The 1959 play Rhinoceros by French playwright Eugène Ionesco is one of many plays considered by Martin Esslin to be a part of "Theatre of the Absurd" a genre of plays written by mostly European playwrights in the late 1950's. These plays typically center around ideas of existentialism, and seem to lack any type of logical consistency. Rhinoceros centers around a small French town in which all the inhabitants slowly turn into rhinoceroses, and was a response to the uprising of fascism in Nazi Germany and a commentary on how social ideas spread.
This presentation will discuss the use of absurdism to satirize and comment on political issues, in Rhinoceros as well as in plays that followed it, such as Dario Fo's 1970 play Accidental Death of an Anarchist, which was a response to the 1969 Piazza Fontana bombing and the subsequent mishandling of the situation by police. Both plays use exaggerated comedy and humorous characters, such as the Logician in Rhinoceros and the Maniac in Accidental Death of an Anarchist, to undermine authoritarianism and unjust systems as well as revealing the darker side of society as a whole.