Passion And Madness In Peter Shaffer's Phaedrus

984 Words4 Pages
The themes in Peter Shaffer 's Equus (1973) has a lot in common with Socrates ' speeches about passion and madness in Phaedrus (~370 B.C.), in Equus we see two characters on opposite sides of the madness spectrum: Dysart, haunted by his job and lack of passion, and Alan Strang, tortured by his devotion and madness. This divide estranges Dysart from society’s values and brings them into question. The answer to his dilemma lies in Socrates’ second speech. In Equus we see the divide between rationality and passion, the two ends of the spectrum, and by using Socrates’ views on madness we can analyze and solve the divide. Socrates states in his second speech in Plato’s Phaedrus, that madness can be a gift from the gods, and that some of the…show more content…
To extrapolate, one will lose themselves in this religious devotion, as a way to escape evils and let go of whatever trauma has been ahold of them. Alan has this level of devotion that he loses himself in, to the point where the spiritual and real world are inseparable. In fact, this is most likely where his intense devotion to Equus originated from, escape. Escape from his family problems, sexual repression/confusion, and societal pressures. Through the ritual, the riding, he can become one with Equus and finally be free. This is also where his mad love for Equus came from, ranging almost to the sexual nature. As the play goes on, he finds a release for some of the pressures he has, and ends up trying to abandon and free himself from Equus, torturing him. Alan is almost the complete opposite of Dysart in terms of…show more content…
In Socrates’ first speech, he regards the rational non-lover as the superior, as they will never be tempted into shameful acts. He wishes to leave, but realizes it is foolish, and sees a daemon (a warning personified) so he corrects his mistake in the second speech. The lover can become holy, even more than the lover, but that comes with risks. They can only be holy with self restraint, without going too far. We can see the parallel with Equus, much like Socrates, Dysart and society in general are seen as the norm and most successful, but Alan forces us to reconsider that, and shows us the flaws in Dysart and society’s values. That is not to say we should all become Alan Strang, we should instead focus on finding a balance between madness and rationality, between the grounded science and the flight religions and beliefs. Becoming passionate, but still wise
Open Document