makes 'Equus' a powerful play? What makes 'Equus'
famous play? Is it an interesting play? Or is it just
the nakedness of the actors' bodies?
begins with Dysart's monologue which describes a boy
named Alan Strang. At the same time, we see a boy stroking
a horse very gently with a lover's gesture at the back
of the stage. A soprano voice in the background makes
a mysterious atmosphere on the dark stage.
in the early 1970's, Peter Shaffer, who is also well
known as the writer of 'Amadeus', heard a shocking story
from a friend when he was driving past a quiet stable.
It was about a boy who stabbed the eyes of six horses
and made them blind. This scary story attracted Shaffer's
curiosity and overwhelmed him. Later he created his
famous play, Equus (which is Latin for 'horse', based
on this event.
begins with the introduction of the young boy who blinded
six horses he was familiar with, but the plot's painful
journey into the tortured mind of Alan Strang and the
equally conflict-filled mind of child psychiatrist Martin
Dysart creates an evening of introspection. On the night
after Alan first came to Dysart's office, Dysart had
a nightmare in which he was a priest and performed a
human sacrifice with several children. In the dream
he is afraid to let the other priests find out that
his face turns deadly pale with fright. This dream symbolizes
the conflict between himself as a doctor and his inner
self, and at the same time foreshadows his change of
mind at the end of the play.
up with a secret from his overly conservative religious
mother and his atheistic father, that he is in love
with a horse. He had been fascinated by horses since
he rode a white horse with a marvelous horseman. After
that, horses seemed omniscient and almighty beings to
him. Alan's love for horses developed into a religious
fervor as if they were all-powerful gods. He felt love
and trust, fascination and ecstasy only with horses,
so he thinks that to betray a horse is the most fearful
sin in the world.
he meets a girl named Zeel by chance, gets work at a
stable on her recommendation, and they become sweethearts.
He goes to an adult movie with her and there meets his
father, a symbol of absolute authority. He is shocked
by seeing him there. Zeel tempts him into a stable with
her, and he is terrified after he has sex with her,
because he thinks that horses were glaring at him with
their bloodshot eyes. Horses are no longer god-like
beings, but beings which restrain his instincts. He
stabs out the eyes of all the horses in the stable,
to express his rebellion against god, father, mother
and all authorities who see and judge everything he
does. At the final curtain, after the horses disappear
in the darkness, he also stabs out his own eyes like
Oedipus and screams.
led Alan to relive this horror, is in a dilemma
at the end because Alan has passion such as Dysart had
never felt before. While he is sitting in a chair looking
at pictures of a centaur running, the boy is eager to
be united with a horse that he can see running in the
Hampshire field outside the window. Dysart envies Alan's
freedom and his inner world of primitive desire, so
different from Dysart's passive observation. He also
discovers the presence of a "bit" in his mouth called
"normality," that people have created for themselves.
He can't even understand how to treat the boy in that
situation or how to set limits between normality and
abnormality. He doubts his own identity, and the play
ends with another monologue in which Dysart tells us
that he needs a way of seeing the dark more desperately
than his young patients need him. He wonders if the
darkness he sees comes from God, and pays it the homage
that would be due if it were - but feels the"bit"
a sharp chain that will never be removed.
deals with a mixture of parenting and religion, love
and sex, and the thin line between madness and normality.
It makes all of us in the audience reconsider our own
view of reality. People are squeezed on every side by
daily life, with society grinding us down like an industrial
gear, a system with rules which constantly suppress
our instincts and feelings, and the flat, insipid world
which disapproves of miracles and mysteries. Shaffer
makes the audience feel nostalgia for the primitive
joy of a life in which gods and humans can communicate
with and love each other, where humans can breathe in
nature and get food from nature, and where desires and
urges can be expressed freely. But, in the same moment
we experience this nostalgia, we discover that the "gag"
self-loss in our mouths is already painfully tight.
This is what makes the play Equus famous: it's excellent
expression of the eager desires of people who want to
communicate with god and nature as passionately as the
boy Alan and the psychiatrist Dysart.