In this comic drama, a lively young student arrives at the study of a learned professor. She is trying to earn an educational certificate called the “total doctorate,” and she needs to master both mathematics and philology (the study of the history of languages) in order to do so. The Professor’s maid urges him to remain calm as the lesson progresses from addition and subtraction, to multiplication, and later to Spanish pronunciation. All the while, the timid and polite Professor is growing more forceful, domineering and lascivious, as the power of his lectures renders his pupil helpless. The Professor’s lesson culminates in the Pupil’s brutal murder - the fortieth student that the Professor has killed in his study. Luckily for him, his loyal maid knows how to get the forty bodies out without arousing suspicion: he simply needs to wear an armband and practice “good politics.”
The Lesson is a scathing commentary on totalitarianism, indoctrination, and the power of propaganda to suffocate and enslave. Now considered to be one of the foundational texts of the Theatre of the Absurd, this well-loved play has been translated into dozens of languages, and its message is no less relevant today than when it was first performed in the aftermath of the second world war.
The Lesson guide sections