The Frontier of Existence in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Ionesco’s Rhinoceros

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The Frontier of Existence in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Ionesco’s Rhinoceros

‘I feel that I had been at the frontier of existence, close to the place where they lose their names, their definition, the place where time stops, almost outside History’ (E Ionesco).

This essay will explore the frontier of existence in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Ionesco’s Rhinoceros

The title Rhinoceros is formed from the ancient Greek Rhino meaning nose and Keros meaning horn. However, in this play I take rhinoceros to mean an animal that is thick-skinned and ugly. The people who become rhinoceroses become as thick skinned as the rhinoceroses they turn into. On first viewing of Rhinoceros one journeys with the characters on what appears to be something of a mystery tour. One cannot be sure if a rhinoceros really exists. It is this sense of unknowing that makes for a lack of definition in the characters themselves. There is Jean’s first announcement of ‘Oh a rhinoceros’ (Act I:I P.14) as he points off stage is tantalising as one can only hear noises. One tries to define the situation and the characters by questioning their imagination and sanity. Much that one might expect to be told about the characters and their situation is denied to us. One only gets little snippets of information about their society for example a couple of revelations from Jean to Berenger: ‘there’s been no zoo in our town since the animals were destroyed in the plague…ages ago…’ (I:I P.20) and ‘You know perfectly well that the Council banned all travelling performers from the district…There haven’t been any since we were children.’ (I:I P.20). Council has a capital ‘c’ and there is no mention of God anywhere which is a striking opposite from Waiting f...

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...ific tyranny or exile; perhaps the Nazi occupation of France or separation from one’s homeland. But one does have choices as definition does not have to be of a single entity. Emphasis could be put on defining what happens while Vladimir and Estragon are waiting rather than notions of termination

Works Cited

Beckett, Samuel, Waiting for Godot

Cohen, R., Back to Beckett

Coe, Richard N., Eugène Ionesco: A Study of His Work

Hayman, Ronald, Eugène Ionesco

Ionesco, Eugène, Rhinoceros, The Chairs and The Lesson

Lamont, Rosette C., Ionesco: A Collection of Critical Essays

Lamont, Rosette C. and Friedman, M.J., The two faces of Ionesco

Lazar, Moshe., The Dream and the Play: Ionesco’s Theatrical Quest

Lyons, C., Samuel Becket

Lewis, Allan, Ionesco

Pronko, Leonard C., Eugène Ionesco

Worth, K., Beckett the Shape Changer

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