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Equus


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A: Peter Shaffer Pf: 1973, London Pb: 1973 G: Drama in 2 acts S: Psychiatrist's office, and horse stables, southern England, 1970s C: 5m, 4f, 6 horsesThe events of the play are narrated by Dr Martin Dysart, a middle-aged psychiatrist, who is confronted with a youth, Alan Strang, brought to him because he has blinded six horses. Dysart probes Alan's home background: a father, who is a secret voyeur, and a mother, who is a religious fanatic. As a child Alan adored, even worshipped horses, but his unhappy childhood and a disastrous attempt at a love affair with a stable lass drive his obsession with horses towards his terrible act of mutilation. Dysart uses his psychiatric skills to restore Alan to sanity, but then regrets that, by getting him to conform to conventional codes of behaviour, he has removed Alan's capacity for worship and has destroyed the myth Alan had created.

A: Peter Shaffer Pf: 1973, London Pb: 1973 G: Drama in 2 acts S: Psychiatrist's office, and horse stables, southern England, 1970s C: 5m, 4f, 6 horses

Equus is a profoundly immoral play, far more worthy of censorship than sexual display. Prompted by the true story of a boy who mutilated horses, Shaffer's play implies that being mentally unbalanced is somehow a special state, more noble and insightful than that enjoyed by rational individuals. Admittedly, Alan's parents are sad people, whom one would not wish to emulate, but to exalt the unhinged behaviour of Alan is an insult to those suffering the torments of mental illness. None of this might matter much, but for the fact that the play is gripping and theatrical, and has proved to be very popular.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Authors

Peter Shaffer (b. 1926)


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