Equus By Peter Shaffer: Play Analysis

862 Words4 Pages

Inspired by a real life incident where a boy in Suffolk blinded six horses using a metal stake, Peter Shaffer wrote Equus uninformed of the actual reasons of him doing so. Shaffer not only weaved in theories of Behaviorism and Freudian psychology into the plot and the minds of few characters to enhance the feasibility of his argument, but also to expose the imperfections of the society. At the beginning of the play, Dysart tells Hesther of his weird dream where he becomes "a chief priest in Homeric Greece “(Shaffer.1.5.42) In his description of the explicit dream and his conversation with Hesther, it shows that he clearly has some doubts towards his job as a psychiatrist, which he confesses is "unworthy" (Shaffer.1.6.43) to him. In the …show more content…

Later it becomes evident that part of Alan’s worship of horses stems from his parents’ contrasting religious beliefs. His mother, Dora, a devout Christian, tries to propagate her religious beliefs to him by reading to Alan the Bible every day, whereas his father, Frank, an atheist, tries to disapprove her actions and believes that believing in Christianity harms their family relationship. Flooded by stories of Jesus from the Bible, Alan shows interests in the divinity of the subject, as he “insisted on buying it [the reproduction of Our Lord on his way to Calvary] with his pocket money, and hanging it at the foot of his bed where he could see it last thing at night.” (Shaffer.1.11.64) Nevertheless, when Frank tore down the picture and replaced it with the portrait of the horse, Alan’s belief in conventional religion seems to have shifted to unconventional worshipping of horse-god Equus, as it is illustrated that Alan was found praying and chanting to the horse portrait in similar practices as they are described in the Bible. Later when Alan is hypnotized, Alan explains that Equus is “like Jesus and only his name isn’t Jesus” (Shaffer.1.19.88), as he describes that Equus is in chains “for the sins of the world” (Shaffer.1.19.88) like Jesus was. The central idea of behaviorism psychology states that the decisions are made malleable by the environment and exposure to …show more content…

D. Laing, whose radical beliefs reflected those of other psychologists who supported behaviorism. He believed that mental illnesses were not purely biological; rather, what was psychologically normal or abnormal was determined by society and conventional family values (Dock). In Laing’s view, and in Dysart’s view, socially “abnormal” individuals such as Alan may not actually have psychological issues; they may simply be reacting to the world in a way that the society deemed wrong. Here, Schaffer questions the extent and the morals to which the society determines who is “normal” and who isn’t by embedding R.D. Laing’s central ideas into Martin Dysart himself as he doubts whether destroying a character’s individuality to make him acceptable to society is truly valuable. When Shaffer wrote the play Equus in 1970s, he drew his conclusions based on his imaginations and his knowledge from the theories of psychology developed during that period. While doing so, he also implanted the message of limits and the imperfections of

Open Document