Semiotic Analysis Rhinoceros
When a rhinoceros charges across the town square one Sunday afternoon, Berenger thinks nothing of it. Soon, however, rhinoceroses are popping up everywhere and Berenger’s whole world is under threat. What will it take for him to stand up to the increasing menace of rhinocerisation Ionesco’s play is one of iconic satire based on apathy and conformity. (http://www.royalcourttheatre.com/files/downloads/pressrelease-royalcourtdoc.pdf
Ionesco’s ‘Rhinoceros’ was first staged by The Royal Court in 1960, directed by Orson Welles and starring Laurence Olivier. Dominic Cooke has revived it in a new translation by Martin Crimp. The action takes place in an unspecified French provincial town, where the Sunday morning calm is shattered by a rhinoceros stampeding down the street. Gradually the town is taken over by the pachyderms, as one by one all the townsfolk discard their human forms.
The play is a satire on the dangers of mindlessness and conformity, following the herd instinct without due thought. Ionesco may well have been referring to Nazism or communism. In present day terms, with people’s relentless drive towards fashion and acquisition, it is equally apt for consumerism.
At the start of the piece, people are shocked and repulsed by the transformations into these ‘big, ugly animals’ as one character describes them, but eventually it is seen as the right and natural way to be. One of the most chilling moments comes when Dudard, a law student, after defending the right of individuals to be whatever they want to be, himself succumbs and joins the pack. Ionesco was probably referring to the intellectuals and artists who, through power of their reason, allowed themselves to be drawn into the Nazi/fascist horror.
The set also reflects the general dishevelment. At the start, it is elegant, bright white slatted houses. As the animals start roaming, bits of wood start dropping off it and it acquires a dingy air, resembling a squat by the end. The rhinoceros action happens mainly off stage, apart for a memorable moment when they peek in from all corners watching Berenger, the central character who stands firm against the invasion.
The group scenes are very slick, funny and well choreographed. When a woman’s cat has been trampled, she proffers the corpse for inspection with everyone recoiling in horror and trying to give sympathy at the same time. However, I found there wasn’t enough emotional depth to sustain the running time of over two hours. Berenger (Benedict Cumberbatch) was high energy but didn’t elicit very much sympathy. Jasper Brittan as his friend Jean undergoes a greater transformation, literally into a rhinoceros in front of us, but also discarding his uptight fastidiousness. ‘We need to rediscover our primordial wholeness.’
In Erfarung und Urteil, Husserl analyzes ‘passive predata’ as they originally present themselves by abstracting from all qualifications of the known, from all qualifications of familiarity with what affects us (thanks to such qualifications, passive predata subsist at the level of sensation and are already known and interpreted somehow). We find that at this level similarity also plays an important role. In fact, if, by way of abstraction we prescind from reference to the already known object that produces the sensation (secondness, indexicality), and from familiarity through habit and convention where what affects us subsists as already given (thirdness, conventionality, symbolicity), and, as much as it is