chapter  14
14 Pages

Becoming rhinoceros: therio- theatricality as problem and promise in Western drama

ByUna Chaudhuri

The dust raised by the animal spreads across the stage. Stage direction in Eugene Ionesco, Rhinoceros

The eponymous animal of Tennessee Williams’s play Night of the Iguana is typical in one way: animals tend to be heard rather than seen on the stages of Western theater. By being located in the wings, the captivity and suffering of Williams’s reptile are not only marginalized but rendered obscene – quite literally so, if we accept the contested etymology of the word, from the Greek ob-skene : off-stage (McKay 2010). This obscuring and ‘obscening’ of the animal is the hallmark of the dominant tradition of Western theater, a tradition that is obsessively anthropocentric, dedicated to constructing and enshrining the human as ‘the paragon of animals’, in Shakespeare’s Hamlet ’s famous phrase (II.ii.319), by derogating or excluding all the other animals.