Read Equus Online: A PDF Version of Peter Shaffer's Play
Equus by Peter Shaffer: A Play about Passion and Pain
Equus is a play by British playwright Peter Shaffer that explores the complex relationship between a psychiatrist and his patient, a teenage boy who has committed a shocking act of violence against horses. The play examines themes such as religion, sexuality, repression, worship, madness, and identity through a series of intense dialogues and dramatic scenes. Equus is considered one of Shaffer's most acclaimed and controversial works, as well as one of the most influential plays of the 20th century.
Equus peter shaffer pdf 61
What is Equus about? Equus is a play that tells the story of Alan Strang, a 17-year-old boy who has blinded six horses with a metal spike at a stable where he worked. He is sent to a psychiatric hospital where he meets Dr. Martin Dysart, a disillusioned psychiatrist who is assigned to treat him. Dysart tries to understand why Alan committed such a horrific crime, and what drove him to develop an obsessive fascination with horses. As Dysart delves deeper into Alan's psyche, he uncovers his troubled family background, his religious upbringing, his sexual awakening, and his creation of a personal god named Equus, whom he worships through ritualistic acts involving horses. Dysart also questions his own purpose and values, as he wonders whether he is helping Alan or destroying his unique spirit.
Who is Peter Shaffer? Peter Shaffer was a British playwright who was born in 1926 and died in 2016. He wrote several plays that explored the human condition through historical, psychological, and philosophical lenses. Some of his most famous plays include The Royal Hunt of the Sun, Amadeus, and Equus. He won multiple awards for his work, including the Tony Award, the Academy Award, and the Laurence Olivier Award. He was also knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2001 for his services to drama.
Why is Equus important? Equus is important because it is a play that challenges the audience to think about the nature of passion, pain, sanity, and society. It raises questions about how we define normality and abnormality, how we deal with our inner conflicts and desires, how we relate to others and ourselves, and how we cope with the modern world. It also showcases the power of theatre as a form of art and expression, as it uses innovative techniques such as minimal sets, masks, music, and lighting to create a captivating and immersive experience for the viewers.
How does the play begin? The play begins with a monologue by Dysart, who introduces himself and his profession as a psychiatrist. He describes his dissatisfaction with his life and his work, and his envy of the ancient Greek shamans who performed rituals of healing and transformation. He then introduces Alan, whom he calls "the normal one" and "the heart of this matter". He says that he met Alan because of an incident that occurred at a stable in Southern England.
Who are the main characters? The main characters of the play are:
Dysart: The psychiatrist who treats Alan. He is in his late forties, and he is intelligent, compassionate, but also cynical and disillusioned. He is married to a woman named Margaret, but he has no children or passion in his life.
Alan: The patient who blinded six horses. He is 17 years old, and he is shy, sensitive, but also rebellious and imaginative. He lives with his parents, Frank and Dora, who have conflicting views on religion and education.
Hesther: A magistrate and a friend of Dysart. She is the one who brings Alan to Dysart's attention, and she believes that Dysart can help him. She is sympathetic and supportive of both Dysart and Alan.
Frank: Alan's father. He is a printer and an atheist. He is strict and authoritarian with Alan, and he disapproves of his interest in horses and television. He also resents his wife's religious influence on Alan.
Dora: Alan's mother. She is a housewife and a devout Christian. She loves Alan and tries to protect him from his father's harshness. She also encourages Alan to read the Bible and to pray.
Dalton: The owner of the stable where Alan worked. He is a former colonel and a horse lover. He hired Alan as a favor to Dora, but he fired him after he discovered what he did to the horses.
Jill: A young girl who works at the same stable as Alan. She is friendly, outgoing, and sexually experienced. She likes Alan and tries to seduce him.
Nugget: A horse at the stable who becomes Alan's favorite. He is played by an actor wearing a chestnut-colored horse mask and hooves. He represents Equus, Alan's god.
What happens in the first act? The first act consists of several scenes that alternate between the present and the past, showing Dysart's sessions with Alan and flashbacks of Alan's life. In the present, Dysart tries to establish a rapport with Alan, who is initially silent and uncooperative. He uses various methods to communicate with him, such as hypnosis, word association, and role-playing. He also talks to Hesther, Frank, Dora, Dalton, and Jill to get more information about Alan's background and behavior.
How does the second act start? The second act starts with another monologue by Dysart, who reveals that he has a recurring dream of cutting open children's eyelids with a scalpel. He says that he feels like he is doing the same thing to Alan, by exposing his inner vision to the normal world. He also says that he is afraid of what he might find in Alan's mind, and what it might do to his own.
What is the climax of the play? The climax of the play is when Dysart finally gets Alan to confess what happened on the night he blinded the horses. Alan tells him that he went to a pornographic cinema with Jill, but he was unable to enjoy it because he felt that Equus was watching him and judging him. He then agreed to go with Jill to the stable, where she suggested that they have sex. Alan agreed, but he was still nervous and ashamed. He asked Jill to take off her clothes and lie on Nugget's back, while he mounted him. He then tried to have sex with her, but he was unable to perform. He felt that Equus was angry and jealous of him, and that he had betrayed him. He then heard Equus's voice in his head, telling him to "do it". He grabbed a metal spike and ran towards the other horses, stabbing their eyes one by one. He then collapsed on the ground, screaming.
How does the play end? The play ends with Dysart deciding to give Alan a drug that will cure him of his obsession with horses, but also rob him of his passion and individuality. He asks Alan for his permission, and Alan agrees. Dysart then wonders whether he is doing the right thing, and whether he is actually helping Alan or harming him. He also wonders whether he himself is happy or miserable, and whether he has any meaning or purpose in his life. He says that he envies Alan's ability to feel something so intensely, and that he wishes he could have a fraction of his worship. He then addresses the audience directly, asking them to judge him and his actions.
Themes and Symbols
Religion and Worship
How does Equus explore the role of religion in human life? Equus explores the role of religion in human life by showing how different characters have different beliefs and attitudes towards faith and spirituality. For example, Dora is a devout Christian who believes in God and follows the Bible, while Frank is an atheist who rejects religion and mocks his wife's faith. Alan is influenced by both of his parents, but he also creates his own religion based on his love for horses. He invents a god named Equus, whom he worships through rituals such as chanting, kneeling, riding, and caressing. He also believes that Equus sees everything he does and judges him accordingly.
How does Alan create his own god in Equus? Alan creates his own god in Equus by combining elements from his childhood experiences, his parents' teachings, his imagination, and his emotions. He is inspired by a picture of a horse in his room, which he associates with Jesus Christ. He is also influenced by a horse ride on the beach with a stranger named Harry Dalton, who tells him that horses are noble and ancient creatures that have a special bond with humans. He is also affected by his father's discovery of him watching a pornographic film, which makes him feel guilty and ashamed of his sexuality. He then transfers his sexual feelings to horses, especially Nugget, whom he considers his partner and lover.
How does Dysart question his own faith and profession? Dysart questions his own faith and profession by comparing himself to Alan and Equus. He wonders whether he has any passion or conviction in his life, or whether he is just following a routine and a set of rules. He also wonders whether he is helping his patients or harming them, by taking away their uniqueness and creativity. He questions whether there is any value or meaning in being normal and rational, or whether there is something more to life than that. He also questions whether there is any god or force that guides him or judges him, or whether he is alone and free.
Sexuality and Repression
How does Equus portray sexuality as a source of both pleasure and pain? Equus portrays sexuality as a source of both pleasure and pain by showing how different characters experience and express their sexual desires and frustrations. For example, Dysart is unhappy with his marriage and his lack of sexual fulfillment. He says that he has never felt anything close to what Alan feels for Nugget. He also says that he is afraid of touching or being touched by anyone. Alan is also conflicted about his sexuality, as he feels both attraction and repulsion towards women and horses. He is unable to have a normal sexual relationship with Jill, because he feels that he is betraying Equus and violating his sacred bond with him. He also feels that Equus is watching him and punishing him for his lust.
How does Alan's sexual awakening conflict with his religious devotion? Alan's sexual awakening conflicts with his religious devotion, because he has been taught by his parents and society that sex is sinful and shameful. He has also been conditioned by his own religion to view horses as holy and pure, and to worship them as his god. He therefore feels guilty and confused when he develops sexual feelings for horses, especially Nugget. He tries to suppress and deny his feelings, but he also acts on them in secret. He then suffers from anxiety and paranoia, as he believes that Equus knows everything he does and thinks, and that he will punish him for his transgressions.
How does Dysart envy Alan's passion and vitality? Dysart envies Alan's passion and vitality, because he feels that he has lost or never had those qualities in his life. He says that he is bored and tired of his work and his marriage, and that he has no dreams or aspirations. He says that he has never experienced anything like what Alan feels for Nugget, and that he wishes he could have a fraction of his worship. He says that he admires Alan's courage and honesty, and that he fears that by curing him, he will destroy his spirit and make him dull and conformist.
Horses and Eyes
How does Equus use horses as a symbol of power, freedom, and beauty? Equus uses horses as a symbol of power, freedom, and beauty, by showing how they inspire awe and admiration in the characters, especially Alan. Horses are portrayed as majestic and noble animals, who have a long history of being associated with gods, kings, warriors, and heroes. They are also shown as being independent and wild, who can run fast and far, and who can escape the confines of civilization. They are also shown as being graceful and elegant, who have a natural harmony and rhythm with their environment.
How does Alan relate to horses on a spiritual and emotional level? Alan relates to horses on a spiritual and emotional level, by seeing them as his friends, his family, his lovers, and his god. He feels a deep connection with horses, especially Nugget, whom he considers his soulmate. He talks to them, sings to them, rides them, caresses them, and worships them. He feels that they understand him better than anyone else, and that they accept him for who he is. He also feels that they give him a sense of purpose and identity, as well as a source of joy and ecstasy.
How does Equus use eyes as a symbol of vision, judgment, and connection? Equus uses eyes as a symbol of vision, judgment, and connection, by showing how they affect the characters' perception of themselves and others. For example, Alan believes that Equus sees everything he does and thinks, and that he judges him accordingly. He also believes that Equus can communicate with him through his eyes, which are described as "huge", "glassy", "silver", "flashing", "burning", "godlike". He also says that when he looks into Nugget's eyes, he feels a bond that is stronger than anything else. Dysart also says that when he looks into Alan's eyes, he sees something that terrifies him but also fascinates him. He says that he wants to see what Alan sees through Equus's eyes.
Analysis and Criticism
Genre and Style
How does Equus combine realism and expressionism in its staging and dialogue? Equus combines realism and expressionism in its staging and dialogue, by using both realistic elements such as props, costumes, and settings; and expressionistic elements such as masks, music, and lighting. The realistic elements help to create a sense of authenticity and credibility for the characters and their situations; while the expressionistic elements help to create a sense of mood and emotion for the themes and the symbols. The play also uses both naturalistic and poetic language to convey the thoughts and feelings of the characters; as well as the conflicts and contrasts between them.
How does Equus challenge the conventions of drama and theatre? Equus challenges the conventions of drama and theatre by breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience directly and indirectly. For example, Dysart speaks to the audience several times throughout the play, revealing his thoughts and feelings, and asking for their opinion and judgment. He also acts as a narrator and a guide, explaining the events and the characters, and setting the scene and the mood. The play also uses minimal props and sets, relying on the actors' movements and expressions, and the audience's imagination, to create the illusion of reality. The play also uses masks, music, and lighting to create a contrast between realism and expressionism, and to evoke different emotions and reactions in the audience.
How does Equus address the audience directly and indirectly? Equus addresses the audience directly and indirectly by making them aware of their role as spectators and participants in the play. For example, Dysart speaks to the audience as if they were his confidants and his judges, inviting them to share his doubts and dilemmas, and to evaluate his actions and decisions. He also asks them to imagine themselves in his place, or in Alan's place, and to empathize with their situations and feelings. The play also addresses the audience indirectly by making them question their own beliefs and values, their own normality and abnormality, their own passion and pain. The play also makes them reflect on their own relationship with art and theatre, and how they affect their perception of reality.
Reception and Impact
How was Equus received by critics and audiences when it premiered in 1973? Equus was received by critics and audiences with mixed reactions when it premiered in 1973. Some praised it as a masterpiece of drama and theatre, a powerful and provocative exploration of human psychology and spirituality, a stunning and original display of theatrical innovation and creativity. Some criticized it as a pretentious and sensationalist piece of work, a shallow and superficial treatment of serious issues, a manipulative and exploitative use of violence and nudity. The play was also controversial for its depiction of sexuality, religion, madness, and animal cruelty.
How has Equus influenced other works of art and culture? Equus has influenced other works of art and culture by inspiring other writers, artists, filmmakers, musicians, actors, directors, critics, scholars, students, teachers, therapists, activists, fans, etc. to create or study works that deal with similar themes or styles. For example, Equus has been compared or contrasted with other plays such as Hamlet, Oedipus Rex, The Crucible, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Glass Menagerie, Death of a Salesman, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The God of Carnage, etc. Equus has also been adapted or referenced in other media such as film, television, radio, podcast, comic book, graphic novel, novel, short story, poem, song, opera, ballet, musical, etc.
How has Equus been adapted for film, television, and other media? Equus has been adapted for film, television, and other media several times since its premiere in 1973. The most famous adaptation is the 1977 film directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Richard Burton as Dysart and Peter Firth as Alan. The film was nominated for three Academy Awards and four Golden Globe Awards but it also received some negative reviews for its changes from the original play. Other adaptations include a 1987 television film directed by Robert Halmi Jr. and starring Anthony Hopkins as Dysart and Colin Firth as Alan; a 2007 radio drama directed by Martin Jenkins and starring Richard Griffiths as Dysart and Joel Horwood as Alan; a 2008 podcast directed by Rosalind Ayres and starring Richard Griffiths as Dysart and Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe as Alan; a 2012 comic book adaptation by Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell; a 2014 graphic novel adaptation by Tim Hamilton; a 2015 novel adaptation by Jill Dawson; a 2016 short story adaptation by Joyce Carol Oates; a 2017 poem adaptation by Carol Ann Duffy; a 2018 song adaptation by Muse; a 2019 opera adaptation by Patrick Doyle; and a 2020 ballet adaptation by Drew McOnie.
Equus by Peter Shaffer is a play that explores the complex relationship between a psychiatrist and his patient, a teenage boy who has committed a shocking act of violence against horses. The play examines themes such as religion, sexuality, repression, worship, madness, and identity through a series of intense dialogues and dramatic scenes. Equus is considered one of Shaffer's most acclaimed and controversial works, as well as one of the most influential plays of the 20th century.
The play challenges the audience to think about the nature of passion, pain, sanity, and society. It raises questions about how we define normality and abnormality, how we deal with our inner conflicts and desires, how we relate to others and ourselves, and how we cope with the modern world. It also showcases the power of theatre as a form of art and expression, as it uses innovative techniques such as minimal sets, masks, music, and lighting to create a captivating and immersive experience for the viewers.
Equus is a play that will make you feel, think, question, and wonder. It is a play that will stay with you long after you have seen it or read it. It is a play that will change you in some way or another. It is a play that you will never forget.
What are some common questions about Equus and their answers?
What does Equus mean?
Equus is the Latin word for horse. It is also the name