Excerpt from Act III
BERENGER: [worried] Yes, it did make me cough. How did I cough?
DUDARD: Like everyone coughs when they drink something a bit strong.
BERENGER: [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?
BERENGER: I don’t know… Perhaps an animal’s cough… Do rhinoceros cough?
DUDARD: Look, Berenger, 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.
BERENGER: Yes, I did.
DUDARD: Well then, prove you’ve got some.
BERENGER: I have, I assure you…
BERENGER: 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-stocking 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.
DUDARD: My dear Berenger, 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 justify.
BERENGER: 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.
BERENGER: And you consider all this natural?
DUDARD: What could be more natural than a rhinoceros?
BERENGER: Yes, but for a man to turn into a rhinoceros is abnormal beyond question.
DUDARD: Well, of course, that’s a matter of opinion…