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Equus (Penguin Plays) by Peter Shaffer
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Equus (Penguin Plays) (original 1973; edition 1984)

by Peter Shaffer

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1,629184,447 (4.02)32
Member:jgbell
Title:Equus (Penguin Plays)
Authors:Peter Shaffer
Info:Penguin USA (P) (1984), Edition: Reprint, Paperback
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Equus by Peter Shaffer (1973)

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Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
Equus reeks of wasted potential.
The conceit -- that the world has become unromantic, mechanical, normal and one young man's attempt to break through it all -- was good. The set, the Noise, stage directions -- all good.
But the dialogue and the story itself were hamfisted and mediocre. All of the characters except Alan are bland and one dimensional. It's like something Ballard would have written when he was having an off day. I haven't seen it played -- but I think even with a great company it would fail. ( )
1 vote noonaut | Jan 19, 2017 |
Peter Shaffer

Equus

Penguin Classics, Paperback, 2006.

8vo. 109 pp. Author’s notes on the text and the play [7-9]. Cover: Peter Firth in the film Equus (1977).

First presented by The National Theatre at the Old Vic, 26 July 1973.
First published, 1973.
First published by Penguin with Five Fingers Exercise and Shrivings, 1976.
First published by Penguin as a separate play, 1977.
First published in Penguin Classics, 2006

Contents

A Note on the Text
A Note on the Play
The Setting
The Horses
The Chorus

Act One
Act Two

----------------------------------------------

Characters:
Martin Dysart, a psychiatrist
Alan Strang
Dora Strang, his mother
Frank Strang, his father
Hester Salomon, a magistrate
Jill Mason
Harry Dalton, a stable owner

The main action of the play takes place in the Rokeby Psychiatric Hospital in southern England. The time is the present

The play is divided into numbered scenes, indicating a change of time or locale or mood. The action, however, is continuous.


==============================================

This may be Peter Shaffer’s best work. Unlike The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1964) and Amadeus (1979), this is not a historical play. The setting – a small provincial town in southern England – couldn’t be more humdrum. Otherwise, however, all of Shaffer’s hallmarks are present. The action is continuous, but past and present are constantly mingled, as are different locales, in an almost Elizabethan fashion. The simple and effective setting is the one from the first production. At least one scene requires an elaborate choreography with actors in horse costumes. A most unusual innovation, even for Peter Shaffer, is the presence of the whole cast on the stage during the whole play. At crucial moments they play the role of chorus that makes the “Equus Noise [by] humming, thumping, and stamping – though never [by] neighing or whinnying.” Since Shaffer is a consummate dramatist, you can be sure this noise has a specific dramatic purpose.

Like Tennessee Williams, his great colleague on the other side of the Pond, Peter Shaffer cared little for stage realism and always tried, seldom without success, to say something significant about the human condition. He has packed a lot in this play. God and religion are omnipresent as usual, but they are extended, not necessarily in a strictly causal way, into sexual repression, the discontents of the modern world, and the disturbing idea that some sort of worship, however quaint, is essential if we are to lead full lives. Martin Dysart, a dissatisfied poet with an acute sense of displacement, is a classic Shafferian protagonist. The relationship that develops between him and Alan goes way beyond the ordinary doctor-patient stuff. But I don’t want to say more about it. The less you know, the better. Suffice it to say, as explained by the author, that Alan’s horrible crime is real enough, but the rest is product of Shaffer’s imagination.

I have always wondered why Peter Shaffer, with his passion for visual images and sound effects, never wrote more screenplays. I guess he was either smitten with the live action in the theatre or considered films too simple-minded for his work.[1] He was gracious enough to adapt his two most famous plays for the screen, though. Equus (1977) is not a blockbuster production like Amadeus (1984), but neither is it a drab and low-budget semi-fiasco like The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1969, screenplay by Philip Yordan). With a cast including the great Richard Burton as Dysart (delivering his soliloquies straight to the camera), the young Peter Firth as Alan (repeating his role from the premiere), and Joan Plowright and Colin Blakely as the parents, the acting leaves nothing to be desired. The dingy production perfectly conveys the oppressive atmosphere of the play. No punches are pulled as far as nudity and violence are concerned. All in all, it’s really pleasant to see a bold and controversial play done full justice on the screen. It doesn’t happen often.

From Byron to the Bible, horses have a most distinguished literary heritage. Equus certainly qualifies as one of the equine masterpieces of literature.

__________________________________________________​
[1] See Shaffer’s Postscript in the Penguin Classics edition of Amadeus for a hilarious account of his reservations about movies. ( )
2 vote Waldstein | Jun 15, 2016 |
2
  kutheatre | Jun 7, 2015 |
I need to see this. Don't need to give horses a second try, though. ( )
  trilliams | May 30, 2015 |
I read this play before looking up its background. I was surprised to learn its first production was in July 1973, over 41 years ago (vs. staged for that time). The ideas, the themes, the conflicts are just as fresh today as it is then.

Named after the Latin word for horse, Equus is a psychological drama exploring what may influence a 17 year old teenager to perform a cruel and heinous act. Along the journey, we learn elements of his father, his mother, his teachings, his loneliness, his first date, his mundane life, his passion, his non-obvious intelligence but also his perceptiveness, and just as important – aspects of his court appointed psychologist who is tasked to unlock the cause of his actions and “fix” him. In the end, the psychologist challenges why should a person be normal – “Passion, you see, can be destroyed by a doctor. It cannot be created.”

As with all plays, the settings are fully described, and this one opts for a minimalistic settings, where all actors remain visible within the ring stage, stepping in/out to act their parts. Horses play a prominent role in this and are also played by actors. The vibe of the setting is very modern, even in today’s standards.

This is an effectively, tightly written play. I certainly would watch this production.

One quote:
On being a parent:
“DORA (mom) [exploding]: And me? What about me?... What do you think I am?... I’m a parent, of course – so it doesn’t count. That’s a dirty word in here, isn’t it, ‘parent’?
DYSART (psychologist): You know that’s not true.
DORA: Oh, I know. I know, all right! I’ve heard it all my life. It’s our fault. Whatever happens, we did it. Alan’s just a little victim. He’s really done nothing at all! [Savagely.] What do you have to do in this world to get any sympathy - …?” ( )
3 vote varwenea | Dec 20, 2014 |
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
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.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140260706, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:51 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Equus is Peter Shaffer's exploration of the way modern society has destroyed our ability to feel passion. Alan Strang is a disturbed youth whose dangerous obsession with horses leads him to commit an unspeakable act of violence. As psychiatrist Martin Dysart struggles to understand the motivation for Alan's brutality, he is increasingly drawn into Alan's web and eventually forced to question his own sanity. Equus is a timeless classic and a cornerstone of contemporary drama that delves into the darkest recesses of human existence.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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