Equus

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Overview

In Equus, which took critics and public alike by storm and has gone on to become a modern classic, Peter Shaffer depicts the story of a deranged youth who blinds six horses with a spike. Through a psychiatrist's analysis of the events, Shaffer creates a chilling portrait of how materialism and convenience have killed our capacity for worship and passion and, consequently, our capacity for pain. Rarely has a playwrite created an atmosphere and situation that so harshly pinpoint the spiritual and mental decay of ...
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Equus

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Overview

In Equus, which took critics and public alike by storm and has gone on to become a modern classic, Peter Shaffer depicts the story of a deranged youth who blinds six horses with a spike. Through a psychiatrist's analysis of the events, Shaffer creates a chilling portrait of how materialism and convenience have killed our capacity for worship and passion and, consequently, our capacity for pain. Rarely has a playwrite created an atmosphere and situation that so harshly pinpoint the spiritual and mental decay of modern man.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Remarkable...a psychiatric detective story of infinite skill."
— Walter Kerr, The New York Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140481853
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/2/1984
  • Series: Plays, Penguin Series
  • Pages: 112
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 5.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

One of the foremost playwrights of our time, Peter Shaffer has had seven plays produced on Broadway. He has won every major dramatic award as well as an Academy Award for the screenplay adaptation of his play Amadeus.

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Read an Excerpt


ACT ONE

Darkness.

Silence.

Dim light up on the square. In a spotlight stands Alan Strang, a lean boy of seventeen, in sweater and jeans. In front of him, the horse nugget. Alan's pose represents a contour of great tenderness: his head is pressed against the shoulder of the horse, his hands stretching up to fondle its head.

The horse in turn nuzzles his neck.

The flame of a cigarette lighter jumps in the dark. Lights come up slowly on the circle. On the left bench, downstage, Martin Dysart, smoking. A man in his mid-forties.

Dysart: With one particular horse, called Nugget, he embraces. The animal digs its sweaty brow into his cheek, and they stand in the dark for an hour -- like a necking couple. And of all nonsensical things -- I keep thinking about the horse! Not the boy: the horse, and what it may be trying to do. I keep seeing that huge head kissing him with its chained mouth. Nudging through the metal some desire absolutely irrelevant to filling its belly or propagating its own kind. What desire could that be? Not to stay a horse any longer? Not to remain reined up for ever in those particular genetic strings? Is it possible, at certain moments we cannot imagine, a horse can add its sufferings together -- the non-stop jerks and jabs that are its daily life -- and turn them into grief? What use is grief to a horse?

[Alan leads Nugget out of the square and they disappear together up the tunnel, the horse's hooves scraping delicately on the wood.

Dysart rises, and addresses both the large audience in the theatre and the smaller one on stage.]

You see, I'm lost. What use, I should be asking, are questions like these to an overworked psychiatrist in a provincial hospital? They're worse than useless; they are, in fact, subversive.

[He enters the square. The light grows brighter.]

The thing is, I'm desperate. You see, I'm wearing that horse's head myself. That's the feeling. All reined up in old language and old assumptions, straining to jump clean-hoofed on to a whole new track of being I only suspect is there. I can't see it, because my educated, average head is being held at the wrong angle. I can't jump because the bit forbids it, and my own basic force -- my horsepower, if you like -- is too little. The only thing I know for sure is this: a horse's head is finally unknowable to me. Yet I handle children's heads -- which I must presume to be more complicated, at least in the area of my chief concern...In a way, it has nothing to do with this boy. The doubts have been there for years, piling up steadily in this dreary place. It's only the extremity of this case that's made them active. I know that. The extremity is the point! All the same, whatever the reason, they are now, these doubts, not just vaguely worrying -- but intolerable...I'm sorry. I'm not making much sense. Let me start properly; in order. It began one Monday last month, with Hesther's visit.

Copyright © 1973, 1974 by Peter Shaffer

Copyright renewed © 2001, 2002 by Peter Shaffer

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 23 )
Rating Distribution

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(19)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 23 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 26, 2010

    Equus a play to remember.

    Dr. Dysart is a child psychiatrist who takes on a 17 year old patient, Alan Strang, a young boy who blinded six horses at the stable he worked at, with a hoof pick. Most of the play takes place in Dysart's office as he attempts to understand Alan's actions and motives behind the gruesome crimes. The plot is centered on Dysart's search for answers about what happened prior to night of the crimes. The play overall draws you in and you try to solve the case of Alan Strang. This is why I liked the play, its murder mystery meets doctor shows meets young adult genre. It just has so many genres and levels that anyone can find it enjoyable. That is why I love theatre in general because it is applicable to every one's lives. This play is about a real life with a real family. We can relate and we can be drawn in and engulfed in the story. We can learn from the story, the life, and the revelation of these characters. I would recommend this play to anyone who likes a good story, real characters, and surprising twists. The story is like any mystery; it builds on clues and speculations. Revelations happen by more than one person which moves the plot along. If you like theatre or plays in general you will like Equus. And if you do not like theatre or plays, I still believe that you will like Equus because it is real. Playwrights strive to create real people based on real situations and emotions. These characters are just like characters in any movie, TV show, commercial, ad, and any other thing you can think of. That is why this play is so good. It can be considered a read for everyone. Yes, there is a higher vocabulary and difficult subject manner; but do not be discouraged by this. Understand that it is a great story and wonderful read. I recommend this as a buy. Buy it and love every second of this drama.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2013

    Excellent Script

    This play will challlenge your thinking of religious worship, psychiatric treatment and the confines of human existence. It will raise questions of the "normal" state of being, questions of purpose and fulfillment and questions of the boundaries of human will.

    Both the doctor and patient are transformed throughout the play as we are shown the events leading up to the horrific act which brought these two together. While treating the patient, the doctor starts to evaluate his own efficacy of helping patients return to a "normal" state of being. He begins to view his own life in contrast to the life this boy has lead thus far. The play is as much about the doctor as it is about the boy.

    I have read this play many times and every time I gain a deeper understanding of the worldview this boy posesses. I will undoubtedly read it again many times and each time I will love it even more.

    I highly recommend this to anyone looking to read something that will challenge their beliefs and worldview.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2008

    magnificent

    to start off,i could not put this book down.i was not a big fan of reading until i read this book.the story line was genius and i loved every minute of reading it...i read it three times and it is good every time.i would definitely recommend this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2007

    A reviewer

    Wow, this book is just........wow. I read through the whole thing in about 3-4 hours. Once I started I could not stop!!! After reading the play I pondered on what it all meant, what was the 'big picture', and then it hit me like a brick. Anyone who may consider themself and individual should most definatley read this play. It is total and complete awesomness. GO BUY IT!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2007

    Excellent!

    Great piece of literature.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2007

    Amazing

    I heard about Equus and was intrigued by the plot so I picked it up at my local bookstore. I had gotten through the first two pages and was hooked on this powerful story. 'He has the strangest stare I ever met.' - Dysart pg. 18 Alan Strang, main character, begins his therapy roughly, refusing to answer his psychiatrists questions. As the story moves on though, and Alan reveals more and more to Dysart, you come to almost share Dysart's admiration for this young man's passion. This book is beautifully written and if you enjoyed it I highly recommend you see the play as well.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2007

    EQUUS Is Back!

    I love this book it's so interesting! For those of you that don't know this, which isn't a lot, EQUUS is back and Daniel Radcliffe is playing Alan Strang. People are talking about him being nude in one scene, which is definately true. It's so stupid to get all worked up about that one scene because it's at most four minutes as Daniel Radcliffe says and also, you really don't notice it that much because there's talking going on and it's at the very end so you're so into what's going to happen next, that you just don't notice it that much. Daniel Radcliffe is an amazing actor and if anybody says he isn't after seeing EQUUS, I'll punch them. One of my favorite scenes is when Alan is riding on the 'horse' (it's really a person with a wire horse head and hooves on) and the whole entire stage does a 360 degree spin. It actually looks like he's going really, really fast! Right now EQUUS is only playing in London, but it's coming to Broadway soon! I recommend reading this book and seeing the play, or either one! EQUUS rules!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2003

    Equus

    Not only is this play confronting, but it reveals a side of modern literature that many writers have yet explored. Our class read this play in English and analysed it in some detail. It is interesting to debate who really was responsible for Alans crime.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2002

    gripping

    I read the book as a part of my english coure and usually these books are boring, even though this one was incredipöy sick, I couldnt put it down. the author takes the reader with him in to the boys head and I couldnt stop until I knew why he did what he did.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2001

    Equus

    Beatifully written book as it exposes the truth; that man is hidden and cannot expose real passion behind society's barriers. Alan strang demonstrates that to us in a violent and 'disgusting' manner, although at the end a point is proven which some playwriters cannot do nearly as well as Peter shaffer was able to.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2000

    Powerful!

    The starkness of the stage threw me off a little until I got a good mental image. After that, I was able to clearly understand the story. There were so many thoughts going through my head as I was reading. I didn't understand Alan's behavior...then, Dysart meets the parents. Dora and Frank are interesting people. When Alan sees Frank as a guy at the skin flick, he is seeing his father as a human being for the first time. I guess that I can understand that because as I mature, I see my own parents as human beings with their flaws instead of my glorified parents.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2000

    Beyond Words

    I saw this as a play and then read it. I was spellbound as I watched the production. I had never seen anything move me and speak to me as this play did. The twistedness of the play brings you in and then never lets you go. It was wonderful and I would recomend it to any one!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2008

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    Posted July 2, 2011

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    Posted March 1, 2012

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    Posted December 16, 2011

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    Posted January 20, 2009

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    Posted September 13, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2011

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    Posted June 1, 2012

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 23 Customer Reviews

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