The play takes place in the office and dining room of a small French flat. The Professor is expecting a new Pupil. The third character is the professor's Maid, a stout, red-faced woman, who is always worrying about the Professor's "health". As the lesson progresses, the Professor grows more and more angry with (what he perceives as) the Pupil's ignorance, and the Pupil becomes more and more quiet and meek. At the climax of the play, the Pupil is murdered by the Professor, after a long bout of non-sequiturs (which are frequently used in Ionesco's plays). The play ends as a new pupil is greeted by the Maid. Common themes include language, knives, and mathematics.