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A play by Peter Shaffer written in 1973.

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Normalcy or Passion?

  • Jun 25, 2010

A teenage boy was supposed to be sent to prison, but - as the result of others- he was sent to psychiatrist. As a result of the confrontations - literally and metaphorically, as ideas are thrown about, - shared between these two characters, one is exposed to several themes. For instance, as the psychiatrist attempted to "normalize" the boy, the psychiatrist began to have doubts about the merits of his work. Was becoming like “everyone else” truly something to be desired? As quoted from the book, the psychiatrist thinks to himself, “The Normal is the good smile in a child’s eyes – all right. It is also the dead stare in a million adults. It both sustains and kills – like a God. It is the Ordinary made beautiful: it is also the Average made lethal.” Who decides what is desirable and supposedly normal? If participating in one activity or if “one thing” really makes you feel alive, even if others consider weird or strange – such as Alan’s intense fascination with horses- should someone (i.e. such as a psychiatrist) really try to take this away from you? The theme is somewhat similar to those concerning the present day prescription of medications for every supposed mental defect, that is, the prescription of norms and mores pushed on to every individual albeit individual differences and uniqueness. I think that the plethora of human characteristics, values, beliefs, etc. is part of what makes life interesting. Find out more about the various themes and characters by reading the play yourself : )

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Quick Tip by . July 04, 2010
An astonishing psychological drama that examines the very nature of passion, what it is, what it means, what it does to a person. In many ways shocking, yet the progress of young Alan from acolyte to fallen angel is a road that any one of us could travel. The 1977 film (Richard Burton, Peter Firth) is a faithful adaptation, if you find reading a play to be difficult. Not to be missed; you'll talk about it for many years to come.
About the reviewer
Amanda Kortokrax ()
Ranked #880
Hello : ) I am a 23-year old student. I am majoring in Psychology and minoring in Education at OSU. I love children, and I want to see that every child under my jurisdiciton gets a chance to thrive. I … more
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Equus is a play by Peter Shaffer written in 1973, telling the story of a psychiatrist who attempts to treat a young man who has a pathological religious/sexual fascination with horses.

Shaffer was inspired to write Equus when he heard of a crime involving a 17-year-old who had blinded six horses in a small town near London. He set out to construct a fictional account of what might have caused the incident, without knowing any of the details of the crime. The play's action is something of a detective story, involving the attempts of the child psychiatrist, Dr. Martin Dysart, to understand the cause of the boy's actions while wrestling with his own sense of purpose.

However, numerous other issues inform the narrative. Most important are religious and ritual sacrifice themes, and the manner in which character Alan Strang constructs a personal theology involving the horses and the supreme godhead, "Equus". Alan sees the horses as representative of God and confuses his adoration of his "God" with sexual attraction. Also important is Shaffer's examination of the conflict between personal values and satisfaction and societal mores, expectations and institutions. In reference to the play's classical structure, themes and characterization, Shaffer has discussed the conflict between "Dionysian" and "Apollonian" values and systems in human life.
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