIFE,
ALL: What a tragedy, poor little thing!
OLD GENTLEMAN: Poor little thing!
WAITRESS: Poor little thing!
PROPRIETOR: [to the WAITRESS, pointing to the broken glasses and
the upturned chairs] Don’t just stand there! Clear up the
[ and POTTER also rush over to the HOUSEWIFE who
continues to lament, her dead cat in her arms.]
WAITRESS: [moving to the cafe terrace to pick up the broken
glasses and the chairs, and looking over her shoulder at
the HOUSEWIFE] Oh, poor little thing!
PROPRIETOR: [pointing, for the WAITRESS’S beneﬁt, to the debris]
Over there, over there!
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to the GROCER] Well, what do you think of that?
POTTER: [to the HOUSEWIFE] You mustn’t cry like that, it’s too
LUNA: [to POTTER] Were you there, Mr. Potter? Did you see
POTTER: [to LUNA] Good morning, Miss Luna, you must
excuse me, I haven’t had a chance to shave …
PROPRIETOR: [supervising the clearing up of the debris, then
glancing towards the HOUSEWIFE] Poor little thing!
WAITRESS: [clearing up the mess, her back to the HOUSEWIFE] Poor
[These remarks must obviously be made very
rapidly, almost simultaneously.]
GROCER’S WIFE: [at window] That’s going too far!
WEASLEY: That’s going too far!
HOUSEWIFE: [lamenting, and cradling the dead cat in her arms]
My poor little pussy, my poor little cat.
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to the HOUSEWIFE] What can you do, dear lady,
cats are only mortal.
LOGICIAN: What do you expect, Madame? All cats are mortal!
One must accept that.
HOUSEWIFE: [lamenting] My little cat, my poor little cat.
PROPRIETOR: [to the WAITRESS whose apron is full of broken glass]
Throw that in the dustbin! [He has picked up the chairs.]
You owe me a thousand francs.
WAITRESS: [moving into the café] All you think of is money!
GROCER’S WIFE: [to the HOUSEWIFE; from window] Don’t upset
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to the HOUSEWIFE] Don’t upset yourself, dear lady!
GROCER’S WIFE: [from window] It’s very upsetting a thing like
HOUSEWIFE: My little cat, my little cat!
LUNA: Yes, it’s very upsetting a thing like that.
OLD GENTLEMAN: [supporting the HOUSEWIFE, and guiding her to a
table on the terrace followed by the others] Sit down
here, dear lady.
WEASLEY: [to the OLD GENTLEMAN] Well, what do you think of that?
GROCER: [to the LOGICIAN] Well, what do you think of that?
GROCER’S WIFE: [to LUNA, from window] Well, what do you think of
PROPRIETOR: [to the WAITRESS, who comes back while they are
installing the weeping HOUSEWIFE at one of the terrace
tables, still cradling her dead cat.] A glass of water for
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to the HOUSEWIFE] Sit down, dear lady!
WEASLEY: Poor woman!
GROCER’S WIFE: [from window] Poor cat!
POTTER: [to the WAITRESS] Better give her a brandy.
PROPRIETOR: [to the WAITRESS] A brandy! [Pointing to POTTER:] This
gentleman is paying!
WAITRESS: [going into the café] One brandy, right away!
HOUSEWIFE: [sobbing] I don’t want any, I don’t want any!
GROCER: It went past my shop a little while ago.
WEASLEY: [to the GROCER] It wasn’t the same one!
GROCER: [to ] But I could have …
GROCER’S WIFE: Yes it was, it was the same one.
LUNA: Did it go past twice, then?
PROPRIETOR: I think it was the same one.
WEASLEY: NO, it was not the same rhinoceros. The one that went
by ﬁrst had two horns on its nose, it was an Asiatic
rhinoceros; this only had one, it was an African
[The WAITRESS appears with a glass of brandy and
takes it to the HOUSEWIFE.]
OLD GENTLEMAN: Here’s a drop of brandy to pull you together.
HOUSEWIFE: [in tears] No … o … o …
POTTER: [suddenly unnerved, to ] You’re talking nonsense
… How could you possibly tell about the horns? The
animal ﬂashed past at such speed, we hardly even saw
LUNA: [to the HOUSEWIFE] Go on, it will do you good!
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to POTTER] Very true. It did go fast.
PROPRIETOR: [to the HOUSEWIFE] Just have a taste, it’s good.
POTTER: [to ] You had no time to count its horns…
GROCER’S WIFE: [to the WAITRESS, from window] Make her drink it.
POTTER: [to ] What’s more, it was travelling in a cloud of
LUNA: [to the HOUSEWIFE] Drink it up.
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to the HOUSEWIFE] Just a sip, dear little lady… be
[The WAITRESS forces her to drink it by putting the
glass to her lips; the HOUSEWIFE feigns refusal, but
drinks all the same.]
WAITRESS: There, you see!
GROCER’S WIFE: [from her window]
and LUNA: There, you see!
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] I don’t have to grope my way through a fog. I
can calculate quickly, my mind is clear!
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to the HOUSEWIFE] Better now?
POTTER: [to ] But it had its head thrust down.
PROPRIETOR: [to the HOUSEWIFE] Now wasn’t that good?
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] Precisely, one could see all the better.
HOUSEWIFE: [after having drunk] My little cat!
POTTER: [irritated] Utter nonsense!
GROCER’S WIFE: [to the HOUSEWIFE, from window] I’ve got another
cat you can have.
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] What me? You dare to accuse me of talking
HOUSEWIFE: [to the GROCER’S WIFE] I’ll never have another! [She
weeps, cradling her cat.]
POTTER: [to ] Yes, absolute, blithering nonsense!
PROPRIETOR: [to the HOUSEWIFE] You have to accept these things!
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] I’ve never talked nonsense in my life!
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to the HOUSEWIFE] Try and be philosophic about it!
POTTER: [to ] You’re just a pretentious show-oﬀ—[Raising
his voice:] a pedant!
PROPRIETOR: [to and POTTER] NOW, gentlemen!
POTTER: [to , continuing] … and what’s more, a pedant
who’s not certain of his facts because in the ﬁrst place
it’s the Asiatic rhinoceros with only one horn on its nose,
and it’s the African with two …
[The other characters leave the HOUSEWIFE and crowd
round and POTTER who argue at the top of their
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] You’re wrong, it’s the other way about!
HOUSEWIFE: [left alone] He was so sweet!
POTTER: Do you want to bet?
WAITRESS : They want to make a bet!
LUNA: [to POTTER] Don’t excite yourself, Mr. Potter.
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] I’m not betting with you. If anybody’s got
two horns, it’s you! You Asiatic Mongol!
GROCER’S WIFE: [from window to her husband] They’re going to
have a ﬁght!
GROCER: [to his WIFE] Nonsense, it’s just a bet!
PROPRIETOR: [to and POTTER] We don’t want any scenes here!
OLD GENTLEMAN: Now look … What kind of rhinoceros has one
horn on its nose? [To the GROCER:] You’re a tradesman, you
GROCER’S WIFE: [to her husband] Yes, you should know!
POTTER: [to ] I’ve got no horns. And I never will have.
GROCER: [to the OLD GENTLEMAN] Tradesmen can’t be expected to
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] Oh yes, you have!
POTTER: [to ] I’m not Asiatic either. And in any case,
Asiatics are people the same as everyone else …
WAITRESS: Yes, Asiatics are people the same as we are …
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to the PROPRIETOR] That’s true!
PROPRIETOR: [to the WAITRESS] Nobody’s asking for your opinion!
LUNA: [to the PROPRIETOR] She’s right. They’re people the same
as we are.
[The HOUSEWIFE continues to lament throughout this
HOUSEWIFE: He was so gentle, just like one of us.
WEASLEY: [beside himself] They’re yellow!
[The LOGICIAN, a little to one side between the HOUSEWIFE
and the group which has formed round and
POTTER, follows the controversy attentively, without
Good-bye gentlemen! [To POTTER:] You, I will not
deign to include!
HOUSEWIFE: He was devoted to us! [She sobs.]
LUNA: Now listen a moment, Mr. Potter, and you, too, Mr.
OLD GENTLEMAN: I once had some friends who were Asiatics! But
perhaps they weren’t real ones…
PROPRIETOR: I’ve known some real ones.
WAITRESS: [to the GROCER’S WIFE] I had an Asiatic friend once.
HOUSEWIFE: [still sobbing] I had him when he was a little kitten.
WEASLEY: [still quite beside himself] They’re yellow, I tell you,
POTTER: [to ] Whatever they are, you’re bright red!
GROCER’S WIFE: [from window]
and WAITRESS: Oh!
PROPRIETOR: This is getting serious!
HOUSEWIFE: He was so clean. He always used his tray.
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] If that’s how you feel, it’s the last time you’ll
see me. I’m not wasting my time with a fool like you.
HOUSEWIFE: He always made himself understood.
[ goes oﬀ right, very fast and furious .. .but
doubles back before making his ﬁnal exit.]
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to the GROCER] There are white Asiatics as well,
and black and blue, and even some like us.
WEASLEY: [to POTTER] You drunkard!
[Everybody looks at him in consternation.]
POTTER: [to ] I’m not going to stand for that!
ALL: [looking in ’S direction] Oh!
HOUSEWIFE: He could almost talk—in fact he did.
LUNA: [to POTTER] You shouldn’t have made him angry.
POTTER: [to LUNA] It wasn’t my fault.
PROPRIETOR: [to the WAITRESS] Go and get a little coﬃn for the poor
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to POTTER] I think you’re right. It’s the Asiatic
rhinoceros with two horns and the African with one..
GROCER: But he was saying the opposite.
LUNA: [to POTTER] You were both wrong!
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to POTTER] Even so, you were right.
WAITRESS: [to the HOUSEWIFE] Come with me, we’re going to put
him in a little box.
HOUSEWIFE: [sobbing desperately] No, never!
GROCER: If you don’t mind my saying so, I think Mr. Weasley was
LUNA: [turning to the HOUSEWIFE] Now, you must be reasonable!
[LUNA and the WAITRESS lead the HOUSEWIFE, with her dead
cat, towards the café entrance.]
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to LUNA and the WAITRESS] Would you like me to
come with you?
GROCER: The Asiatic rhinoceros has one horn and the African
rhinoceros has two. And vice versa.
LUNA: [to the OLD GENTLEMAN] No, don’t you bother.
[LUNA and the WAITRESS enter the café leading the
GROCER’S WIFE: [to the GROCER, from window] Oh you always have
to be diﬀerent from everybody else!
POTTER: [aside, whilst the others continue to discuss the
horns of the rhinoceros] Luna was right, I should never
have contradicted him.
PROPRIETOR: [to the GROCER’S WIFE] Your husband’s right, the
Asiatic rhinoceros has two horns and the African one
must have two, and vice versa.
POTTER: [aside] He can’t stand being contradicted. The
slightest disagreement makes him fume.
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to the PROPRIETOR] You’re mistaken, my friend.
PROPRIETOR: [to the OLD GENTLEMAN] I’m very sorry, I’m sure.
POTTER: [aside] His temper’s his only fault.
GROCER’S WIFE: [from window, to the OLD GENTLEMAN, the PROPRIETOR
and the GROCER] Maybe they’re both the same.
POTTER: [aside] Deep down, he’s got a heart of gold; he’s
done me many a good turn.
PROPRIETOR: [to the GROCER’S WIFE] If the one has two horns, then
the other must have one.
OLD GENTLEMAN: Perhaps it’s the other with two and the one
POTTER: [aside] I’m sorry I wasn’t more accommodating. But
why is he so obstinate? I didn’t want to exasperate him.
[To the others:] He’s always making fantastic
statements! Always trying to dazzle people with his
knowledge. He never will admit he’s wrong.
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to POTTER] Have you any proof?
POTTER: Proof of what?
OLD GENTLEMAN: Of the statement you made just now which
started the unfortunate row with your friend.
GROCER: [to POTTER] Yes, have you any proof?
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to POTTER] How do you know that one of the
two rhinoceroses has one horn and the other two? And
which is which?
GROCER’S WIFE: He doesn’t know any more than we do.
POTTER: In the ﬁrst place we don’t know that there were two.
I myself believe there was only one.
PROPRIETOR: Well, let’s say there were two. Does the singlehorned one come from Asia?
OLD GENTLEMAN: No. It’s the one from Africa with two, I think.
PROPRIETOR: Which is two-horned?
GROCER: It’s not the one from Africa.
GROCER’S WIFE: It’s not easy to agree on this.
OLD GENTLEMAN: But the problem must be cleared up.
LOGICIAN: [emerging from his isolation] Excuse me gentlemen
for interrupting. But that is not the question. Allow me to
HOUSEWIFE: [coming out of the café in tears] He’s a logician.
PROPRIETOR: Oh! A logician, is he?
OLD GENTLEMAN: [introducing the LOGICIAN to POTTER] My friend,
POTTER: Very happy to meet you.
LOGICIAN: [continuing] Professional Logician; my card. [He
shows his card.]
POTTER: It’s a great honour.
GROCER: A great honour for all of us.
PROPRIETOR: Would you mind telling us then, sir, if the African
rhinoceros is single-horned …
OLD GENTLEMAN: Or bicorned …
GROCER’S WIFE: And is the Asiatic rhinoceros bicorned …
GROCER: Or unicorned.
LOGICIAN: Exactly, that is not the question. Let me make myself
GROCER: But it’s still what we want to ﬁnd out.
LOGICIAN: Kindly allow me to speak, gentlemen.
OLD GENTLEMAN: Let him speak!
GROCER’S WIFE: [to the GROCER, from window] Give him a chance
PROPRIETOR: We’re listening, sir.
LOGICIAN: [to POTTER] I’m addressing you in particular. And all
the others present as well.
GROCER: US as well…
LOGICIAN: You see, you have got away from the problem which
instigated the debate. In the ﬁrst place you were
deliberating whether or not the rhinoceros which passed
by just now was the same one that passed by earlier, or
whether it was another. That is the question to decide.
POTTER: Yes, but how?
LOGICIAN: Thus: you may have seen on two occasions a single
rhinoceros bearing a single horn…
GROCER: [repeating the words, as if to understand better] On
two occasions a single rhinoceros …
PROPRIETOR: [doing the same] Bearing a single horn.
LOGICIAN: … or you may have seen on two occasions a single
rhinoceros with two horns.
OLD GENTLEMAN: [repeating the words] A single rhinoceros with
two horns on two occasions…
LOGICIAN: Exactly. Or again, you may have seen one rhinoceros
with one horn, and then another also with a single horn.
GROCER’S WIFE: [from window] Ha, ha…
LOGICIAN. Or again, an initial rhinoceros with two horns,
followed by a second with two horns …
PROPRIETOR: That’s true.
LOGICIAN: Now, if you had seen…
GROCER: If we’d seen…
OLD GENTLEMAN: Yes, if we’d seen…
LOGICIAN: If on the ﬁrst occasion you had seen a rhinoceros
with two horns …
PROPRIETOR: With two horns…
LOGICIAN: And on the second occasion, a rhinoceros with one
GROCER: With one horn…
LOGICIAN: That wouldn’t be conclusive either.
OLD GENTLEMAN: Even that wouldn’t be conclusive.
PROPRIETOR: Why not?
GROCER’S WIFE: Oh, I don’t get it at all.
GROCER: Shoo! Shoo!
[The GROCER’S WIFE shrugs her shoulders and
withdraws from her window.]
LOGICIAN: For it is possible that since its ﬁrst appearance, the
rhinoceros may have lost one of its horns, and that the
ﬁrst and second transit were still made by a single beast.
POTTER: I see, but…
OLD GENTLEMAN: [interrupting POTTER] Don’t interrupt!
LOGICIAN: It may also be that two rhinoceroses both with two
horns may each have lost a horn.
OLD GENTLEMAN: That is possible.
PROPRIETOR: Yes, that’s possible.
GROCER: Why not?
POTTER: Yes, but in any case . . .
OLD GENTLEMAN: [to POTTER] Don’t interrupt.
LOGICIAN : If you could prove that on the ﬁrst occasion you saw
a rhinoceros with one horn, either Asiatic or African . . .
OLD GENTLEMAN: Asiatic or African…
LOGICIAN: And on the second occasion a rhinoceros with two
GROCER: One with two …
LOGICIAN: No matter whether African or Asiatic …
OLD GENTLEMAN: African or Asiatic …
LOGICIAN: … we could then conclude that we were dealing with
two diﬀerent rhinoceroses, for it is hardly likely that a
second horn could grow suﬃciently in a space of a few
minutes to be visible on the nose of a rhinoceros.
OLD GENTLEMAN: It’s hardly likely.
LOGICIAN: [enchanted with his discourse] That would imply one
rhinoceros either Asiatic or African …
OLD GENTLEMAN: Asiatic or African …
LOGICIAN: … and one rhinoceros either African or Asiatic.
PROPRIETOR: African or Asiatic.
GROCER: Er … yais.
LOGICIAN: For good logic cannot entertain the possibility that
the same creature be born in two places at the same
OLD GENTLEMAN: Or even successively.
LOGICIAN: [to OLD GENTLEMAN] Which was to be proved.
POTTER: [to LOGICIAN] That seems clear enough, but it doesn’t
answer the question.
LOGICIAN: [to POTTER, with a knowledgeable smile] Obviously,
my dear sir, but now the problem is correctly posed.
OLD GENTLEMAN : It’s quite logical. Quite logical.
LOGICIAN : [raising his hat] Good-bye, gentlemen.
[He retires, going out left, followed by the OLD
OLD GENTLEMAN: Good-bye, gentlemen. [He raises his hat and
follows the LOGICIAN out.]
GROCER : Well, it may be logical. . .
[At this moment the HOUSEWIFE comes out of the café
in deep mourning, and carrying a box; she is
followed by LUNA and the WAITRESS as if for a funeral.
The cortège moves towards the right exit.]
… it may be logical, but are we going to stand for
our cats being run down under our very eyes by
one-horned rhinoceroses or two, whether they’re
Asiatic or African? [He indicates with a theatrical
gesture the cortège which is just leaving.]
PROPRIETOR: He’s absolutely right! We’re not standing for our
cats being run down by rhinoceroses or anything else!
GROCER: We’re not going to stand for it!
GROCER’S WIFE: [sticking her head round the shop door, to her
husband] Are you coming in? The customers will be here
GROCER: [moving to the shop] No, we’re not standing for it.
POTTER: I should never have quarrelled with Ron! [To the
PROPRIETOR:] Get me a brandy! A double!
PROPRIETOR: Coming up ! [He goes into the cafe for the brandy.]
POTTER: [alone] I never should have quarrelled with Ron. I
shouldn’t have got into such a rage!
[The PROPRIETOR comes out carrying a large glass of
brandy.] I feel too upset to go to the museum. I’ll
cultivate my mind some other time. [He takes the
glass of brandy and drinks it.]
ACT TWO, SCENE ONE
A government oﬃce, or the oﬃce of a private concern—
such as a large ﬁrm of law publications. Up-stage centre, a
large double door, above which a notice reads: ‘Chef du
Service’. Up-stage left, near to the Head of the
Department’s door, stands LUNA’S little table with a
typewriter. By the left wall, between a door which leads to
the staircase and LUNA’S table, stands another table on which
the time sheets are placed, which the employees sign on
arrival. The door leading to the staircase is down-stage left.
The top steps of the staircase can be seen, the top of a stairrail and a small landing. In the foreground, a table with two
chairs. On the table: printing proofs, an inkwell, this is the
table where BOTARD and POTTER work; POTTER will sit on the
left chair, BOTARD on the right. Near to the right wall, another
bigger, rectangular table, also covered with papers, proofs,
Two more chairs stand at each end of this table—more
elegant and imposing chairs. This is the table of DUDARD
and MR. BOEUF. DUDARD will sit on the chair next to the wall,
other employees facing him. He acts as Deputy-Head.
Between the up-stage door and the right wall, there is a
window. If the theatre has an orchestra pit it would be
preferable to have simply a window frame in front of the
stage, facing the auditorium. In the right-hand corner,
up-stage, a coat-stand, on which grey blouses or old
coats are hung. The coat-stand could also be placed
down-stage, near to the right wall.
On the walls are rows of books and dusty documents. On
the back wall, left, above the shelves, there are signs:
‘Jurisprudence’, ‘Codes’; on the right-hand wall which can
be slightly on an angle, the signs read: ‘Le Journal
Oﬃciel’, ‘Lois ﬁscales’. Above the Head of the
Department’s door a clock registers three minutes past
When the curtain rises, DUDARD is standing near his chair, his
right proﬁle to the auditorium; on the other side of the
desk, left proﬁle to the auditorium, is BOTARD; between
them, also near to the desk, facing the auditorium,
stands the Head of the Department; LUNA is near to the
Chief, a little up-stage of him. She holds some sheets of
typing paper. On the table round which the three
characters stand, a large open newspaper lies on the
When the curtain rises the characters remain ﬁxed for a few
seconds in position for the ﬁrst line of dialogue. They
make a tableau vivant. The same eﬀect marks the
beginning of the ﬁrst act.
The Head of the Department is about forty, very correctly
dressed: dark blue suit, a rosette of the Legion of
Honour, starched collar, black tie, large brown
moustache. He is MR. PAPILLON.
DUDARD, thirty-ﬁve years old; grey suit; he wears black lustrine
sleeves to protect his coat. He may wear spectacles. He
is a quite tall, young employee with a future. If the
Department Head became the Assistant Director he
would take his place: BOTARD does not like him. BOTARD:
former schoolteacher; short, he has a proud air, and
wears a little white moustache; a brisk sixty year-old: [he
knows everything, understands everything, judges
everything]. He wears a Basque beret, and wears a long
grey blouse during working hours; spectacles on a
longish nose; a pencil behind his ear; he also wears
protective sleeves at work.
LUNA: young blonde.
Later, MRS. BOEUF; a large woman of some forty to ﬁfty years
old, tearful, and breathless.
[As the curtain rises, the characters therefore are
standing motionless around the table, right; the
Chief with index ﬁnger pointing to the newspaper;
DUDARD, with his hand extended in BOTARD’S direction,
seems to be saying:’so you see!’ BOTARD, hands in the
pocket of his blouse, wears an incredulous smile and
seems to say: ‘You wont take me in.‘ LUNA, with her
typing paper in her hand seems, from her look, to
be supporting DUDARD.
After a few brief seconds, BOTARD starts the attack.]
BOTARD: It’s all a lot of made-up nonsense.
LUNA: But I saw it, I saw the rhinoceros!
DUDARD: It’s in the paper, in black and white, you can’t deny
BOTARD: [with an air of the greatest scorn] Pﬀf!
DUDARD: It’s all here; it’s down here in the dead cats column!
Read it for yourself, Chief.
PAPILLON :‘Yesterday, just before lunch time, in the church
square of our town, a cat was trampled to death by a
LUNA: It wasn’t exactly in the church square.
PAPILLON: That’s all it says. No other details.
DUDARD: Well, that’s clear enough.
BOTARD: I never believe journalists. They’re all liars. I don’t
need them to tell me what to think; I believe what I see
with my own eyes. Speaking as a former teacher, I like
things to be precise, scientiﬁcally valid; I’ve got a
DUDARD: What’s a methodical mind got to do with it?
LUNA: [to BOTARD] I think it’s stated very precisely, Mr. Botard.
BOTARD: You call that precise? And what, pray, does it mean by
a pachyderm? What does the editor of a dead cats
column understand by a pachyderm? He doesn’t say. And
what does he mean by a cat?
DUDARD: Everybody knows what a cat is.
BOTARD: Does it concern a male cat or a female ? What breed
was it? And what colour? The colour bar is something I
feel strongly about. I hate it.
PAPILLON: What has the colour bar to do with it. Mr. Botard? It’s
quite beside the point.
BOTARD: Please forgive me, Mr. Papillon. But you can’t deny
that the colour problem is one of the great stumbling
blocks of our time.
DUDARD: I know that, we all know that, but it has nothing to do
BOTARD: It’s not an issue to be dismissed lightly, Mr. Dudard.
The course of history has shown that racial prejudice …
DUDARD: I tell you it doesn’t enter into it.
BOTARD : I’m not so sure.
PAPILLON: The colour bar is not the issue at stake.
BOTARD : One should never miss an occasion to denounce it.
LUNA: But we told you that none of us is in favour of the
colour bar. You’re obscuring the issue; it’s simply a
question of a cat being run over by a pachyderm—in this
case, a rhinoceros.
BOTARD: I’m a Northerner myself. Southerners have got too
much imagination. Perhaps it was merely a ﬂea run over
by a mouse. People make mountains out of molehills.
PAPILLON: [to DUDARD] Let us try and get things clear. Did you
yourself, with your own eyes, see a rhinoceros strolling
through the streets of the town?
LUNA: It didn’t stroll, it ran.
DUDARD: No, I didn’t see it personally. But a lot of very reliable
BOTARD: [interrupting him] It’s obvious they were just making
it up. You put too much trust in these journalists; they
don’t care what they invent to sell their wretched
newspapers and please the bosses they serve! And you
mean to tell me they’ve taken you in—you, a qualiﬁed
man of law! Forgive me for laughing! Ha! Ha! Ha!
LUNA: But I saw it, I saw the rhinoceros. I’d take my oath on
BOTARD: Get away with you! And I thought you were a sensible
LUNA: Mr. Botard, I can see straight! And I wasn’t the only
one; there were plenty of other people watching.
BOTARD: Pﬀf! They were probably watching something else! A
few idlers with nothing to do, work-shy loafers!
DUDARD: It happened yesterday, Sunday.
BOTARD: I work on Sundays as well. I’ve no time for priests who
do their utmost to get you to church, just to prevent you
from working, and earning your daily bread by the sweat
of your brow.
PAPILLON: [indignant] Oh!
BOTARD: I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to oﬀend you. The fact that I
despise religion doesn’t mean I don’t esteem it highly. [To
LUNA:] In any case, do you know what a rhinoceros looks
LUNA: It’s a … it’s a very big, ugly animal.
BOTARD: And you pride yourself on your precise thinking! The
rhinoceros, my dear young lady …
PAPILLON: There’s no need to start a lecture on the rhinoceros
here. We’re not in school.
BOTARD: That’s a pity.
[During these last speeches POTTER is seen climbing
the last steps of the staircase; he opens the oﬃce
door cautiously; as he does so one can read the
notice on it: ‘Editions de Droit’.]
PAPILLON: Well! It’s gone nine, Miss Luna; put the time sheets
away. Too bad about the late-comers.
[LUNA goes to the little table, left, on which the time
sheets are placed, at the same moment as POTTER
POTTER: [entering, whilst the others continue their
discussion, to LUNA] Good morning, Miss Luna. I’m not
late, am I?
BOTARD: [to DUDARD and PAPILLON] I campaign against ignorance
wherever I ﬁnd it…!
LUNA: [to POTTER] Hurry up, Mr. Potter.
BOTARD: … in palace or humble hut!
LUNA: [to POTTER] Quick! Sign the time sheet!
POTTER: Oh thank you! Has the Boss arrived?
LUNA: [a ﬁnger on her lips] Shh! Yes, he’s here.
POTTER: Here already? [He hurries to sign the time sheet.]
BOTARD: [continuing] No matter where! Even in printing
PAPILLON: [to BOTARD] Mr. Botard, I consider …
POTTER: [signing the sheet, to LUNA] But it’s not ten past…
PAPILLON: [to BOTARD] I consider you have gone too far.
DUDARD: [to PAPILLON] I think so too, sir.
PAPILLON: [to BOTARD] Are you suggesting that Mr. Dudard, my
colleague and yours, a law graduate and a ﬁrst-class
employee, is ignorant?
BOTARD: I wouldn’t go so far as to say that, but the teaching
you get at the university isn’t up to what you get at the
PAPILLON: [to LUNA] What about that time sheet?
LUNA: [to PAPILLON] Here it is, sir. [She hands it to him.]
BOTARD: [to DUDARD] There’s no clear thinking at the
universities, no encouragement for practical observation.
DUDARD: [to BOTARD] Oh come now!
POTTER: [to PAPILLON] Good morning, Mr. Papillon. [He has been
making his way to the coat-rack behind the Chiefs back
and around the group formed by the three characters;
there he takes down his working overall or his well-worn
coat, and hangs up his street coat in its place; he
changes his coat by the coat-rack, then makes his way to
his desk, from the drawer of which he takes out his black
protective sleeves, etc.] Morning, Mr. Papillon! Sorry I
was almost late. Morning Dudard! Morning, Mr. Botard.
PAPILLON: Well Potter, did you see the rhinoceros by any
BOTARD: [to DUDARD] All you get at the universities are eﬀete
intellectuals with no practical knowledge of life.
Dudard: [to BOTARD] Rubbish!
POTTER: [continuing to arrange his working equipment with
excessive zeal as if to make up for his late arrival; in a
natural tone to PAPILLON] Oh yes, I saw it all right.
BOTARD: [turning round] Pﬀf!
LUNA: So you see, I’m not mad after all.
BOTARD: [ironic] Oh, Mr. Potter says that out of chivalry—
he’s a very chivalrous man even if he doesn’t look it.
DUDARD: What’s chivalrous about saying you’ve seen a
BOTARD: A lot—when it’s said to bolster up a fantastic
statement by Miss Luna. Everybody is chivalrous to Miss
Luna, it’s very understandable.
PAPILLON: Don’t twist the facts, Mr. Botard. Mr. Potter took
no part in the argument. He’s only just arrived.
POTTER: [to LUNA] But you did see it, didn’t you? We both did.
BOTARD: Pﬀf! It’s possible that Mr. Potter thought he saw a
rhinoceros. [He makes a sign behind POTTER’S back to
indicate he drinks.] He’s got such a vivid imagination!
Anything’s possible with him!
POTTER: I wasn’t alone when I saw the rhinoceros! Or
perhaps there were two rhinoceroses.
BOTARD: He doesn’t even know how many he saw.
POTTER: I was with my friend Ron! And other people were
BOTARD: [to POTTER] I don’t think you know what you’re talking
LUNA: It was a unicorned rhinoceros.
BOTARD: Pﬀ! They’re in league, the two of them, to have us on.
DUDARD: [to LUNA] I rather think it had two horns, from what
BOTARD: You’d better make up your minds.
PAPILLON: [looking at the time] That will do, gentlemen, time’s
BOTARD: Did you see one rhinoceros, Mr. Potter, or two
POTTER: Well, it’s hard to say!
BOTARD: You don’t know. Miss Luna saw one unicorned
rhinoceros. What about your rhinoceros, Mr. Potter, if
indeed there was one, did it have one horn or two?
POTTER: Exactly, that’s the whole problem.
BOTARD: And it’s all very dubious.
BOTARD: I don’t mean to be oﬀensive. But I don’t believe a
word of it. No rhinoceros has ever been seen in this
LUNA: There’s a ﬁrst time for everything.
BOTARD: It has never been seen! Except in school-book
illustra- tions. Your rhinoceroses are a ﬂower of some
POTTER: The word ‘ﬂower’ applied to a rhinoceros seems a
bit out of place.
DUDARD: Very true.
BOTARD: [continuing] Your rhinoceros is a myth!
LUNA: A myth?
PAPILLON: Gentlemen I think it is high time we started to work.
BOTARD: [to LUNA] A myth—like ﬂying saucers.
DUDARD: But nevertheless a cat was trampled to death—that
you can’t deny.
POTTER: I was a witness to that.
DUDARD: [pointing to POTTER] In front of witnesses.
BOTARD: Yes, and what a witness!
PAPILLON: Gentlemen, gentlemen!
BOTARD: [to DUDARD] An example of collective psychosis, Mr.
Dudard. Just like religion—the opiate of the people!
LUNA: Well I believe ﬂying saucers exist!
PAPILLON: [ﬁrmly] That’s quite enough. There’s been enough
gossip! Rhinoceros or no rhinoceros, saucers or no
saucers, work must go on! You’re not paid to waste your
time arguing about real or imaginary animals.
LUNA: Very real!
PAPILLON: Gentlemen, I remind you once again that we are in
working hours. I am putting an end to this futile
BOTARD: [wounded and ironic] Very well, Mr. Papillon. You are
the Chie^ Your wishes are our commands.
PAPILLON: Get on, gentlemen. I don’t want to be forced to make
a deduction from your salaries! Mr. Dudard, how is your
report on the alcoholic repression law coming along?
DUDARD: I’m just ﬁnishing it oﬀ, sir.
PAPILLON: Then do so. It’s very urgent. Mr. Potter and Mr.
Botard, have you ﬁnished correcting the proofs for the
wine trade control regulations?
POTTER: Not yet, Mr. Papillon. But they’re well on the way.
PAPILLON: Then ﬁnish oﬀ the corrections together. The printers
are waiting. And Miss Luna, you bring the letters to my
oﬃce for signature. Hurry up and get them typed.
LUNA: Very good, Mr. Papillon.
[LUNA goes and types at her little desk. DUDARD sits at
his desk and starts to work. POTTER and BOTARD sit at
their little tables in proﬁle to the auditorium. BOTARD,
his back to the staircase, seems in a bad temper.
POTTER is passive and limp; he spreads the proofs on
the table, passes the manuscript to BOTARD; BOTARD sits
down grumbling, whilst PAPILLON exits banging the
PAPILLON: I shall see you shortly, gentlemen. [Goes out.]
POTTER: [reading and correcting whilst BOTARD checks the
manuscript with a pencil] Laws relating to the control of
proprietary wine produce … [He corrects.] control with
one L … [He corrects.] proprietary … one P, proprietary …
The controlled wines of the Bordeaux region, the lower
sections of the upper slopes…
BOTARD: I haven’t got that! You’ve skipped a line.
POTTER: I’ll start again. The Wine Control!
DUDARD: [to POTTER and BOTARD] Please don’t read so loud. I
can’t concentrate with you shouting at the tops of your
BOTARD: [to DUDARD, over POTTER’S head, resuming the recent
discussion, whilst POTTER continues the corrections on his
own for a few moments; he moves his lips noiselessly as
he reads] It’s all a hoax.
DUDARD: What’s all a hoax?
BOTARD: Your rhinoceros business, of course. You’ve been
making all this propaganda to get these rumours started!
DUDARD: [interrupting his work] What propaganda?
POTTER: [breaking in] No question of any propaganda.
LUNA: [interrupting her typing] Do I have to tell you again, I
saw it … I actually saw it, and others did, too.
DUDARD: [to BOTARD] You make me laugh! Propaganda!
Propaganda for what?
BOTARD: [to DUDARD] Oh you know more about that than I do.
Don’t make out you’re so innocent.
DUDARD: [getting angry] At any rate, Mr. Botard, I’m not in the
pay of any furtive underground organization.
BOTARD: That’s an insult, I’m not standing for that… [Rises]
POTTER: [pleading] Now, now, Mr. Botard…
LUNA: [to DUDARD, who has also risen] Now, now, Mr. Dudard…
BOTARD: I tell you it’s an insult.
[MR. PAPILLON’S door suddenly opens] BOTARD and DUDARD
sit down again quickly; MR. PAPILLON is holding the time
sheet in his hand; there is silence at his
PAPILLON: Is Mr. Boeuf not in today?
POTTER: [looking around] No, he isn’t. He must be absent.
PAPILLON: Just when I needed him. [To LUNA:] Did he let anyone
know he was ill or couldn’t come in?
LUNA: He didn’t say anything to me.
PAPILLON: [opening his door wide, and coming in] If this goes on
I shall ﬁre him. It’s not the ﬁrst time he’s played me this
trick. Up to now I haven’t said anything, but it’s not going
on like this. Has anyone got the key to his desk?
[At this moment MRS. BOEUF enters. She has been seen
during the last speech coming up the stairs. She
bursts through the door, out of breath,
POTTER: Oh here’s Mrs. Boeuf.
LUNA: Morning, Mrs. Boeuf.
MRS. BOEUF: Morning, Mr. Papillon. Good morning everyone.
PAPILLON: Well, where’s your husband? What’s happened to
him? Is it too much trouble for him to come any more?
MRS. BOEUF: [breathless] Please excuse him, my husband I
mean … he went to visit his family for the week-end.
He’s got a touch of ﬂu.
PAPILLON: So he’s got a touch of ﬂu, has he?
MRS. BOEUF: [handing a paper to PAPILLON] He says so in the
telegram. He hopes to be back on Wednesday … [Almost
fainting.] Could I have a glass of water … and sit down a
[POTTER takes his own chair centre-stage, on which
PAPILLON: [to LUNA] Give her a glass of water.
LUNA: Yes, straightaway! [She goes to get her a glass of
water, and gives it to her during the following speeches.]
DUDARD: [to PAPILLON] She must have a weak heart.
PAPILLON: It’s a great nuisance that Mr. Boeuf can’t come. But
that’s no reason for you to go to pieces.
MRS. BOEUF: [with diﬃculty] It’s not … it’s … well I was chased
here all the way from the house by a rhinoceros…
POTTER: How many horns did it have?
BOTARD: [guﬀawing] Don’t make me laugh!
DUDARD: [indignant] Give her a chance to speak!
MRS. BOEUF: [making a great eﬀort to be exact, and pointing in
the direction of the staircase] It’s down there, by the
entrance. It seemed to want to come upstairs.
[At this moment a noise is heard. The staircase
steps are seen to crumble under an obviously
formidable weight. From below an anguished
trumpeting is heard. As the dust clears after the
collapse of the staircase, the staircase landing is
seen to be hanging in space.]
LUNA: My God!
MRS. BOEUF: [seated, her hand on her heart] Oh! Ah!
[POTTER runs to adminster to MRS. BOEUF, patting her
cheeks and making her drink.]
POTTER: Keep calm!
[Meanwhile PAPILLON, DUDARD and BOTARD rush left, jostling
each other in their eﬀorts to open the door, and
stand covered in dust on the landing; the
trumpetings continue to be heard.]
LUNA: [to MRS. BOEUF] Are you feeling better now, Mrs. Boeuf?
PAPILLON: [on the landing] There it is! Down there! It is one!
BOTARD: I cant see a thing. It’s an illusion.
DUDARD: Of course it’s one, down there, turning round and
DUDARD: It can’t get up here. There’s no staircase any longer.
BOTARD: It’s most strange. What can it mean?
DUDARD: [turning towards POTTER] Come and look. Come and
have a look at your rhinoceros.
POTTER: I’m coming.
[POTTER rushes to the landing, followed by LUNA who
abandons MRS. BOEUF.]
PAPILLON: [to POTTER] You’re the rhinoceros expert—take a
POTTER: I’m no rhinoceros expert…
LUNA: Oh look at the way it’s going round and round. It looks
as if it was in pain … what can it want?
DUDARD: It seems to be looking for someone. [To BOTARD:] Can
you see it now?
BOTARD: [vexed] Yes, yes, I can see it.
LUNA: [to PAPILLON] Perhaps we’re all seeing things. You as
BOTARD: I never see things. Something is deﬁnitely down
DUDARD: [to BOTARD] What do you mean, something?
PAPILLON: [to POTTER] It’s obviously a rhinoceros. That’s what
you saw before, isn’t it? [To LUNA:] And you, too?
POTTER: It’s got two horns. It’s an African rhinoceros, or
Asiatic rather. Oh! I don’t know whether the African
rhinoceros has one horn or two.
PAPILLON: It’s demolished the staircase—and a good thing, too
! When you think how long I’ve been asking the
management to install stone steps in place of that wormeaten old staircase.
DUDARD: I sent a report a week ago, Chief.
PAPILLON: It was bound to happen, I knew that. I could see it
coming, and I was right.
LUNA: [to PAPILLON, ironically] As always.
POTTER: [to DUDARD and PAPILLON] Now look, are two horns a
characteristic of the Asiatic rhinoceros or the African?
And is one horn a characteristic of the African or the
LUNA: Poor thing, it keeps on trumpeting and going round
and round. What does it want? Oh, it’s looking at us! [To
the rhinoceros,] Puss, puss, puss…
DUDARD: I shouldn’t try to stroke it, it’s probably not tame…
PAPILLON: In any case, it’s out of reach.
[The rhinoceros gives a horrible trumpeting.]
LUNA: Poor thing!
POTTER: [to BOTARD, still insisting] You’re very well informed,
don’t you think that the ones with two horns are…
PAPILLON: What are you rambling on about, Potter? You’re
still a bit under the weather, Mr. Botard was right.
BOTARD: How can it be possible in a civilized country…?
LUNA: [to BOTARD] All right. But does it exist or not?
BOTARD: It’s all an infamous plot! [With apolitical orator’s
gesture he points to DUDARD, quelling him with a look.] It’s
all your fault!
DUDARD: Why mine, rather than yours?
BOTARD: [furious] Mine? It’s always the little people who get
the blame. If I had my way …
PAPILLON: We’re in a ﬁne mess with no staircase.
LUNA: [to BOTARD and DUDARD] Calm down, this is no time to
PAPILLON: It’s all the management’s fault.
LUNA: Maybe. But how are we going to get down?
PAPILLON: [joking amorously and caressing LUNA’S cheek] I’ll take
you in my arms and we’ll ﬂoat down together.
LUNA: [rejecting PAPILLON’S advances] You keep your horny hands
oﬀ my face, you old pachyderm!
PAPILLON: I was only joking!
[Meanwhile the rhinoceros has continued its
trumpeting. MRS. BOEUF has risen and joined the
group. For a few moments she stares ﬁxedly at the
rhinoceros turning round and round below; suddenly
she lets out a terrible cry.]
MRS. BOEUF: My God! It can’t be true!
POTTER: [to MRS. BOEUF] What’s the matter?
MRS. BOEUF: It’s my husband. Oh Boeuf, my poor Boeuf, what’s
happened to you?
LUNA: [to MRS. BOEUF] Are you positive?
MRS. BOEUF: I recognize him, I recognize him!
[The rhinoceros replies with a violent but tender
PAPILLON: Well! That’s the last straw. This time he’s ﬁred for
DUDARD: Is he insured?
BOTARD: [aside] I understand it all now…
LUNA: How can you collect insurance in a case like this?
MRS. BOEUF: [fainting into POTTER’S arms] Oh! My God!
LUNA: Carry her over here!
[POTTER, helped by DUDARD and LUNA, installs MRS. BOEUF
in a chair.]
DUDARD: [while they are carrying her] Don’t upset yourself,
MRS. BOEUF: Ah! Oh!
LUNA: Maybe it can all be put right…
PAPILLON: [to DUDARD] Legally, what can be done?
DUDARD: You need to get a solicitor’s advice.
BOTARD: [following the procession, raising his hands to
heaven] It’s the sheerest madness! What a society!
[They crowd round MRS. BOEUF, pinching her cheeks;
she opens her eyes,} emits an ‘Ah’ and closes them
again; they continue to pinch her cheeks as BOTARD
You can be certain of one thing: I shall report this to
my union. I don’t desert a colleague in the hour of
need. It won’t be hushed up.
MRS. BOEUF: [coming to] My poor darling, I can’t leave him like
that, my poor darling. [A trumpeting is heard.] He’s
calling me. [Tenderly] He’s calling me.
LUNA: Feeling better now, Mrs. Boeuf?
DUDARD: She’s picking up a bit.
BOTARD: [to MRS. BOEUF] You can count on the union’s support.
Would you like to become a member of the committee?
PAPILLON: Work’s going to be delayed again. What about the
post, Miss Luna?
LUNA: I want to know ﬁrst how we’re going to get out of here.
PAPILLON: It is a problem. Through the window.
[They all go to the window with the exception of MRS.
BOEUF slumped in her chair and BOTARD who stays
BOTARD: I know where it came from.
LUNA: [at window] It’s too high.
POTTER: Perhaps we ought to call the ﬁremen, and get them
to bring ladders!
PAPILLON: Miss Luna, go to my oﬃce and telephone the ﬁre
brigade. [He makes as if to follow her.]
[LUNA goes out up-stage and one hears her voice on
the telephone say: ‘Hello, hello, is that the Fire
Brigade?’ followed by a vague sound of telephone
MRS. BOEUF: [rising suddenly] I can’t desert him, I can’t desert
PAPILLON: If you want to divorce him … you’d be perfectly
DUDARD: You’d be the injured party.
MRS. BOEUF: No! Poor thing! This is not the moment for that. I
won’t abandon my husband in such a state.
BOTARD: You’re a good woman.
DUDARD: [to MRS. BOEUF] But what are you going to do?
[She runs left towards the landing.]
POTTER: Watch out!
MRS. BOEUF: I can’t leave him, I can’t leave him now!
DUDARD: Hold her back!
MRS. BOEUF: I’m taking him home!
PAPILLON: What’s she trying to do?
MRS. BOEUF: [preparing to jump; on the edge of the landing] I’m
coming my darling, I’m coming!
POTTER: She’s going to jump.
BOTARD: It’s no more than her duty.
DUDARD: She can’t do that.
[Everyone with the exception of LUNA, who is still
telephoning, is near to MRS. BOEUF on the landing; she
jumps; POTTER who tries to restrain her, is left with
her skirt in his hand.]
POTTER: I couldn’t hold her back.
[The rhinoceros is heard from below, tenderly
VOICE OF MRS. BOEUF: Here I am, my sweet, I’m here now.
DUDARD: She landed on his back in the saddle.
BOTARD: She’s a good rider.
VOICE OF MRS. BOEUF: Home now, dear, let’s go home.
DUDARD: They’re oﬀ at a gallop.
[DUDARD, BOTARD, POTTER, PAPILLON come back on-stage and
go to the window.]
POTTER: They’re moving fast.
DUDARD: [to PAPILLON] Ever done any riding?
PAPILLON: A bit … a long time ago … [Turning to the up-stage
door, to DUDARD:] Is she still on the telephone?
POTTER: [following the course of the rhinoceros] They’re
already a long way oﬀ. They’re out of sight.
LUNA: [coming on-stage] I had trouble getting the ﬁremen.
BOTARD: [as if concluding an interior monologue] A ﬁne state
LUNA: . . . I had trouble getting the ﬁremen!
PAPILLON: Are there ﬁres all over the place, then?
POTTER: I agree with Mr. Botard. Mrs. Boeuf’s attitude is very
moving; she’s a woman of feeling.
PAPILLON: It means one employee less, who has to be replaced.
POTTER: Do you really think he’s no use to us any more?
LUNA: No, there aren’t any ﬁres, the ﬁremen have been called
out for other rhinoceroses.
POTTER: For other rhinoceroses?
LUNA: Yes, other rhinoceroses. They’ve been reported all over
the town. This morning there were seven, now there are
BOTARD: What did I tell you?
LUNA: As many as thirty-two have been reported. They’re not
oﬃcial yet, but they’re bound to be conﬁrmed soon.
BOTARD: [less certain] Pﬀ!! They always exaggerate.
PAPILLON: Are they coming to get us out of here?
POTTER: I’m hungry…!
LUNA: Yes, they’re coming; the ﬁremen are on the way.
PAPILLON: What about the work?
DUDARD: It looks as if it’s out of our hands.
PAPILLON: We’ll have to make up the lost time.
DUDARD: Well, Mr. Botard, do you still deny all rhinocerotic
BOTARD: Our union is against your dismissing Mr. Boeuf
PAPILLON: It’s not up to me; we shall see what conclusions they
reach at the enquiry.
BOTARD: [to DUDARD] No, Mr. Dudard, I do not deny the
rhinocerotic evidence. I never have.
DUDARD: That’s not true.
LUNA: Oh no, that’s not true.
BOTARD: I repeat I have never denied it. I just wanted to ﬁnd
out exactly where it was all leading. Because I know my
own mind. I’m not content to simply state that a
phenomenon exists. I make it my business to understand
and explain it. At least I could explain it if…
DUDARD: Then explain it to us.
LUNA: Yes, explain it, Mr. Botard.
PAPILLON: Explain it, when your colleagues ask you.
BOTARD: I will explain it…
DUDARD: We’re all listening.
LUNA: I’m most curious.
BOTARD: I will explain it… one day …
DUDARD: Why not now?
BOTARD: [menacingly; to MR. PAPILLON] We’ll go into the
explanation later, in private. [To everyone:] I know the
whys and the wherefores of this whole business…
LUNA: What whys?
POTTER: What wherefores?
DUDARD: I’d give a lot to know these whys and wherefores…
BOTARD: [continuing; with a terrible air] And I also know the
names of those responsible. The names of the traitors.
You can t fool me. I’ll let you know the purpose and the
meaning of this whole plot! I’ll unmask the perpetrators!
POTTER: But who’d want to…
DUDARD: [to BOTARD] You’re evading the question, Mr. Botard.
PAPILLON: Let’s have no evasions.
BOTARD: Evading? What, me?
LUNA: Just now you accused us of suﬀering from
BOTARD: Just now, yes. Now the hallucination has become a
DUDARD: And how do you consider this change came about?
BOTARD: It’s an open secret, gentlemen. Even the man in the
street knows about it. Only hypocrites pretend not to
[The noise and hooting of a ﬁre-engine is heard. The
brakes are abruptly applied just under the window.]
LUNA: That’s the ﬁremen!
BOTARD: There’re going to be some big changes made; they
won’t get away with it as easily as that.
DUDARD: That doesn’t mean anything, Mr. Botard. The
rhinoceroses exist, and that’s that. That’s all there is to
LUNA: [at the window, looking down] Up here, ﬁremen!
[A bustling is heard below, commotion, engine
VOICE OF FIREMAN: Put up the ladder!
BOTARD: [to DUDARD] I hold the key to all these happenings, an
infallible system of interpretation.
PAPILLON: I want you all back in the oﬃce this afternoon.
[The ﬁremen’s ladder is placed against the window.]
BOTARD: Too bad about the oﬃce, Mr. Papillon.
PAPILLON: I don’t know what the management will say!
DUDARD: These are exceptional circumstances.
BOTARD: [pointing to the window] They can’t force us to come
back this way. We’ll have to wait till the staircase is
DUDARD: If anyone breaks a leg, it’ll be the management’s
PAPILLON: That’s true.
[A ﬁreman’s helmet is seen, followed by the
POTTER: [to LUNA pointing to the window] After you, Miss
FIREMAN: Come on, Miss.
[The ﬁreman takes LUNA in his arms; she steps
astride the window and disappears with him.]
DUDARD: Good-bye Miss Luna. See you soon.
LUNA: [disappearing] See you soon, good-bye!
PAPILLON: [at window] Telephone me tomorrow morning, Miss
Luna. You can come and type the letters at my house.
[To POTTER:] Mr. Potter, I draw your attention to the
fact that we are not on holiday, and that work will
resume as soon as possible. [To the other two;] You hear
what I say, gentlemen?
DUDARD: Of course, Mr. Papillon.
BOTARD: They’ll go on exploiting us till we drop, of course.
FIREMAN: [reappearing at window] Who’s next?
PAPILLON: [to all three of them] Go on!
DUDARD: After you, Mr. Papillon.
POTTER: After you, Chief.
BOTARD: You ﬁrst, of course.
PAPILLON: [to POTTER] Bring me Miss Luna’s letters. There, on
[POTTER goes and gets the letters, brings them to
FIREMAN: Come on, hurry up. We’ve not got all day. We’ve got
other calls to make.
BOTARD: What did I tell you?
[PAPILLON, the letters under his arm, steps astride the
PAPILLON: [to the FIREMAN] Careful of the documents! [Turning to
the others:] Good-bye, gentlemen.
DUDARD: Good-bye, Mr. Papillon.
POTTER: Good-bye, Mr. Papillon.
PAPILLON: [he has disappeared; one hears him say] Careful of
my papers. Dudard! Lock up the oﬃces!
DUDARD: [shouting] Don’t you worry, Mr. Papillon. [To BOTARD:]
After you, Mr. Botard.
BOTARD: I am about to descend, gentlemen. And I am going to
take this matter up immediately with the proper
authorities. I’ll get to the bottom of this so-called
mystery. [He moves to window.]
DUDARD: [to BOTARD] I thought it was all perfectly clear to you!
BOTARD: [astride the window] Your irony doesn’t aﬀect me.
What I’m after are the proofs and the documents—yes,
proof positive of your treason.
DUDARD: That’s absurd…
BOTARD: Your insults…
DUDARD: [interrupting him] It’s you who are insulting me…
BOTARD: [disappearing] I don’t insult. I merely prove.
VOICE OF FIREMAN: Come on there!
DUDARD: [to POTTER] What are you doing this afternoon? Shall
we meet for a drink?
POTTER: Sorry, I can’t. I’m taking advantage of this afternoon
oﬀ to go and see my friend Ron. I do want to make it up
with him, after all. We got carried away. It was all my
[The ﬁreman s head reappears at the window.]
FIREMAN: Come along there!
POTTER: [pointing to the window] After you.
DUDARD: After you.
POTTER: Oh no, after you.
DUDARD: No, I insist, after you.
POTTER: No, please, after you, after you.
FIREMAN: Hurry up!
DUDARD: After you, after you.
POTTER: No, after you, after you.
[They climb through the window together. The
ﬁreman helps them down, as the curtain falls.]
ACT TWO, SCENE TWO
WEASLEY’S house. The layout is roughly the same as Act Two,
Scene One. That is to say, the stage is divided into two.
To the right, occupying three-quarters or four-ﬁfths of the
stage, according to size, is ’S bedroom. Up-stage, a
chair or an armchair, on which POTTER will sit. Right
centre, a door leading to ’S bathroom. When goes
in to wash, the noise of a tap is heard, and that of the
shower. To the left of the room, a partition divides the
stage in two. Centre-stage, the door leading to the stairs.
If a less realistic, more stylized decor is preferred, the
door may be placed without a partition. To the left is the
staircase; the top steps are visible, leading to ’S ﬂat,
the banister and the landing. At the back, on the landing
level, is the door to the neighbour’s ﬂat. Lower down, at
the back, there is a glass door, over which is written:
[When the curtain rises, is in bed, lying under
the blanket, his back to the audience. One hears
After a few moments POTTER is seen, climbing the
top steps of the staircase. He knocks at the door;
does not answer. POTTER knocks again.]
POTTER: Ron! [He knocks again.] Ron!
[The door at the end of the landing opens slightly,
and a little old man with a white goatee appears.]
OLD MAN: What is it?
POTTER: I want to see Ron. I am a friend of his.
OLD MAN: I thought it was me you wanted. My name’s Ron as
well, but it’s the other one you want.
VOICE OF OLD MAN’S WIFE: [from within the room] Is it for us?
OLD MAN: [turning to his wife who is not seen] No, for the
POTTER: [knocking] Ron!
OLD MAN: I didn’t see him go out. But I saw him last night. He
looked in a bad temper.
POTTER: Yes, I know why; it was my fault.
OLD MAN: Perhaps he doesn’t feel like opening the door to
you. Try again.
VOICE OF OLD MAN’S WIFE: Ron, don’t stand gossiping, Ron!
POTTER: [knocking] Ron!
OLD MAN: [to his wife] Just a moment. Oh dear, dear… [He
closes the door and disappears.]
WEASLEY: [still lying down, his back to the audience, in a hoarse
voice] What is it?
POTTER: I’ve dropped by to see you, Ron.
WEASLEY: Who is it?
POTTER: It’s me, Harry. I hope I’m not disturbing you.
WEASLEY: Oh it’s you, is it? Come in!
POTTER: [trying to open the door] The door’s locked.
WEASLEY: Just a moment. Oh dear, dear… [ gets up in a pretty
bad temper. He is wearing green pyjamas, his hair is
tousled.] Just a moment. [He unlocks the door.] Just a
moment. [He goes back to bed, gets under the blanket.]
POTTER: [coming in] Hello Ron!
WEASLEY: [in bed] What time is it? Aren’t you at the oﬃce?
POTTER: You’re still in bed; you’re not at the oﬃce, then?
Sorry if I’m disturbing you.
WEASLEY: [still with his back turned] Funny, I didn’t recognize your
POTTER: I didn’t recognize yours either.
WEASLEY: [still with his back turned] Sit down!
POTTER: Aren’t you feeling well?
[ replies with a grunt.]
You know, Ron, it was stupid of me to get so upset
yesterday over a thing like that.
WEASLEY: A thing like what?
WEASLEY: When yesterday? Where yesterday?
POTTER: Don’t you remember? It was about that wretched
WEASLEY: What rhinoceros?
POTTER: The rhinoceros, or rather, the two wretched
rhinoceroses we saw.
WEASLEY: Oh yes, I remember … How do you know they were
POTTER: Oh I just said that.
WEASLEY: Oh. Well let’s not talk any more about it.
POTTER: That’s very nice of you.
WEASLEY: Then that’s that.
POTTER: But I would like to say how sorry I am for being so
insistent … and so obstinate … and getting so angry … in
fact … I acted stupidly.
WEASLEY: That’s not surprising with you.
POTTER: I’m very sorry.
WEASLEY: I don’t feel very well. [He coughs.]
POTTER: That’s probably why you’re in bed. [With a change
of tone:] You know, Ron, as it turned out, we were both
WEASLEY: What about?
POTTER: About … well, you know, the same thing. Sorry to
bring it up again, but I’ll only mention it brieﬂy. I just
wanted you to know that in our diﬀerent ways we were
both right. It’s been proved now. There are some
rhinoceroses in the town with two horns and some with
WEASLEY: That’s what I told you! Well, that’s just too bad.
POTTER: Yes, too bad.
WEASLEY: Or maybe it’s all to the good; it depends.
POTTER: [continuing] In the ﬁnal analysis it doesn’t much
matter which comes from where. The important thing, as
I see it, is the fact that they’re there at all, because. . .
WEASLEY: [turning and sitting on his unmade bed, facing POTTER] I
don’t feel well, I don’t feel well at all!
POTTER: Oh I am sorry! What do you think it is?
WEASLEY: I don’t know exactly, there’s something wrong
POTTER: Do you feel weak?
WEASLEY: Not at all. On the contrary, I feel full of beans.
POTTER: I meant just a passing weakness. It happens to
WEASLEY: It never happens to me.
POTTER: Perhaps you’re too healthy then. Too much energy
can be a bad thing. It unsettles the nervous system.
WEASLEY: My nervous system is in perfect order. [His voice has
become more and more hoarse.] I’m sound in mind and
limb. I come from a long line of…
POTTER: I know you do. Perhaps you’ve just caught a chill.
Have you got a temperature?
WEASLEY: I don’t know. Yes, probably I have a touch of fever. My
POTTER: Just a slight migraine. Would you like me to leave
WEASLEY: No, stay. You don’t worry me.
POTTER: Your voice is hoarse, too.
POTTER: A bit hoarse, yes. That’s why I didn’t recognize it.
WEASLEY: Why should I be hoarse? My voice hasn’t changed; it’s
yours that’s changed!
WEASLEY: Why not?
POTTER: It’s possible. I hadn’t noticed.
WEASLEY: I sometimes wonder if you’re capable of noticing
anything. [Putting his hand to his forehead.] Actually it’s
my forehead that hurts. I must have given it a knock.
[His voice is even hoarser.]
POTTER: When did you do that?
WEASLEY: I don’t know. I don’t remember it happening.
POTTER: But it must have hurt you.
WEASLEY: I must have done it while I was asleep.
POTTER: The shock would have wakened you up. You must
have just dreamed you knocked yourself.
WEASLEY: I never dream…
POTTER: [continuing] Your headache must have come on
while you were asleep. You’ve forgotten you dreamed, or
rather you only remember subconsciously.
WEASLEY: Subconsciously, me? I’m master of my own thoughts,
my mind doesn’t wander. I think straight, I always think
POTTER: I know that. I haven’t made myself clear.
WEASLEY: Then make yourself clearer. And you needn’t bother to
make any of your unpleasant observations to me.
POTTER: One often has the impression that one has knocked
oneself when one has a headache. [Coming closer to
.] If you’d really knocked yourself, you’d have a bump.
[Looking at .] Oh, you’ve got one, you do have a
bump, in fact.
WEASLEY: A BUMP?
POTTER: Just a tiny one.
POTTER: [pointing Ιο ’S forehead] There, it starts just above
WEASLEY: I’ve no bump. We’ve never had bumps in my family.
POTTER: Have you got a mirror?
WEASLEY: That’s the limit! [Touching his forehead.] I can feel
something. I’m going to have a look, in the bathroom.
[He gets up abruptly and goes to the bathroom. POTTER
watches him as he goes. Then, from the bathroom:] It’s
true, I have got a bump. [He comes back; his skin has
become greener.] So you see I did knock myself.
POTTER: You don t look well, your skin is quite green.
WEASLEY: You seem to delight in saying disagreeable things to me.
Have you taken a look at yourself lately?
POTTER: Forgive me. I didn’t mean to upset you.
WEASLEY: [very hoarse] That’s hard to believe.
POTTER: Your breathing’s very heavy. Does your throat hurt?
[ goes and sits on his bed again.]
If your throat hurts, perhaps it’s a touch of quinsy.
WEASLEY: Why should I have a touch of quinsy?
POTTER: It’s nothing to be ashamed of—I sometimes get it.
Let me feel your pulse. [He rises and takes ’S pulse.]
WEASLEY: [in an even hoarser voice] Oh, it’ll pass.
POTTER: Your pulse is normal. You needn’t get alarmed.
WEASLEY: I’m not alarmed in the slightest—why should I be?
POTTER: You’re right. A few days’ rest will put you right.
WEASLEY: I’ve no time to rest. I must go and buy some food.
POTTER: There’s not much the matter with you, if you’re
hungry. But even so, you ought to take a few days’ rest.
It’s wise to take care. Has the doctor been to see you?
WEASLEY: I don’t need a doctor.
POTTER: Oh but you ought to get the doctor.
WEASLEY: You’re not going to get the doctor because I don’t want
the doctor. I can look after myself.
POTTER: You shouldn’t reject medical advice.
WEASLEY: Doctors invent illnesses that don t exist.
POTTER: They do it in good faith—just for the pleasure of
looking after people.
WEASLEY: They invent illnesses, they invent them, I tell you.
POTTER: Perhaps they do—but after they invent them they
WEASLEY: I only have conﬁdence in veterinary surgeons. There!
POTTER: [who has released ’S wrist, now takes it up again]
Your veins look swollen. They’re jutting out.
WEASLEY: It’s a sign of virility.
POTTER: Of course it’s a sign of health and strength. But…
[He examines ’S forearm more closely, until
violently withdraws it.]
WEASLEY: What do you think you’re doing—scrutinizing me as if I
were some strange animal?
POTTER: It’s your skin…
WEASLEY: What’s my skin got to do with you? I don’t go on about
your skin, do I?
POTTER: It’s just that… it seems to be changing colour all the
time. It’s going green. [He tries to take ’S hand.] It’s
hardening as well.
WEASLEY: [withdrawing his hand again] Stop mauling me about!
What’s the matter with you? You’re getting on my nerves.
POTTER: [to himself] Perhaps it’s more serious than I thought.
[To ;] We must get the doctor. [He goes to the
WEASLEY: Leave that thing alone. [He darts over to POTTER and
pushes him. POTTER staggers.] You mind your own
POTTER: All right. It was for your own good.
WEASLEY: [coughing and breathing noisily] I know better than you
what’s good for me.
POTTER: You’re breathing very hard.
WEASLEY: One breathes as best one can. You don’t like the way I
breathe, and I don’t like the way you breathe. Your
breathing’s too feeble, you can’t even hear it ; it’s as if
you were going to drop dead any moment.
POTTER: I know I’m not as strong as you.
WEASLEY: I don’t keep trying to get you to the doctor, do I? Leave
people to do as they please.
POTTER: Don’t get angry with me. You know very well I’m
WEASLEY: There’s no such thing as friendship. I don’t believe in
POTTER: That’s a very hurtful thing to say.
WEASLEY: There’s nothing for you to get hurt about.
POTTER: My dear Ron…
WEASLEY: I’m not your dear Ron.
POTTER: You’re certainly in a very misanthropic mood today.
WEASLEY: Yes, I am misanthropic, very misanthropic indeed. I like
POTTER: You’re probably still angry with me over our silly
quarrel yesterday. I admit it was my fault. That’s why I
came to say I was sorry…
WEASLEY: What quarrel are you talking about?
POTTER: I told you just now. You know, about the rhinoceros.
WEASLEY: [not listening to POTTER] It’s not that I hate people. I’m
just indiﬀerent to them—or rather, they disgust me; and
they’d better keep out of my way, or I’ll run them down.
POTTER: You know very well that I shall never stand in your
WEASLEY: I’ve got one aim in life. And I’m making straight for it.
POTTER: I’m sure you’re right. But I feel you’re passing
through a moral crisis.
[ has been pacing the room like a wild beast in a
cage, from one wall to the other. POTTER watches
him, occasionally stepping aside to avoid him. ’S
voice has become more and more hoarse.]
You mustn’t excite yourself, it’s bad for you.
WEASLEY: I felt uncomfortable in my clothes; now my pyjamas
irritate me as well. [He undoes his pyjama jacket and
does it up again.]
POTTER: But whatever’s the matter with your skin?
WEASLEY: Can’t you leave my skin alone? I certainly wouldn’t want
to change it for yours.
POTTER: It’s gone like leather.
WEASLEY: That makes it more solid. It’s weatherproof.
POTTER: You’re getting greener and greener.
WEASLEY: You’ve got colour mania today. You’re seeing things,
you’ve been drinking again.
POTTER: I did yesterday, but not today.
WEASLEY: It’s the result of all your past debauches.
POTTER: I promised you to turn over a new leaf. I take notice
when friends like you give me advice. And I never feel
humiliated—on the contrary!
WEASLEY: I don’t care what you feel. Brrr…
POTTER: What did you say?
WEASLEY: I didn’t say anything. I just went Brrrr … because I felt
POTTER: [looking ﬁxedly at ] Do you know what’s
happened to Boeuf? He’s turned into a rhinoceros.
WEASLEY: What happened to Boeuf?
POTTER: He’s turned into a rhinoceros.
WEASLEY: [fanning himself with the ﬂaps of his jacket] Brrr…
POTTER: Come on now, stop joking.
WEASLEY: I can puﬀ if I want to, can’t I? I’ve every right… I’m in my
POTTER: I didn’t say you couldn’t.
WEASLEY: And I shouldn’t if I were you. I feel hot, I feel hot. Brrr …
Just a moment. I must cool myself down.
POTTER: [whilst darts to the bathroom] He must have a
[ is in the bathroom, one hears him puﬃng, and
also the sound of a running tap.]
WEASLEY: [oﬀ] Brrr…
POTTER: He’s got the shivers. I’m jolly well going to ‘phone
the doctor. [He goes to the telephone again then comes
back quickly when he hears ’S voice.]
WEASLEY: [oﬀ] So old Boeuf turned into a rhinoceros, did he? Ah,
ah, ah …! He was just having you on, he’d disguised
himself. [He pokes his head round the bathroom door. He
is very green. The bump over his nose is slightly larger.]
He was just disguised.
POTTER: [walking about the room, without seeing ] He
looked very serious about it, I assure you.
WEASLEY: Oh well, that’s his business.
POTTER: [turning to who disappears again into the
bathroom] I’m sure he didn’t do it on purpose. He didn’t
want to change.
WEASLEY: [oﬀ] How do you know?
POTTER: Well, everything led one to suppose so.
WEASLEY: And what if he did do it on purpose? Eh? What if he did
it on purpose?
POTTER: I’d be very surprised. At any rate, Mrs. Boeuf didn’t
seem to know about it…
WEASLEY: [in a very hoarse voice] Ah, ah, ah! Fat old Mrs. Boeuf.
She’s just a fool!
POTTER: Well fool or no fool…
WEASLEY: [he enters swiftly, takes oﬀ his jacket, and throws it on
the bed. POTTER discreetly averts his gaze. , whose
back and chest are now green, goes back into the
bathroom. As he walks in and out:] Boeuf never let his
wife know what he was up to…
POTTER: You’re wrong there, Ron—it was a very united
WEASLEY: Very united, was it? Are you sure? Hum, hum, Brr…
POTTER: [moving to the bathroom, where slams the door
in his face] Very united. And the proof is that…
WEASLEY: [from within] Boeuf led his own private life. He had a
secret side to him deep down which he kept to himself.
POTTER: I shouldn’t make you talk, it seems to upset you.
WEASLEY: On the contrary, it relaxes me.
POTTER: Even so, let me call the doctor, I beg you.
WEASLEY: I absolutely forbid it. I can’t stand obstinate people.
[ comes back into the bedroom. POTTER backs
away a little scared, for is greener than ever and
speaks only with diﬃculty. His voice
Well, whether he changes into a rhinoceros on
purpose or against his will, he’s probably all the
better for it.
POTTER: How can you say a thing like that? Surely you don’t
WEASLEY: You always see the black side of everything. It obviously
gave him great pleasure to turn into a rhinoceros.
There’s nothing extraordinary in that.
POTTER: There’s nothing extraordinary in it, but I doubt if it
gave him much pleasure.
WEASLEY: And why not, pray?
POTTER: It’s hard to say exactly why; it’s just something you
WEASLEY: I tell you it’s not as bad as all that. After all,
rhinoceroses are living creatures the same as us; they’ve
got as much right to life as we have!
POTTER: As long as they don t destroy ours in the process.
You must admit the diﬀerence in mentality.
WEASLEY: [pacing up and down the room, and in and out of the
bathroom] Are you under the impression that our way of
life is superior?
POTTER: Well at any rate, we have our own moral standards
which I consider incompatible with the standards of
WEASLEY: Moral standards! I’m sick of moral standards! We need
to go beyond moral standards!
POTTER: What would you put in their place?
WEASLEY: [still pacing] Nature!
WEASLEY: Nature has its own laws. Morality’s against Nature.
POTTER: Are you suggesting we replace our moral laws by
the law of the jungle?
WEASLEY: It would suit me, suit me ﬁne.
POTTER: You say that. But deep down, no one…
WEASLEY: [interrupting him, pacing up and down] We’ve got to
build our life on new foundations. We must get back to
POTTER: I don’t agree with you at all.
WEASLEY: [breathing noisily] I can’t breathe.
POTTER: Just think a moment. You must admit that we have a
philosophy that animals don’t share, and an irreplaceable
set of values, which it’s taken centuries of human
civilization to build up…
WEASLEY: [in the bathroom] When we’ve demolished all that, we’ll
be better oﬀ!
POTTER: I know you don’t mean that seriously. You re joking!
It’s just a poetic fancy.
WEASLEY: Brrr. [He almost trumpets.]
POTTER: I’d never realized you were a poet.
WEASLEY: [comes out of the bathroom] Brrr. [He trumpets again.]
POTTER: That’s not what you believe fundamentally—I know
you too well. You know as well as I do that mankind…
WEASLEY: [interrupting him] Don’t talk to me about mankind!
POTTER: I mean the human individual, humanism…
WEASLEY: Humanism is all washed up! You’re a ridiculous old
sentimentalist. [He goes into the bathroom.]
POTTER: But you must admit that the mind…
WEASLEY: [from the bathroom] Just clichés! You’re talking rubbish!
WEASLEY: [from the bathroom in a very hoarse voice, diﬃcult to
understand] Utter rubbish!
POTTER: I’m amazed to hear you say that, Ron, really! You
must be out of your mind. You wouldn’t like to be a
rhinoceros yourself, now would you?
WEASLEY: Why not? I’m not a victim of prejudice like you.
POTTER: Can you speak more clearly? I didn’t catch what you
said. You swallowed the words.
WEASLEY: [still in the bathroom] Then keep your ears open.
WEASLEY: Keep your ears open. I said what’s wrong with being a
rhinoceros? I’m all for change.
POTTER: It’s not like you to say a thing like that…
[POTTER stops short, for ’S appearance is truly
alarming. has become, in fact, completely green.
The bump on his forehead is practically a rhinoceros
Oh! You really must be out of your mind!
[ dashes to his bed, throws the covers on the
ﬂoor, talking in a fast and furious gabble, and
making very weird sounds.]
You mustn’t get into such a state—calm down! I
hardly recognize you any more.
WEASLEY: [hardly distinguishable] Hot … far too hot! Demolish the
lot, clothes itch, they itch! [He drops his pyjama
POTTER: What are you doing? You’re not yourself! You’re
generally so modest!
WEASLEY: The swamps! The swamps!
POTTER: Look at me! Can’t you see me any longer? Can’t you
WEASLEY: I can hear you perfectly well! I can see you perfectly
well! [He lunges towards POTTER, head down. POTTER gets
out of the way.]
POTTER: Watch out!
WEASLEY: [puﬃng noisily] Sorry! [He darts at great speed into the
POTTER: [makes as if to escape by the door left, then comes
back and goes into the bathroom after , saying] I
really can’t leave him like that—after all he is a friend.
[From the bathroom:] I’m going to get the doctor! It’s
absolutely necessary, believe me!
WEASLEY: [from the bathroom] No!
POTTER: [from the bathroom] Calm down, Ron, you’re being
ridiculous! Oh, your horn’s getting longer and longer—
you’re a rhinoceros!
WEASLEY: [from the bathroom] I’ll trample you, I’ll trample you
down! [A lot of noise comes from the bathroom,
trumpetings, objects falling, the sound of a shattered
mirror; then POTTER reappears, very frightened; he closes
the bathroom door with diﬃculty against the resistance
that is being made from inside.]
POTTER: [pushing against the door] He’s a rhinoceros, he’s a
[POTTER manages to close the door. As he does so,
his coat is pierced by a rhinoceros horn. The door
shakes under the animal‘s constant pressure and
the din continues in the bathroom; trumpetings are
heard, interspersed with indistinct phrases such as:
‘I‘m furious! The swine!’ etc. POTTER rushes to the
I never would have thought it of him—never!
[He opens the staircase door and goes and knocks
at the landing door; he bangs repeatedly on it with
There’s a rhinoceros in the building! Get the police!
OLD MAN: [poking his head out] What’s the matter?
POTTER: Get the police! There’s a rhinoceros in the house!
VOICE OF OLD MAN’S WIFE: What are you up to, Ron? Why are you
making all that noise?
OLD MAN: [to his wife] I don’t know what he’s talking about.
He’s seen a rhinoceros.
POTTER: Yes, here in the house. Get the police!
OLD MAN: What do you think you’re up to, disturbing people
like that. What a way to behave! [He shuts the door in
POTTER: [rushing to the stairs] Porter, porter, there’s a
rhinoceros in the house, get the police! Porter!
[The upper part of the porter s lodge is seen to
open; the head of a rhinoceros appears.]
[POTTER rushes upstairs again. He wants to go back
into ’S room, hesitates, then makes for the door of
the OLD MAN again. At this moment the door of the
room opens to reveal two rhinoceros heads.]
Oh, my God!
[POTTER goes back into ’S room where the
bathroom door is still shaking. He goes to the
window which is represented simply by the frame,
facing the audience. He is exhausted, almost
fainting; he murmurs.]
My God! Oh my God!
[He makes a gigantic eﬀort, and manages to get
astride the window (that is, towards the audience)
but gets back again quickly, for at the same time,
crossing the orchestra pit at great speed, move a
large number of rhinoceros heads in line. POTTER
gets back with all speed, looks out of the window for
There’s a whole herd of them in the street now! An
army of rhinoceroses, surging up the avenue…! [He
looks all around.] Where can I get out? Where can I
get out? If only they’d keep to the middle of the
road! They’re all over the pavement as well. Where
can I get out? Where can I get out?
[Distracted, he goes from door to door and to the
window, whilst the bathroom door continues to
shake and continues to trumpet and hurl
incomprehensible insults. This continues for some
moments; whenever POTTER in his disordered
attempts to escape reaches the door of the Old
People‘s ﬂat or the stairway, he is greeted by
rhinoceros heads which trumpet and cause him to
beat a hasty retreat. He goes to the window for the
last time and looks out.]
A whole herd of them! And they always said the
rhinoceros was a solitary animal! That’s not true,
that’s a conception they’ll have to revise! They’ve
smashed up all the public benches. [He wrings his
hands.] What’s to be done?
[He goes once more to the various exits, but the
spectacle of the rhinoceros halts him. When he gets
back to the bathroom door it seems about to give
way. POTTER throws himself against the back wall,
which yields; the street is visible in the background;
he ﬂees, shouting:]
[Noises. The bathroom door is on the point of
The arrangement is roughly the same as in the previous
It is POTTER’S room, which bears a striking resemblance to
that of . Only certain details, one or two extra pieces
of furniture, reveal that it is a diﬀerent room. Staircase to
the left, and landing. Door at the end of the landing.
There is no porter s lodge. Up-stage is a divan.
An armchair, and a little table with a telephone. Perhaps art
extra telephone, and a chair. Window up-stage, open. A
window frame in the foreground.
POTTER is lying on his divan, his back to the audience.
POTTER is lying fully dressed. His head is bandaged. He
seems to be having a bad dream, and writhes in his
POTTER: No. [Pause] Watch out for the horns! [Pause]
[The noise of a considerable number of rhinoceroses
is heard passing under the upstage window.]
No! [He falls to the ﬂoor still ﬁghting with what he
has seen in his dream, and wakes up. He puts his
hand to his head with an apprehensive air, then
moves to the mirror and lifts his bandage, as the
noises fade away. He heaves a sigh of relief when
he sees he has no bump. He hesitates, goes to the
divan, lies down, instantly gets up again. He goes to
the table where he takes up a bottle of brandy and a
glass, is about to pour himself a drink. Then after a
short internal struggle he replaces the bottle and
glass.] Now, now, where’s your will-power! [He
wants to go back to his divan, but the rhinoceroses
are heard again under the up-stage window. The
noises stop; he goes to the little table, hesitates a
moment, then with a gesture of ‘Oh what‘s it
matter!’ he pours himself a glass of brandy which he
downs at one go. He puts the bottle and glass back
in place. He coughs. His cough seems to worry him;
he coughs again and listens hard to the sound. He
looks at himself again in the mirror, coughing, then
opens the window; the panting of the animals
becomes louder; he coughs again.] No, it’s not the
same! [He calms down, shuts the window, feels his
bandaged forehead, goes to his divan, and seems to
[DUDARD is seen mounting the top stairs; he gets to the
landing and knocks on POTTER’S door.]
POTTER: [starting up] What is it?
DUDARD: I’ve dropped by to see you, Harry.
POTTER: Who is it?
DUDARD: It’s me.
POTTER: Who’s me?
DUDARD: Me, Dudard.
POTTER: Ah, it’s you, come in!
DUDARD: I hope I’m not disturbing you. [He tries to open the
door.] The door’s locked.
POTTER: Just a moment. Oh dear, dear! [He opens the door.
DUDARD: Hello Harry.
POTTER: Hello Dudard, what time is it?
DUDARD: So, you’re still barricaded in your room! Feeling any
better, old man?
POTTER: Forgive me, I didn’t recognize your voice. [Goes to
open the window.] Yes, yes, I think I’m a bit better.
DUDARD: My voice hasn’t changed. I recognized yours easily
POTTER: I’m sorry, I thought that … you’re right, your voice is
quite normal. Mine hasn’t changed either, has it?
DUDARD: Why should it have changed?
POTTER: I’m not a bit… a bit hoarse, am I?
DUDARD: Not that I notice.
POTTER: That’s good. That’s very reassuring.
DUDARD: Why, what’s the matter with you?
POTTER: I don’t know—does one ever know? Voices can
suddenly change—they do change, alas!
DUDARD: Have you caught cold, as well?
POTTER: I hope not … I sincerely hope not. But do sit down,
Dudard, take a seat. Sit in the armchair.
DUDARD: [sitting in the armchair] Are you still feeling a bit oﬀ
colour ? Is your head still bad ? [He points to POTTER’S
POTTER: Oh yes, I’ve still got a headache. But there’s no
bump, I haven’t knocked myself … have I ? [He lifts the
bandage, shows his forehead to DUDARD.]
DUDARD: No, there’s no bump as far as I can see.
POTTER: I hope there never will be. Never.
DUDARD: If you don’t knock yourself, why should there be?
POTTER: If you really don’t want to knock yourself, you don’t.
DUDARD: Obviously. One just has to take care. But what’s the
matter with you? You’re all nervous and agitated. It must
be your migraine. You just stay quiet and you’ll feel
POTTER: Migraine! Don’t talk to me about migraines! Don’t
talk about them!
DUDARD: It’s understandable that you’ve got a migraine after
all that emotion.
POTTER: I can’t seem to get over it!
DUDARD: Then it’s not surprising you’ve got a headache.
POTTER: [darting to the mirror, lifting the bandage] Nothing
there … You know, it can all start from something like
DUDARD: What can all start?
POTTER: I’m frightened of becoming someone else.
DUDARD: Calm yourself, now, and sit down. Dashing up and
down the room like that can only make you more
POTTER: You’re right, I must keep calm. [He goes and sits
down.] I just can’t get over it, you know.
DUDARD: About Ron you mean?—I know.
POTTER: Yes, Ron, of course—and the others, too.
DUDARD: I realize it must have been a shock to you.
POTTER: Well, that’s not surprising, you must admit.
DUDARD: I suppose so, but you mustn’t dramatize the
situation; it’s no reason for you to…
POTTER: I wonder how you’d have felt. Ron was my best
friend. Then to watch him change before my eyes, and
the way he got so furious!
DUDARD: I know. You felt let down; I understand. Try and not
think about it.
POTTER: How can I help thinking about it? He was such a
warm-hearted person, always so human! Who’d have
thought it of him! We’d known each other for … for
donkey’s years. He was the last person I’d have expected
to change like that. I felt more sure of him than of
myself! And then to do that to me!
DUDARD: I’m sure he didn’t do it specially to annoy you!
POTTER: It seemed as ‘if he did. If you’d seen the state he
was in … the expression on his face…
DUDARD: It’s just that you happened to be with him at the
time. It would have been the same no matter who was
POTTER: But after all our years together he might have
controlled himself in front of me.
DUDARD: You think everything revolves round you, you think
that everything that happens concerns you personally;
you’re not the centre of the universe, you know.
POTTER: Perhaps you’re right. I must try to re-adjust myself,
but the phenomenon in itself is so disturbing. To tell the
truth, it absolutely shatters me. What can be the
DUDARD: For the moment I haven’t found a satisfactory
explanation. I observe the facts, and I take them in. They
exist, so they must have an explanation. A freak of
Nature, perhaps, some bizarre caprice, an extravagant
joke, a game—who knows?
POTTER: Ron was very proud, of course. I’m not ambitious at
all. I’m content to be what I am.
DUDARD: Perhaps he felt an urge for some fresh air, the
country, the wide-open spaces … perhaps he felt a need
to relax. I’m not saying that’s any excuse…
POTTER: I understand what you mean, at least I’m trying to.
But you know—if someone accused me of being a bad
sport, or hopelessly middle class, or completely out of
touch with life, I’d still want to stay as I am.
DUDARD: We’ll all stay as we are, don’t worry. So why get upset
over a few cases of rhinoceritis. Perhaps it’s just another
POTTER: Exactly! And I’m frightened of catching it.
DUDARD: Oh stop thinking about it. Really, you attach too
much importance to the whole business. Ron’s case isn’t
symptomatic, he’s not a typical case—you said yourself
he was proud. In my opinion—if you’ll excuse me saying
this about your friend—he was far too excitable, a bit
wild, an eccentric. You mustn’t base your judgments on
exceptions. It’s the average case you must consider.
POTTER: I’m beginning to see daylight. You see, you couldn’t
explain this phenomenon to me. And yet you just
provided me with a plausible explanation. Yes, of course,
he must have been in a critical condition to have got
himself into that state. He must have been temporarily
unbalanced. And yet he gave his reasons for it, he’d
obviously given it a lot of thought, and weighed the pros
and cons … And what about Boeuf then, was he mad, too
… ? and what about all the others…?
DUDARD: There’s still the epidemic theory. It’s like inﬂuenza.
It’s not the ﬁrst time there’s been an epidemic.
POTTER: There’s never been one like this. And what if it’s
come from the colonies?
DUDARD: In any case you can be sure that Boeuf and the
others didn’t do what they did—become what they
became—just to annoy you. They wouldn’t have gone to
all that trouble.
POTTER: That’s true, that makes sense, it’s a reassuring
… or on the other hand, perhaps that makes it
worse? [Rhinoceroses are heard, galloping under the
up-stage window.] There, you hear that? [He darts
to the window.]
DUDARD: Oh, why can’t you leave them alone!
[POTTER closes the window again.]
They’re not doing you any harm. Really, you’re
obsessed by them! It’s not good for you. You’re
wearing yourself out. You’ve had one” shock, why
look for more? You just concentrate on getting back
POTTER: I wonder if I really am immune?
DUDARD: In any case it’s not fatal. Certain illnesses are good
for you. I’m convinced this is something you can cure if
you want to. They’ll get over it, you’ll see.
POTTER: But it’s bound to have certain after-eﬀects! An
organic upheaval like that can’t help but leave…
DUDARD: It’s only temporary, don’t you worry.
POTTER: Are you absolutely certain?
DUDARD: I think so, yes, I suppose so.
POTTER: But if one really doesn’t want to, really doesn’t want
to catch this thing, which after all is a nervous disease—
then you don’t catch it, you simply don’t catch it! Do you
feel like a brandy? [He goes to the table where the bottle
DUDARD: Not for me, thank you, I never touch it. But don’t
mind me if you want some—you go ahead, don’t worry
about me. But watch out it doesn’t make your headache
POTTER: Alcohol is good for epidemics. It immunizes you. It
kills inﬂuenza microbes, for instance.
DUDARD: Perhaps it doesn’t kill all microbes. They don’t know
about rhinoceritis yet.
POTTER: Ron never touched alcohol. He just pretended to.
Maybe that’s why he … perhaps that explains his
attitude. [He oﬀers a full glass to DUDARD:] You’re sure you
DUDARD: No, no, never before lunch, thank you.
[POTTER empties his glass, continues to hold it,
together with the bottle, in his hands; he coughs.]
You see, you can’t take it. It makes you cough.
POTTER: [worried] Yes, it did make me cough. How did I
DUDARD: Like everyone coughs when they drink something a
POTTER: [moving to put the glass and bottle back on the
table] There wasn’t anything odd about it, was there? It
was a real human cough?
DUDARD: What are you getting at? It was an ordinary human
cough. What other sort of cough could it have been?
POTTER: I don’t know … Perhaps an animal’s cough … Do
DUDARD: Look, Harry, you’re being ridiculous, you invent
diﬃculties for yourself, you ask yourself the weirdest
questions … I remember you said yourself that the best
protection against the thing was will-power.
POTTER: Yes, I did.
DUDARD: Well then, prove you’ve got some.
POTTER: I have, I assure you…
DUDARD: Prove it to yourself—now, don’t drink any more
brandy. You’ll feel more sure of yourself then.
POTTER: You deliberately misunderstand me. I told you the
only reason I take it is because it keeps the worst at bay;
I’m doing it quite deliberately. When the epidemic’s over,
then I shall stop drinking. I’d already decided that before
the whole business began. I’m just putting it oﬀ for the
DUDARD: You’re inventing excuses for yourself.
POTTER: Do you think I am…? In any case, that’s got nothing
to do with what’s happening now.
DUDARD: How do we know?
POTTER: [alarmed] Do you really think so? You think that’s
how the rot sets in? I’m not an alcoholic. [He goes to the
mirror and examines himself.] Do you think, by any
chance… [He touches his face, pats his bandaged
forehead.] Nothing’s changed; it hasn’t done any harm so
it must have done good … or it’s harmless at any rate.
DUDARD: I was only joking. I was just teasing you. You see the
black side of everything—watch out, or you’ll become a
neurotic. When you’ve got over your shock completely
and you can get out for a breath of fresh air, you’ll feel
better—you’ll see! All these morbid ideas will vanish.
POTTER: Go out? I suppose I’ll have to. I’m dreading the
moment. I’ll be bound to meet some of them…
DUDARD: What if you do? You only have to keep out of their
way. And there aren’t as many as all that.
POTTER: I see them all over the place. You’ll probably say
that’s being morbid, too.
DUDARD: They don’t attack you. If you leave them alone, they
just ignore you. You can’t say they’re spiteful. They’ve
even got a certain natural innocence, a sort of frankness.
Besides I walked right along the avenue to get to you
today. I got here safe and sound, didn’t I? No trouble at
POTTER: Just the sight of them upsets me. It’s a nervous
thing. I don’t get angry—no, it doesn’t pay to get angry,
you never know where it’ll lead to, I watch out for that.
But it does something to me, here! [He points to his
heart.] I get a tight feeling inside.
DUDARD: I think you’re right to a certain extent to have some
reaction. But you go too far. You’ve no sense of humour,
that’s your trouble, none at all. You must learn to be
more detached, and try and see the funny side of things.
POTTER: I feel responsible for everything that happens. I feel
involved, I just can’t be indiﬀerent.
DUDARD: Judge not lest ye be judged. If you start worrying
about everything that happens you’d never be able to go
POTTER: If only it had happened somewhere else, in some
other country, and we’d just read about it in the papers,
one could discuss it quietly, examine the question from
all points of view and come to an objective conclusion.
We could organize debates with professors and writers
and lawyers, and blue-stockings and artists and people.
And the ordinary man in the street, as well—it would be
very interesting and instructive. But when you’re
involved yourself, when you suddenly ﬁnd yourself up
against the brutal facts you can’t help feeling directly
concerned—the shock is too violent for you to stay cool
and detached. I’m frankly surprised, I’m very very
surprised. I can’t get over it.
DUDARD: Well I’m surprised, too. Or rather I was. Now I’m
starting to get used to it.
POTTER: Your nervous system is better balanced than mine.
You’re lucky. But don’t you agree it’s all very
DUDARD: [interrupting him] I don’t say it’s a good thing. And
don’t get the idea that I’m on the rhinoceroses’ side…
[More sounds of rhinoceroses passing, this time
under the down-stage window-frame.]
POTTER: [with a start] There they are, there they are again!
Oh, it’s no use, I just can’t get used to them. Maybe it’s
wrong of me, but they obsess me so much in spite of
myself, I just can’t sleep at night. I get insomnia. I doze a
bit in the daytime out of sheer exhaustion.
DUDARD: Take some sleeping tablets.
POTTER: That’s not the answer. If I sleep, it’s worse. I dream
about them, I get nightmares.
DUDARD: That’s what comes of taking things too seriously. You
get a kick out of torturing yourself—admit it!
POTTER: I’m no masochist, I assure you.
DUDARD: Then face the facts and get over it. This is the
situation and there’s nothing you can do about it.
POTTER: That’s fatalism.
DUDARD: It’s common sense. When a thing like this happens
there’s bound to be a reason for it. That’s what we must
POTTER: [getting up] Well, I don’t want to accept the
DUDARD: What else can you do? What are your plans?
POTTER: I don’t know for the moment. I must think it over. I
shall write to the papers; I’ll draw up manifestos; I shall
apply for an audience with the mayor—or his deputy, if
the mayor’s too busy.
DUDARD: You leave the authorities to act as they think best!
I’m not sure if morally you have the right to butt in. In
any case, I still think it’s not all that serious. I consider
it’s silly to get worked up because a few people decide to
change their skins. They just didn’t feel happy in the
ones they had. They’re free to do as they like.
POTTER: We must attack the evil at the roots.
DUDARD: The evil! That’s just a phrase! Who knows what is evil
and what is good? It’s just a question of personal
preferences. You’re worried about your own skin—that’s
the truth of the matter. But you’ll never become a
rhinoceros, really you won’t … you haven’t got the
POTTER: There you are, you see! If our leaders and fellow
citizens all think like you, they’ll never take any action.
DUDARD: You wouldn’t want to ask for help from abroad, surely
? This is an internal aﬀair, it only concerns our country.
POTTER: I believe in international solidarity…
DUDARD: You’re a Don Quixote. Oh, I don’t mean that nastily,
don’t be oﬀended! I’m only saying it for your own good,
because you really need to calm down.
POTTER: You’re right, I know—forgive me. I get too worked
up. But I’ll change, I will change. I’m sorry to keep you all
this time listening to my ramblings: You must have work
to do. Did you get my application for sick leave?
DUDARD: Don’t worry about that. It’s all in order. In any case,
the oﬃce hasn’t resumed work.
POTTER: Haven’t they repaired the staircase yet? What
negligence! That’s why everything goes so badly.
DUDARD: They’re repairing it now. But it’s slow work. It’s not
easy to ﬁnd the workmen. They sign on and work for a
couple of days, then don’t turn up any more. You never
see them again. Then you have to look for others.
POTTER: And they talk about unemployment! At least I hope
we’re getting a stone staircase.
DUDARD: No, it’s wood again, but new wood this time.
POTTER: Oh! The way these organizations stick to the old
routine. They chuck money down the drain but when it’s
needed for something really useful they pretend they
can’t aﬀord it. I bet Mr. Papillon’s none too pleased. He
was dead set on having a stone staircase. What’s he say
DUDARD: We haven’t got a Chief any more. Mr. Papillon’s
POTTER: It’s not possible!
DUDARD: It’s true, I assure you.
POTTER: Well, I’m amazed … Was it on account of the
DUDARD: I don’t think so. Anyway that wasn’t the reason he
POTTER: Why was it then? What got into him?
DUDARD: He’s retiring to the country.
POTTER: Retiring? He’s not the age. He might still have
become the Director.
DUDARD: He’s given it all up! Said he needed a rest.
POTTER: I bet the management’s pretty upset to see him go;
they’ll have to replace him. All your diplomas should
come in useful—you stand a good chance.
DUDARD: I suppose I might as well tell you … it’s really rather
funny—the fact is, he turned into a rhinoceros.
[Distant rhinoceros noises.]
POTTER: A rhinoceros!!!! Mr. Papillon a rhinoceros! I can’t
believe it! I don’t think it’s funny at all! Why didn’t you
tell me before?
DUDARD: Well you know you’ve no sense of humour. I didn’t
want to tell you … I didn’t want to tell you because I
knew very well you wouldn’t see the funny side, and it
would upset you. You know how impressionable you are!
POTTER: [raising his arms to heaven] Oh that’s awful … Mr.
Papillon! And he had such a good job.
DUDARD: That proves his metamorphosis was sincere.
POTTER: He couldn’t have done it on purpose. I’m certain it
must have been involuntary.
DUDARD: How can we tell? It’s hard to know the real reasons
for people’s decisions.
POTTER: He must have made a mistake. He’d got some
DUDARD: Even if it’s a case of dissociation it’s still very
revealing. It was his way of sublimating himself.
POTTER: He let himself be talked into it, I feel sure.
DUDARD: That could happen to anybody!
POTTER: [alarmed] To anybody? Oh no, not to you it couldn’t
—could it? And not to me!
DUDARD: We must hope not.
POTTER: Because we don’t want to … that’s so,isn’t it?Tell
me, that is so, isn’t it?
DUDARD: Yes, yes, of course…
POTTER: [a little calmer] I still would have thought Mr.
Papillon would have had the strength to resist. I thought
he had a bit more character! Particularly as I fail to see
where his interest lay—what possible material or moral
DUDARD: It was obviously a disinterested gesture on his part.
POTTER: Obviously. There were extenuating circumstances…
or were they aggravating? Aggravating, I should think,
because if he did it from choice … You know, I feel sure
that Botard must have taken a very poor view of it—what
did he think of his Chief’s behaviour?
DUDARD: Oh poor old Botard was quite indignant, absolutely
outraged. I’ve rarely seen anyone so incensed.
POTTER: Well for once I’m on his side. He’s a good man after
all. A man of sound common sense. And to think I
DUDARD: He misjudged you, too.
POTTER: That proves how objective I’m being now. Besides,
you had a pretty bad opinion of him yourself.
DUDARD: I wouldn’t say I had a bad opinion. I admit I didn’t
often agree with him. I never liked his scepticism, the
way he was always so incredulous and suspicious. Even
in this instance I didn’t approve of him entirely.
POTTER: This time for the opposite reasons.
DUDARD: No, not exactly—my own reasoning and my judgment
are a bit more complex than you seem to think. It was
because there was nothing precise or objective about the
way Botard argued. I don’t approve of the rhinoceroses
myself, as you know—not at all, don’t go thinking that!
But Botard’s attitude was too passionate, as usual, and
therefore over-simpliﬁed. His stand seems to me entirely
dictated by hatred of his superiors. That’s where he gets
his inferiority complex and his resentment. What’s more
he talks in clichés, and commonplace arguments leave
POTTER: Well forgive me, but this time I’m in complete
agreement with Botard. He’s somebody worthwhile.
DUDARD: I don’t deny it, but that doesn’t mean anything.
POTTER: He’s a very worthwhile person—and they’re not
easy to ﬁnd these days. He’s down-to-earth, with four
feet planted ﬁrmly on the ground—I mean, both feet. I’m
in complete agreement with him, and I’m proud of it. I
shall congratulate him when I see him. I deplore Mr.
Papillon’s action; it was his duty not to succumb.
DUDARD: How intolerant you are! Maybe Papillon felt the need
for a bit of relaxation after all these years of oﬃce life.
POTTER: [ironically] And you’re too tolerant, far too broadminded!
DUDARD: My dear Harry, one must always make an eﬀort
to understand. And in order to understand a
phenomenon and its eﬀects you need to work back to
the initial causes, by honest intellectual eﬀort. We must
try to do this because, after all, we are thinking beings. I
haven’t yet succeeded, as I told you, and I don’t know if I
shall succeed. But in any case one has to start out
favourably disposed—or at least, impartial; one has to
keep an open mind—that’s essential to a scientiﬁc
mentality. Everything is logical. To understand is to
POTTER: You’ll be siding with the rhinoceroses before long.
DUDARD: No, no, not at all. I wouldn’t go that far. I’m simply
trying to look the facts unemotionally in the face. I’m
trying to be realistic. I also contend that there is no real
evil in what occurs naturally. I don’t believe in seeing evil
in everything. I leave that to the inquisitors.
POTTER: And you consider all this natural?
DUDARD: What could be more natural than a rhinoceros?
POTTER: Yes, but for a man to turn into a rhinoceros is
abnormal beyond question.
DUDARD: Well, of course, that’s a matter of opinion…
POTTER: It is beyond question, absolutely beyond question!
DUDARD: You seem very sure of yourself. Who can say where
the normal stops and the abnormal begins? Can you
personally deﬁne these conceptions of normality and
abnormality? Nobody has solved this problem yet, either
medically or philosophically. You ought to know that.
POTTER: The problem may not be resolved philosophically—
but in practice it’s simple. They may prove there’s no
such thing as movement … and then you start walking …
[He starts walking up and down the room.] … and you go
on walking, and you say to yourself, like Galileo, ‘E pur si
DUDARD: You’re getting things all mixed up ! Don’t confuse the
issue. In Galileo’s case it was the opposite: theoretic and
scientiﬁc thought proving itself superior to mass opinion
POTTER: [quite lost] What does all that mean? Mass opinion,
dogmatism—they’re just words! I may be mixing
everything up in my head but you’re losing yours. You
don’t know what’s normal and what isn’t any more. I
couldn’t care less about Galileo … I don’t give a damn
DUDARD: You brought him up in the ﬁrst place and raised the
whole question, saying that practice always had the last
word. Maybe it does, but only when it proceeds from
theory! The history of thought and science proves that.
POTTER: [more and more furious] It doesn’t prove anything of
the sort! It’s all gibberish, utter lunacy!
DUDARD: There again we need to deﬁne exactly what we mean
POTTER: Lunacy is lunacy and that’s all there is to it!
Everybody knows what lunacy is. And what about the
rhinoceroses—are they practice or are they theory?
POTTER: How do you mean—both?
DUDARD: Both the one and the other, or one or the other. It’s a
POTTER: Well in that case … I refuse to think about it!
DUDARD: You’re getting all het up. Our opinions may not
exactly coincide but we can still discuss the matter
peaceably. These things should be discussed.
POTTER: [distracted] You think I’m getting all het up, do you?
I might be Ron. Oh no, no, I don’t want to become like
him. I mustn’t be like him. [He calms down.] I’m not very
well up in philosophy. I’ve never studied; you’ve got all
sorts of diplomas. That’s why you’re so at ease in
discussion, whereas I never know what to answer—I’m so
clumsy. [Louder rhinoceros noises passing ﬁrst tinder the
up-stage window and then the down-stage.] But I do feel
you’re in the wrong … I feel it instinctively—no, that’s not
what I mean, it’s the rhinoceros which has instinct—I feel
it intuitively, yes, that’s the word, intuitively.
DUDARD: What do you understand by ‘intuitive’?
POTTER: Intuitively means … well, just like that! I feel it, just
like that. I think your excessive tolerance, and your
generous indulgence . . . believe me, they’re really only
weakness … just blind spots…
DUDARD: You’re innocent enough to think that.
POTTER: You’ll always be able to dance rings round me. But,
you know what? I’m going to try and get hold of the
DUDARD: What logician?
POTTER: The Logician, the philosopher, a logician, you know
… you know better than I do what a logician is. A logician
I met, who explained to me…
DUDARD: What did he explain to you?
POTTER: He explained that the Asiatic rhinoceroses were
African and the African ones Asiatic.
DUDARD: I don’t follow you.
POTTER: No … no … he proved the contrary—that the African
ones were Asiatic and the Asiatic ones … I know what I
mean. That’s not what I wanted to say. But you’ll get on
very well with him. He’s your sort of person, a very good
man, a very subtle mind, brilliant.
[Increasing noises from the rhinoceroses. The words
of the two men are drowned by the animals passing
under the windows; for a few moments the lips of
DUDARD and POTTER are seen to move without any
words being heard.]
There they go again! Will they never stop! [He runs
to the tip-stage window.] Stop it! Stop it! You devils!
[The rhinoceroses move away. POTTER shakes his ﬁst
DUDARD: [seated] I’d be happy to meet your Logician. If he can
enlighten me on these obscure and delicate points, I’d be
only too delighted.
POTTER: [as he runs to the down-stage window] Yes, I’ll bring
him along, he’ll talk to you. He’s a very distinguished
person, you’ll see. [To the rhinoceroses, from the
window.] You devils! [Shakes his ﬁst as before.]
DUDARD: Let them alone. And be more polite. You shouldn’t
talk to people like that…
POTTER: [still at the window] There they go again!
[A boater pierced by a rhinoceros horn emerges
from the orchestra pit under the window and passes
swiftly from left to right.]
There’s a boater impaled on a rhinoceros horn. Oh,
it’s the Logician’s hat! It’s the Logician’s! That’s the
bloody limit! The Logician’s turned into a rhinoceros!
DUDARD: That’s no reason to be coarse!
POTTER: Dear Lord, who can you turn to—who? I ask you!
The Logician a rhinoceros!
DUDARD: [going to the window] Where is he?
POTTER: [pointing] There, that one there, you see!
DUDARD: He’s the only rhinoceros in a boater! That makes you
think. You’re sure it’s your Logician?
POTTER: The Logician … a rhinoceros!!!
DUDARD: He’s still retained a vestige of his old individuality.
POTTER: [shakes his ﬁst again at the straw-hatted rhinoceros,
which has disappeared] I’ll never join up with you! Not
DUDARD: If he was a genuine thinker, as you say, he couldn’t
have got carried away. He must have weighed all the
pros and and cons before deciding.
POTTER: [still shouting after the ex-Logician and the other
rhinoceroses who have moved away] I’ll never join up
DUDARD: [settling into the armchair] Yes, that certainly makes
[POTTER closes the down-stage window; goes to the
up-stage window where other rhinoceroses are
passing, presumably making a tour of the house. He
opens the window and shouts:]
POTTER: No, I’ll never join up with you!
DUDARD: [aside, in his armchair] They’re going round and
round the house. They’re playing! Just big babies!
[LUNA has been seen mounting the top stairs. She
knocks on POTTER’S door. She is carrying a basket.]
There’s somebody at the door, Harry!
[He takes POTTER, who is still at the window, by the
POTTER: [shouting after the rhinoceroses] It’s a disgrace,
masquerading like this, a disgrace!
DUDARD: There’s someone knocking, Harry, can’t you hear?
POTTER: Open, then, if you want to! [He continues to watch
the rhinoceroses whose noise is fading away.]
[DUDARD goes to open the door.]
LUNA: [coming in] Morning, Mr. Dudard.
DUDARD: Oh, it’s you, Miss Luna.
LUNA: Is Harry here, is he any better?
DUDARD: How nice to see you, my dear. Do you often visit
LUNA: Where is he?
DUDARD: [pointing] There.
LUNA: He’s all on his own, poor thing. And he’s not very well
at the moment, somebody has to give him a hand.
DUDARD: You’re a good friend, Miss Luna.
LUNA: That’s just what I am, a good friend.
DUDARD: You’ve got a warm heart.
LUNA: I’m a good friend, that’s all.
POTTER: [turning, leaving the window open] Oh Miss Luna!
How kind of you to come, how very kind!
DUDARD: It certainly is.
POTTER: Did you know, Miss Luna, that the Logician is a
LUNA: Yes, I did. I caught sight of him in the street as I
arrived. He was running very fast for someone his age!
Are you feeling any better, Mr. Potter?
POTTER: My head’s still bad! Still got a headache! Isn’t it
frightful? What do you think about it?
LUNA: I think you ought to be resting … you should take
things quietly for a few more days.
DUDARD: [to POTTER and LUNA] I hope I’m not disturbing you!
POTTER: [to LUNA] I meant about the Logician…
LUNA: [to DUDARD] Why should you be? [To POTTER:] Oh, about
the Logician? I don’t think anything at all!
DUDARD: [to LUNA] I thought I might be in the way!
LUNA: [to POTTER] What do you expect me to think? [To both:]
I’ve got some news for you: Botard’s a rhinoceros!
DUDARD: Well, well!
POTTER: I don’t believe it. He was against it. You must be
mistaken. He protested. Dudard has just been telling me.
Isn’t that so, Dudard?
DUDARD: That is so.
LUNA: I know he was against it. But it didn’t stop him turning,
twenty-four hours after Mr. Papillon.
DUDARD: Well, he must have changed his mind! Everybody has
the right to do that.
POTTER: Then obviously anything can happen!
DUDARD: [to POTTER] He was a very good man according to you
POTTER: [to LUNA] I just can’t believe you. They must have lied
LUNA: I saw him do it.
POTTER: Then he must have been lying; he was just
LUNA: He seemed very sincere; sincerity itself.
POTTER: Did he give any reasons?
LUNA: What he said was: we must move with the times!
Those were his last human words.
DUDARD: [to LUNA] I was almost certain I’d meet you here, Miss
POTTER: … Move with the times! What a mentality! [He
makes a wide gesture.]
DUDARD: [to LUNA] Impossible to ﬁnd you anywhere else, since
the oﬃce closed.
POTTER: [continuing, aside] What childishness! [He repeats
the same gesture.]
LUNA: [to DUDARD] If you wanted to see me, you only had to
DUDARD: [to LUNA] Oh you know me, Miss Luna, I’m discretion
POTTER: But now I come to think it over, Botard’s behaviour
doesn’t surprise me. His ﬁrmness was only a pose. Which
doesn’t stop him from being a good man, of course. Good
men make good rhinoceroses, unfortunately. It’s because
they are so good that they get taken in.
LUNA: Do you mind if I put this basket on the table? [She does
POTTER: But he was a good man with a lot of resentment…
DUDARD: [to LUNA, and hastening to help her with the basket]
Excuse me, excuse us both, we should have given you a
POTTER: [continues] … He was riddled with hatred for his
superiors, and he’d got an inferiority complex…
DUDARD: [to POTTER] Your argument doesn’t hold water,
because the example he followed was the Chief’s, the
very instrument of the people who exploited him, as he
used to say. No, it seems to me that with him it was a
case of community spirit triumphing over his anarchic
POTTER: It’s the rhinoceroses which are anarchic, because
they’re in the minority.
DUDARD: They are, it’s true—for the moment.
LUNA: They’re a pretty big minority, and getting bigger all the
time. My cousin’s a rhinoceros now, and his wife. Not to
mention leading personalities like the Cardinal de Retz…
DUDARD: A prelate!
DUDARD: This is going to spread to other countries, you’ll see.
POTTER: And to think it all started with us!
LUNA: … and some of the aristocracy. The Duke of St. Simon.
POTTER: [with uplifted arms] All our great names!
LUNA: And others, too. Lots of others. Maybe a quarter of the
POTTER: We’re still in the majority. We must take advantage
of that. We must do something before we’re inundated.
DUDARD: They’re very potent, very.
LUNA: Well for the moment, let’s eat. I’ve brought some food.
POTTER: You’re very kind, Miss Luna.
DUDARD: [aside] Very kind indeed.
POTTER: I don’t know how to thank you.
LUNA: [to DUDARD] Would you care to stay with us?
DUDARD: I don’t want to be a nuisance.
LUNA: Whatever do you mean, Mr. Dudard? You know very
well we’d love you to stay.
DUDARD: Well, you know, I’d hate to be in the way…
POTTER: Of course, stay, Dudard. It’s always a pleasure to
talk to you.
DUDARD: As a matter of fact I’m in a bit of a hurry. I have an
POTTER: Just now you said you had nothing to do.
LUNA: [unpacking her basket] You know, I had a lot of trouble
ﬁnding food. The shops have been plundered; they just
devour everything. And a lot of the shops are closed. It’s
POTTER: They should be all rounded up in a big enclosure,
and kept under strict supervision.
DUDARD: That’s easier said than done. The animals’ protection
league would be the ﬁrst to object.
LUNA: And besides everyone has a close relative or a friend
among them, and that would make it even more diﬃcult.
POTTER: So everybody’s mixed up in it!
DUDARD: Everybody’s in the same boat!
POTTER: But how can people be rhinoceroses? It doesn’t bear
thinking about! [To LUNA:] Shall I help you lay the table?
LUNA: No, don’t bother. I know where the plates are. [She
goes to a cupboard and takes out the plates.]
DUDARD: [aside] She’s obviously very familiar with the place…
LUNA: [to DUDARD] I’m laying for three—all right? You are
staying with us?
POTTER: [to DUDARD] Yes, of course you’re staying.
LUNA: [to POTTER] You get used to it, you know. Nobody seems
surprised any more to see herds of rhinoceroses
galloping through the streets. They just stand aside, and
then carry on as if nothing had happened.
DUDARD: It’s the wisest course to take.
POTTER: Well I can’t get used to it.
DUDARD: [reﬂectively] I wonder if one oughtn’t to give it a try?
LUNA: Well right now, let’s have lunch.
POTTER: I don’t see how a legal man like yourself can…
[A great noise of rhinoceroses travelling very fast is
heard outside. Trumpets and drums are also heard.]
What’s going on?
[They rush to the down-stage window.]
What is it?
[The sound of a wall crumbling is heard. Dust covers
part of the stage, enveloping, if possible, the
characters. They are heard speaking through it.]
POTTER: You can’t see a thing! What’s happening?
DUDARD: You can’t see, but you can hear all right.
POTTER: That’s no good!
LUNA: The plates will be all covered in dust.
POTTER: How unhygienic!
LUNA: Let’s hurry up and eat. We won’t pay any attention to
[The dust disperses.]
POTTER: [pointing into the auditorium] They’ve demolished
the walls of the Fire Station.
DUDARD: That’s true, they’ve demolished them!
LUNA: [who after moving from the window to near the table
holding the plate which she is endeavouring to clean,
rushes to join the other two] They’re coming out.
POTTER: All the ﬁremen, a whole regiment of rhinoceroses,
led by drums.
LUNA: They’re pouring up the streets!
POTTER: It’s gone too far, much too far!
LUNA: More rhinoceroses are streaming out of the courtyard.
POTTER: And out of the houses…
DUDARD: And the windows as well!
LUNA: They’re joining up with the others.
[A man comes out of the landing door left and
dashes downstairs at top speed; then another with a
large horn on his nose; then a woman wearing an
entire rhinoceros head.]
DUDARD: There aren’t enough of us left any more.
POTTER: How many with one horn, and how many with two?
DUDARD: The statisticians are bound to be compiling statistics
now. There’ll be plenty of erudite controversy you can be
POTTER: They can only calculate approximately. It’s all
happening so fast. It leaves them no time. No time to
LUNA: The best thing is to let the statisticians get on with it.
Come and eat, my dear. That’ll calm you down. You’ll feel
better afterwards. [To DUDARD:] And you, too.
[They move away from the window. LUNA takes
POTTER’S arm; he allows himself to be led docilely.
DUDARD suddenly halts.]
DUDARD: I don’t feel very hungry—or rather, to be frank, I don’t
like tinned food very much. I feel like eating outside on
POTTER: You mustn’t do that. Think of the risk!
DUDARD: But really I don’t want to put you to the trouble.
POTTER: But we’ve already told you…
Dudard: [interrupting Harry] I really mean it.
LUNA: [to DUDARD] Of course if you really don’t want to stay, we
can’t force you…
DUDARD: I didn’t mean to oﬀend you.
POTTER: [to LUNA] Don’t let him go, he mustn’t go.
LUNA: I’d like him to stay … but people must do as they
POTTER: [to DUDARD] Man is superior to the rhinoceros.
DUDARD: I didn’t say he wasn’t. But I’m not with you absolutely
either. I don’t know; only experience can tell.
POTTER: [to DUDARD] You’re weakening too, Dudard. It’s just a
passing phase which you’ll regret.
LUNA: If it’s just a passing phase then there’s no great
DUDARD: I feel certain scruples! I feel it’s my duty to stick by
my employers and my friends, through thick and thin.
POTTER: It’s not as if you were married to them.
DUDARD: I’ve renounced marriage. I prefer the great universal
family to the little domestic one.
LUNA: [softly] We shall miss you a lot, Dudard, but we can’t do
anything about it.
DUDARD: It’s my duty to stick by them; I have to do my duty.
POTTER: No you’re wrong, your duty is to … you don’t see
where your real duty lies … your duty is to oppose them,
with a ﬁrm, clear mind.
DUDARD: I shall keep my mind clear. [He starts to move round
the stage in circles.] As clear as ever it was. But if you’re
going to criticize, it’s better to do so from the inside. I’m
not going to abandon them. I won’t abandon them.
LUNA: He’s very good-hearted.
POTTER: He’s too good-hearted. [To DUDARD, then dashing to
the door:] You’re too good-hearted, you’re human. [To
LUNA:] Don’t let him go. He’s making a mistake. He’s
LUNA: What can I do?
[DUDARD opens the door and runs oﬀ; he goes down
the stairs at top speed followed by POTTER who
shouts after him from the landing.]
POTTER: Come back, Dudard! We’re fond of you, don’t go! It’s
too late! [He comes back.] Too late!
LUNA: We couldn’t do anything. [She closes the door behind
POTTER, who darts to the down-stage window.]
POTTER: He’s joined up with them. Where is he now?
LUNA: [moving to the window] With them.
POTTER: Which one is he?
LUNA: You can’t tell. You can’t recognize him any more.
POTTER: They all look alike, all alike. [To LUNA:] He did
hesitate. You should have held him back by force.
LUNA: I didn’t dare to.
POTTER: You should have been ﬁrmer with him, you should
have insisted; he was in love with you, wasn’t he?
LUNA: He never made me any oﬃcial declaration.
POTTER: Everybody knew he was. He’s done this out of
thwarted love. He was a shy man. He wanted to make a
big gesture to impress you. Don’t you feel like going after
LUNA: Not at all. Or I wouldn’t be here!
POTTER: [looking out of the window] You can see nothing but
them in the street. [He darts to the up-stage window.]
Nothing but them! You were wrong, Luna. [He looks
through the downstage window again.] Not a single
human being as far as the eye can see. They’re all over
the street. Half with one horn and half with two, and
that’s the only distinction!
[Powerful noises of moving rhinoceroses are heard,
but somehow it is a musical sound. On the upstage
wall stylized heads appear and disappear; they
become more and more numerous from now on until
the end of the play. Towards the end they stay ﬁxed
for longer and longer, until eventually they ﬁll the
entire back wall, remaining static. The heads, in
spite of their monstrous appearance, seem to
become more and more beautiful.]
You don’t feel let down, do you, Luna? There’s
nothing you regret?
LUNA: No, no.
POTTER: I want so much to be a comfort to you. I love you,
Luna; don’t ever leave me.
LUNA: Shut the window, darling. They’re making such a noise.
And the dust is rising even up to here. Everything will get
POTTER: Yes, you’re right. [He closes the down-stage window
and LUNA closes the up-stage one. They meet centrestage.] I’m not afraid of anything as long as we’re
together. I don’t care what happens. You know, Luna, I
thought I’d never be able to fall in love again. [He takes
her hands, strokes her arms.]
LUNA: Well you see, everything is possible.
POTTER: I want so much to make you happy. Do you think
you can be happy with me.
LUNA: Why not? If you’re happy, then I’ll be happy, too. You
say nothing scares you, but you’re really frightened of
everything. What can possibly happen to us?
POTTER: [stammering] My love, my dear love … let me kiss
your lips. I never dreamed I could still feel such
LUNA: You must be more calm and more sure of yourself, now.
POTTER: I am; let me kiss you.
LUNA: I’m very tired, dear. Stay quiet and rest yourself. Sit in
[POTTER, led by LUNA, sits in the armchair.]
POTTER: There was no point in Dudard quarrelling with
Botard, as things turned out.
LUNA: Don’t think about Dudard any more. I’m here with you.
We’ve no right to interfere in other people’s lives.
POTTER: But you’re interfering in mine. You know how to be
ﬁrm with me.
LUNA: That’s not the same thing; I never loved Dudard.
POTTER: I see what you mean. If he’d stayed he’d always
have been an obstacle between us. Ah, happiness is such
an egotistical thing!
LUNA: You have to ﬁght for happiness, don’t you agree?
POTTER: I adore you, Luna; I admire you as well.
LUNA: Maybe you won’t say that when you get to know me
POTTER: The more I know you the better you seem; and
you’re so beautiful, so very beautiful. [More rhinoceroses
are heard passing.] Particularly compared to them … [He
points to the window.] You probably think that’s no
compliment, but they make you seem more beautiful
LUNA: Have you been good today? You haven’t had any
POTTER: Oh yes, I’ve been good.
LUNA: Is that the truth?
POTTER: Yes, it’s the truth I assure you.
LUNA: Can I believe you, I wonder?
POTTER: [a little ﬂustered] Oh yes, you must believe me.
LUNA: Well all right then, you can have a little glass. It’ll buck
[POTTER is about to leap up.]
You stay where you are, dear. Where’s the bottle?
POTTER: [pointing to it] There, on the little table.
LUNA: [going to the table and getting the bottle and glass]
You’ve hidden it well away.
POTTER: It’s out of the way of temptation.
LUNA: [pours a small glass and gives it to POTTER] You’ve been
a good boy. You’re making progress.
POTTER: I’ll make a lot more now I’m with you.
LUNA: [handing him the glass] Here you are. That’s your
POTTER: [downing it at one go] Thank you. [He holds up his
empty glass to LUNA.]
LUNA: Oh no, dear. That’s enough for this morning. [She takes
his glass, puts it back on the table with the bottle.] I
don’t want it to make you ill. [She comes back to him.]
How’s your head feel now?
POTTER: Much better, darling.
LUNA: Then we’ll take oﬀ the bandage. It doesn’t suit you at
POTTER: Oh no, don’t touch it.
LUNA: Nonsense, we’ll take it oﬀ now.
POTTER: I’m frightened there might be something
LUNA: [removing the bandage in spite of his protests] Always
frightened, aren’t you, always imagining the worst!
There’s nothing there, you see. Your forehead’s as
smooth as a baby’s.
POTTER: [feeling his brow] You’re right; you’re getting rid of
my complexes. [LUNA kisses him on the brow.] What
should I do without you ?
LUNA: I’ll never leave you alone again.
POTTER: I won’t have any more fears now I’m with you.
LUNA: I’ll keep them all at bay.
POTTER: We’ll read books together. I’ll become clever.
LUNA: And when there aren’t so many people about we’ll go
for long walks.
POTTER: Yes, along the Seine, and in the Luxembourg
LUNA: And to the Zoo.
POTTER: I’ll be brave and strong. I’ll keep you safe from
LUNA: You won’t need to defend me, silly! We don’t wish
anyone any harm. And no one wishes us any, my dear.
POTTER: Sometimes one does harm without meaning to, or
rather one allows it to go unchecked. I know you didn’t
like poor old Mr. Papillon very much—but perhaps you
shouldn’t have spoken to him so harshly that day when
Boeuf turned into a rhinoceros. You needn’t have told him
he had such horny hands.
LUNA: But it was true—he had!
POTTER: I know he had, my dear. But you could have said so
less bluntly and not hurt his feelings so much. It had a
big eﬀect on him.
LUNA: Do you think so?
POTTER: He didn’t show it—he was too proud for that—but
the remark certainly went home. It must have inﬂuenced
his decision. Perhaps you might have been the means of
LUNA: I couldn’t possibly foresee what was going to happen to
him … besides he was so ill-mannered.
POTTER: For my own part, I shall never forgive myself for not
being nicer to Ron. I never managed to give him a really
solid proof of the friendship I felt for him. I wasn’t
suﬃciently understanding with him.
LUNA: Don’t worry about it. You did all you could. Nobody can
do the impossible. There’s no point in reproaching
yourself now. Stop thinking about all those people. Forget
about them. You must forget all those bad memories.
POTTER: But they keep coming back to me. They’re very real
LUNA: I never knew you were such a realist—I thought you
were more poetic. Where’s your imagination? There are
many sides to reality. Choose the one that’s best for you.
Escape into the world of the imagination.
POTTER: It’s easy to say that!
LUNA: Aren’t I enough for you?
POTTER: Oh yes, more than enough!
LUNA: You’ll spoil everything if you go on having a bad
conscience. Everybody has their faults, but you and I
have got less than a lot of people.
POTTER: Do you really think so?
LUNA: We’re comparatively better than most. We’re good,
both of us.
POTTER: That’s true, you’re good and I’m good. That’s true.
LUNA: Well then we have the right to live. We even owe
ourselves a duty to be happy in spite of everything. Guilt
is a dangerous symptom. It shows a lack of purity.
POTTER: You’re right, it can lead to that … [He points to the
window under which the rhinoceroses are passing and to
the up-stage wall where another rhinoceros head
appears.] … a lot of them started like that!
LUNA: We must try and not feel guilty any more.
POTTER: How right you are, my wonderful love … You’re all
my happiness; the light of my life … We are together,
aren’t we? No one can separate us. Our love is the only
thing that’s real. Nobody has the right to stop us from
being happy—in fact, nobody could, could they?
[The telephone rings.]
Who could that be?
LUNA: [fearful] Don’t answer.
POTTER: Why not?
LUNA: I don’t know. I just feel it’s better not to.
POTTER: It might be Mr. Papillon, or Botard, or Ron or Dudard
ringing to say they’ve had second thoughts. You did say
it was probably only a passing phase.
LUNA: I don’t think so. They wouldn’t have changed their
minds so quickly. They’ve not had time to think it over.
They’re bound to give it a fair trial.
POTTER: Perhaps the authorities have decided to take action
at last; maybe they’re ringing to ask our help in whatever
measures they’ve decided to adopt.
LUNA: I’d be surprised if it was them.
[The telephone rings again.]
POTTER: It is the authorities, I tell you, I recognize the ring—a
long drawn-out ring, I can’t ignore an appeal from them.
It can’t be anyone else. [He picks up the receiver.] Hallo?
[Trumpetings are heard coming from the receiver.] You
hear that? Trumpeting! Listen!
[LUNA puts the telephone to her ear, is shocked by
the sound, quickly replaces the receiver.]
LUNA: [frightened] What’s going on?
POTTER: They’re playing jokes now.
LUNA: Jokes in bad taste!
POTTER: You see! What did I tell you?
LUNA: You didn’t tell me anything.
POTTER: I was expecting that; it was just what I’d predicted.
LUNA: You didn’t predict anything. You never do. You can only
predict things after they’ve happened.
POTTER: Oh yes, I can; I can predict things all right.
LUNA: That’s not nice of them—in fact it’s very nasty. I don’t
like being made fun of.
POTTER: They wouldn’t dare make fun of you. It’s me they’re
making fun of.
LUNA: And naturally I come in for it as well because I’m with
you. They’re taking. their revenge. But what have we
done to them?
[The telephone rings again.]
Pull the plug out.
POTTER: The telephone authorities say you mustn’t.
LUNA: Oh you never dare to do anything—and you say you
could defend me!
POTTER: [darting to the radio] Let’s turn on the radio for the
LUNA: Yes, we must ﬁnd out how things stand!
[The sound of trumpeting comes from the radio.
POTTER peremptorily switches it oﬀ. But in the
distance other trumpetings, like echoes, can be
Things are getting really serious! I tell you frankly, I
don’t like it! [She is trembling.]
POTTER: [very agitated] Keep calm! Keep calm!
LUNA: They’ve taken over the radio stations!
POTTER: [agitated and trembling] Keep calm, keep calm!
[LUNA runs to the up-stage window, then to the downstage window and looks out; POTTER does the same
in the opposite order, then the two come and face
each other centre-stage.]
LUNA: It’s no joke any longer. They mean business!
POTTER: There’s only them left now; nobody but them. Even
the authorities have joined them.
[They cross to the windows as before, and meet
LUNA: Not a soul left anywhere.
POTTER: We’re all alone, we’re left all alone.
LUNA: That’s what you wanted.
POTTER: You mean that’s what you wanted!
LUNA: It was you!
[Noises come from everywhere at once. Rhinoceros
heads ﬁll the up-stage wall. From left and right in
the house, the noise of rushing feet and the panting
breath of the animals. But all these disquieting
sounds are nevertheless somehow rhythmical,
making a kind of music. The loudest noises of all
come from above; a noise of stamping. Plaster falls
from the ceiling. The house shakes violently.]
LUNA: The earth’s trembling! [She doesn’t know where to
POTTER: No, that’s our neighbours, the Perissodactyles! [He
shakes his ﬁst to left and right and above.] Stop it! You’re
preventing us from working! Noise is forbidden in these
ﬂats! Noise is forbidden!
LUNA: They’ll never listen to you!
[However the noise does diminish, merely forming a
sort of musical background.]
POTTER: [he, too, is afraid] Don’t be frightened, my dear.
We’re together—you’re happy with me, aren’t you? It’s
enough that I’m with you, isn’t it? I’ll chase all your fears
LUNA: Perhaps it’s all our own fault.
POTTER: Don’t think about it any longer. We mustn’t start
feeling remorse. It’s dangerous to start feeling guilty. We
must just live our lives, and be happy. We have the right
to be happy. They’re not spiteful, and we’re not doing
them any harm. They’ll leave us in peace. You just keep
calm and rest. Sit in the armchair. [He leads her to the
armchair.] Just keep calm! [LUNA sits in the armchair.]
Would you like a drop of brandy to pull you together?
LUNA: I’ve got a headache.
POTTER: [taking up his bandage and binding LUNA’S head] I
love you, my darling. Don’t you worry, they’ll get over it.
It’s just a passing phase.
LUNA: They won t get over it. It’s for good.
POTTER: I love you. I love you madly.
LUNA: [taking oﬀ the bandage] Let things just take their
course. What can we do about it?
POTTER: They’ve all gone mad. The world is sick. They’re all
LUNA: We shan’t be the ones to cure them.
POTTER: How can we live in the same house with them?
LUNA: [calming down] We must be sensible. We must adapt
ourselves and try and get on with them.
POTTER: They can’t understand us.
LUNA: They must. There’s no other way.
POTTER: Do you understand them?
LUNA: Not yet. But we must try to understand the way their
minds work, and learn their language.
POTTER: They haven t got a language! Listen … do you call
that a language?
LUNA: How do you know? You’re no polyglot!
POTTER: We’ll talk about it later. We must have lunch ﬁrst.
LUNA: I’m not hungry any more. It’s all too much. I can’t take
POTTER: But you’re the strong one. You’re not going to let it
get you down. It’s precisely for your courage that I
admire you so.
LUNA: You said that before.
POTTER: Do you feel sure of my love?
LUNA: Yes, of course.
POTTER: I love you so.
LUNA: You keep saying the same thing, my dear.
POTTER: Listen, Luna, there is something we can do. We’ll
have children, and our children will have children—it’ll
take time, but together we can regenerate the human
LUNA: Regenerate the human race?
POTTER: It happened once before.
LUNA: Ages ago. Adam and Eve … They had a lot of courage.
POTTER: And we, too, can have courage. We don’t need all
that much. It happens automatically with time and
LUNA: What’s the use?
POTTER: Of course we can—with a little bit of courage.
LUNA: I don’t want to have children—it’s a bore.
POTTER: How can we save the world, if you don’t?
LUNA: Why bother to save it?
POTTER: What a thing to say! Do it for me, Luna. Let’s save
LUNA: After all, perhaps it’s we who need saving. Perhaps
we’re the abnormal ones.
POTTER: You’re not yourself, Luna, you’ve got a touch of
LUNA: There aren’t any more of our kind about anywhere, are
POTTER: Luna, you’re not to talk like that!
[LUNA looks all around at the rhinoceros heads on the
walls, on the landing door, and now starting to
appear along the footlights.]
LUNA: Those are the real people. They look happy. They’re
content to be what they are. They don’t look insane.
They look very natural. They were right to do what they
POTTER: [clasping his hands and looking despairingly at LUNA]
We’re the ones who are doing right, Luna, I assure
LUNA: That’s very presumptuous of you!
POTTER: You know perfectly well I’m right.
LUNA: There’s no such thing as absolute right. It’s the world
that’s right—not you and me.
POTTER: I am right, Luna. And the proof is that you
understand me when I speak to you.
LUNA: What does that prove?
POTTER: The proof is that I love you as much as it’s possible
for a man to love a woman.
LUNA: Funny sort of argument!
POTTER: I don’t understand you any longer, Luna. You don’t
know what you’re saying, darling. Think of our love! Our
LUNA: I feel a bit ashamed of what you call love—this morbid
feeling, this male weakness. And female, too. It just
doesn’t compare with the ardour and the tremendous
energy emanating from all these creatures around us.
POTTER: Energy! You want some energy, do you? I can let
you have some energy! [He slaps her face.]
LUNA: Oh! I never would have believed it possible … [She
sinks into the armchair.]
POTTER: Oh forgive me, my darling, please forgive me! [He
tries to embrace her, she evades him.] Forgive me, my
darling. I didn’t mean it. I don’t know what came over
me, losing control like that!
LUNA: It’s because you’ve run out of arguments, that’s why.
POTTER: Oh dear! In the space of a few minutes we’ve gone
through twenty-ﬁve years of married life.
LUNA: I pity you. I understand you all too well…
POTTER: [as LUNA weeps] You’re probably right that I’ve run
out of arguments. You think they’re stronger than me,
stronger than us. Maybe they are.
LUNA: Indeed they are.
POTTER: Well, in spite of everything, I swear to you I’ll never
give in, never!
LUNA: [she rises, goes to POTTER, puts her arms round his
neck] My poor darling, I’ll help you to resist—to the very
POTTER: Will you be capable of it?
LUNA: I give you my word. You can trust me.
[The rhinoceros noises have become melodious.]
Listen, they’re singing!
POTTER: They’re not singing, they’re roaring.
LUNA: They’re singing.
POTTER: They’re roaring, I tell you.
LUNA: You’re mad, they’re singing.
POTTER: You can’t have a very musical ear, then.
LUNA: You don’t know the ﬁrst thing about music, poor dear—
and look, they’re playing as well, and dancing.
POTTER: You call that dancing?
LUNA: It’s their way of dancing. They’re beautiful.
POTTER: They’re disgusting!
LUNA: You’re not to say unpleasant things about them. It
POTTER: I’m sorry. We’re not going to quarrel on their
LUNA: They’re like gods.
POTTER: You go too far, Luna; take a good look at them.
LUNA: You mustn’t be jealous, my dear.
[She goes to POTTER again and tries to embrace him.
This time it is POTTER who frees himself.]
POTTER: I can see our opinions are directly opposed. It’s
better not to discuss the matter.
LUNA: Now you mustn’t be nasty.
POTTER: Then don’t you be stupid!
LUNA: [to POTTER, who turns his back on her. He looks at
himself closely in the mirror] It’s no longer possible for us
to live together.
[As POTTER continues to examine himself in the
mirror she goes quietly to the door, saying:]
He isn’t very nice, really, he isn’t very nice. [She
goes out, and is seen slowly descending the stairs.]
POTTER: [still looking at himself in the mirror] Men aren’t so
bad-looking, you know. And I’m not a particularly
handsome specimen! Believe me, Luna! [He turns
round.] Luna! Luna! Where are you, Luna? You can’t do
that to me! [He darts to the door.] Luna! [He gets to the
landing and leans over the banister.] Luna! Come back!
Come back, my dear! You haven’t even had your lunch.
Luna, don’t leave me alone! Remember your promise!
Luna! Luna! [He stops calling, makes a despairing
gesture, and comes back into the room.] Well, it was
obvious we weren’t getting along together. The home
was broken up. It just wasn’t working out. But she
shouldn’t have left like that with no explanation. [He
looks all around.] She didn’t even leave a message.
That’s no way to behave. Now I’m all on my own. [He
locks the door carefully, but angrily.] But they won’t get
me. [He carefully closes the windows.] You won’t get me!
[He addresses all the rhinoceros heads.] I’m not joining
you; I don’t understand you! I’m staying as I am. I’m a
human being. A human being. [He sits in the armchair.]
It’s an impossible situation. It’s my fault she’s gone. I
meant everything to her. What’ll become of her? That’s
one more person on my conscience. I can easily picture
the worst, because the worst can easily happen. Poor
little thing left all alone in this world of monsters! Nobody
can help me ﬁnd her, nobody, because there’s nobody
[Fresh trumpetings, hectic racings, clouds of dust.]
I can’t bear the sound of them any longer, I’m going to put
cotton wool in my ears. [He does so, and talks to himself
in the mirror.] The only solution is to convince them—but
convince them of what? Are the changes reversible,
that’s the point? Are they reversible? It would be a labour
of Hercules, far beyond me. In any case, to convince
them you’d have to talk to them. And to talk to them I’d
have to learn their language. Or they’d have to learn
mine. But what language do I speak? What is my
language? Am I talking French? Yes, it must be French.
But what is French? I can call it French if I want, and
nobody can say it isn’t—I’m the only one who speaks it.
What am I saying? Do I understand what I’m saying? Do
I? [He crosses to the middle of the room.] And what if it’s
true what Luna said, and they’re the ones in the right?
[He turns back to the mirror.] A man’s not ugly to look at,
not ugly at all! [He examines himself, passing his hand
over his face.] What a funny-looking thing! What do I
look like? What? [He darts to a cupboard, takes out some
photographs which he examines.] Photographs! Who are
all these people? Is it Mr. Papillon—or is it Luna? And is
that Botard or Dudard or Ron? Or is it me? [He rushes to
the cupboard again and takes out two or three pictures.]
Now I recognize me: that’s me, that’s me! [He hangs the
pictures on the back wall, beside the rhinoceros heads.]
That’s me, that’s me!
[When he hangs the pictures one sees that they are
of an old man, a huge woman, and another man.
The ugliness of these pictures is in contrast to the
rhinoceros heads which have become very beautiful.
POTTER steps back to contemplate the pictures.]
I’m not good-looking, I’m not good-looking.
[He takes down the pictures,
throws them furiously to the ground,
and goes over to the mirror.]
They’re the good-looking ones. I
was wrong! Oh, how I wish I was like them! I haven’t got
any horns, more’s the pity! A smooth brow looks so ugly.
I need one or two horns to give my sagging face a lift.
Perhaps one will grow and I needn’t be ashamed any
more—then I could go and join them. But it will never
grow! [He looks at the palms of his hands.] My hands are
so limp—oh, why won’t they get rough! [He takes his
coat oﬀ] undoes his shirt to look at his chest in the
mirror.] My skin is so slack. I can’t stand this white, hairy
body. Oh I’d love to have a hard skin in that wonderful
dull green colour—a skin that looks decent naked without
any hair on it, like theirs!
[He listens to the trumpetings.]
Their song is charming—a bit raucous perhaps, but it
does have charm! I wish I could do it! [He tries to imitate
them.] Ahh, Ahh, Brr! No, that’s not it! Try again, louder!
Ahh, Ahh, Brr! No, that’s not it, it’s too feeble, it’s got no
drive behind it. I’m not trumpeting at all; I’m just
howling. Ahh, Ahh, Brr. There’s a big diﬀerence between
howling and trumpeting. I’ve only myself to blame; I
should have gone with them while there was still time.
Now it’s too late! Now I’m a monster, just a monster. Now
I’ll never become a rhinoceros, never, never! I’ve gone
past changing. I want to, I really do, but I can’t, I just
can’t. I can’t stand the sight of me. I’m too ashamed! [He
turns his back on the mirror.] I’m so ugly! People who try
to hang on to their individuality always come to a bad
end! [He suddenly snaps out of it.] Oh well, too bad! I’ll
take on the whole of them! I’ll put up a ﬁght against the
lot of them, the whole lot of them! I’m the last man left,
and I’m staying that way until the end. I’m not