Equus Notes

Published: 2021-08-03 04:15:08
essay essay

Category: Equus

Type of paper: Essay

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Hey! We can write a custom essay for you.

All possible types of assignments. Written by academics

Peter Shaffer was inspired to write Equus by the chance remark of a friend at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
The friend recounted to Shaffer a news story about a British youth who blinded twenty-six horses in a stable, seemingly without cause. Shaffer never confirmed the event or discovered more of the details, but the story fascinated him, provoking him ' 'to interpret it in some entirely personal way. " His dramatic goal, he wrote in a note to the play, was ' 'to create a mental world in which the deed could be made comprehensible. " Equus depicts the state of mind of Alan Strang, the imaginative, emotionally-troubled stableboy who serves as the play's protagonist.
In relating his themes, Shaffer combines psychological realism with expressionistic theatrical techniques, employing such devices as masks, mime, and dance. The ongoing dialogue between Alan and Dr. Martin Dysart, the boy's analyst, illustrates Shaffer's theme of contrary human impulses toward rationality and irrationality. Curing Alan, making the boy socially acceptable and more ' 'normal," Dysart frets, will at the same time squelch an important spark of passionate creativity in the youth. Equus, which some critics labeled a ' 'psycho-drama," premiered in London at the Old Vic Theatre on July 26, 1973.

The production was a huge success, impressing both audiences and critics alike and securing Shaffer's reputation as an important contemporary dramatist. Equus had its Americanpremiere at New York's Plymouth Theatre on October 24,1974, and later received the Antoinette Perry (Tony) Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award. The play was adapted into a film in 1977. Introduction 1 Author Biography Peter Shaffer and his twin brother Anthony (also a playwright and novelist) were born May 15, 1926, in Liverpool, England. Peter attended St. Paul's School in London, graduating in 1944, near the end of World War II. For the remainder of the war, he was conscripted to work as a coal miner; because a large number of England's adult male workforce were off fighting the war, many labor positions were filled by women, children, and young adults. After the war Shaffer attended Trinity College, Cambridge, from which he received a degree in 1950. Following graduation he moved to New York City, where he worked in a book store and the New York Public Library. He returned to London in 1954, working for music publishers Bosey & Hawkes.
He began writing scripts for radio and television during this period as well as serving as literary critic for the journal Truth from 1956-57. Shaffer's first stage play, Five Finger Exercise, was produced in 1958. He followed it with the paired one-acts The Private Ear and The Public Eye in 1962. In 1963 Shaffer cowrote, with noted stage director Peter Brook (Marat/Sade), the screenplay for Brook's film adaptation of William Golding' s novel Lord of the Flies. Shaffer's reputation as an accomplished dramatist was secured by the 1964 premiere of his full-length work Royal Hunt of the Sun: A Play Concerning the Conquest of Peru.
The play which creatively blends ritual, dance, music, and drama reenacts the sixteenth-century Spanish conquest, by Francisco Pizarro, of the Incan empire. The Incas dominated the culture of western South America in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; the center of their empire lay in what is now Peru, a country founded by Pizarro. Shaffer's plays of subsequent years include the one-act Black Comedy (1965), a piece based on a device borrowed from Chinese theatre in which actors pretend to be in total darkness although the stage is lit.
Shaffer's 1970 full-length The Battle ofShrivings was widely considered a disappointment, but the playwright followed it with Equus (1973), a play that is generally considered his greatest achievement to date. Equus received the Antoinette Perry (Tony) Award for best play as well as the New York Drama Critics Circle Award. Shaffer also wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation of Equus in 1977. In 1979, Shaffer produced what is generally considered his best-known work, Amadeus, which he has described as "a fantasia on events in [18th century composer Wolfgang Amadeus] Mozart's life. Like Equus, Amadeus is a probing exploration of the human psyche, centering on the royal court composer Antonio Salieri and his jealousy of Mozart's seemingly effortless brilliance. Mozart is portrayed as a vulgar, self-centered genius, a sort of prototypical rock star. The play won the 1980 Tony award, and the 1984 film adaptation won Academy Awards for best picture and best screenplay adaptation (for Shaffer's script). Shaffer's plays since Amadeus include Yonadab: The Watcher (1985) and the popular comedy Lettice andLovage (1987).
With a long-standing reputation for craftsmanship, Shaffer's career is marked by theatrical success and prestigious honors. In addition to his many popular successes in drama, he is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a member of the Dramatists Guild, and was granted the title Commander of the British Empire in 1987. Author Biography 3 Plot Summary Act I The play opens on two scenes: Alan Strang fondles the head of a horse, who in turn nuzzles the boy's neck; subsequently, Dr. Martin Dysart addresses a lecture audience about the case of Alan Strang, a troubled boy of seventeen who blinded six horses.
Dysart begins his narrative with the visit by his friend Hesther Salomon, a magistrate who managed to persuade the court to put Alan in a psychiatric hospital rather than in prison. As the action on the stage enacts this recollection, Salomon tells the doctor that she feels something very special about the boy. Dysart agrees to see Alan, although he is already overworked. In their first session, Alan is evasive, singing advertising jingles in response to Dysart's ques-tions. Alan is clearly startled when the psychiatrist coolly responds to the jingles as if Alan were speaking normally.
Upon conclusion of the meeting, the boy is reluctant to leave the doctor's office, and, as he is finally ushered out, he makes a point of passing ' 'dangerously close" to Dysart. Returning to the lecture format, Dysart reveals to his audience that he is suffering nightmares in which he is a ancient priest sacrificing children, on whom he sees the face of Alan. At the same time, however, Dysart feels he has achieved a breakthrough with his patient, who is beginning to open up. Dysart pays a visit to Alan's parents in the hopes of learning something of the boy's background.
The father, Frank, is still at work, but his wife Dora informs the doctor that Alan was always captivated by horses, particularly a story about a talking horse called Prince, who could only be ridden by one special boy. Alan also memorized a Biblical passage about horses in the Book of Job; he was particularly taken with the Latin word Equus. When Frank returns home, he tells the doctor that he blames Alan's problems on the Biblical passages about the death of Jesus, which Dora read to the boy night after night. Frank shares his belief that religion is only so much "bad sex. "
Plot Summary
Dysart must discover the reason behind Alan's screams of "Ek! " in the night. Although Alan has grown more communicative, he still resists interviewing, making the doctor answer his own queries for each question Dysart poses. Question follows question, but when Dysart asks Alan directly why he cries out at night, the boy reverts to singing television jingles. Dysart dismisses Alan, and this reverse psychology causes Alan to begin talking about his first experience with a horse. At the beach, a man let Alan join him on his horse and ride as fast as the boy liked. Alan's parents saw him, became worried, and caused him to fall.
Alan claims this was the last time he ever rode a horse. In three unexpected visits, Dysart acquires a great deal of new information. From Dora Strang, he learns about a particularly graphic image of Christ, "loaded down with chains," on his way to crucifixion, which used to hang above Alan's bed. It was torn down by Frank after one of their frequent fights about religion and replaced with a photograph of a horse that pleased Alan immensely. In the second visit, Mr. Dalton, the stable owner, informs Dysart that Alan was introduced to the stables by a young employee of his, Jill Mason.
Dalton com-ments that Alan was always a terrific worker before the blinding incident but that for some time he suspected the boy may have been taking the horses out at night to ride them. Finally, Frank Strang pays Dysart a visit, describing with great difficulty how he once discovered Alan reciting a parody of a Biblical genealogy and then kneeling reverently in front of the photograph of the horse and beating himself with a coat hanger. Frank also reveals that Alan was out with a girl the night he blinded the horses. In their next conversation, Dysart asks Alan more directly about Jill.
The boy calls the doctor "Bloody Nosey Parker! " and in turn asks about Dysart's relationship with his wife, suspecting that the couple never has sex. Startled that Alan so quickly discovered his ' 'area of maximum vulnerability," Dysart orders the boy out of his office. Speaking later with Hesther, Dysart laments his sterile marriage. Hesther reminds Dysart that it is his job to make Alan normal again, but Dysart questions the value of what society views as normal. When Alan next comes before the doctor he is more subdued, and Dysart succeeds in hypnotizing him through a game he calls ' Act I 5 Blink. " In this state, Alan is persuaded to discuss in detail his ritualistic and ecstatic midnight rides. An expressionistic, theatrical enactment of one of these rides brings the first act to a close. Act II In another monologue, Dysart continues to question rhetorically the value of his profession. The speech is interrupted by the entrance of a nurse, who reports that Mrs. Strang has slapped Alan after violently refusing the lunch she brought for him. Dysart confronts Mrs. Strang and orders her to leave.
She expresses to the doctor the frustration she feels as a mother, wanting Dysart to understand that what is wrong with Alan is not a result of anything she or Frank did to him. ' 'I only know he was my little Alan," she mourns,' 'and then the Devil came. " In a subsequent discussion with Dysart, Alan denies anything that he said under hypnosis. At the same time, however, the boy suggests that he would take a ' 'truth drug," to make him reveal things he is withholding. Talking again with Hesther, Dysart reveals further reluctance to cure Alan, especially if it means denying him the worship which is central to his life.
The doctor envies the boy's passion. Alan later apologizes for having denied what he said under hypnosis and acknowledges that he understands why he is in the hospital. Dysart is extremely pleased. Sending for Alan in the middle of the night, he gives the boy a placebo an aspirin that he tells Alan is a truth drug and with encouragement Alan begins to speak freely about his relationship with Jill Mason. Jill started talking to Alan one night after work, commenting how she noticed his beautiful eyes and obvious affection for the horses. She suspected that, like her, Alan found horses, especially their eyes, very sexy.
Jill encouraged Alan to go to a pornographic film with her, and in the cinema, seeing a woman naked for the first time, Alan was mesmerized. Suddenly noticing his father in the audience of the film, Act II 6 however, Alan was ashamed to be caught at a ' 'dirty" movie (though he was more shaken to discover his father there). Alan refused to go home with Frank, insisting it was proper to see Jill home first. On their walk home, Alan made two important discoveries: first, he finally saw his father as man just like any other, and second, he realized he wanted very much to be with Jill, to see her naked and to touch her.
Alan eagerly accepted when Jill suggested that they go off together but was disturbed to learn that her destination was the stables. The young couple undressed, but Alan found himself unable to touch Jill, "hearing" the disapproval of Equus. Furious, Alan ordered Jill out of the stables, took up a pick, and put out the eyes of Dalton's horses. With the repressed pain of Alan's angry and destructive act now brought to the surface, Dysart feels he can relieve the boy of his nightmares and other mental anguish. But Dysart's monologue that ends the play is the strongest indictment yet of the work he is doing.
Dysart laments that in treating Alan, he will relieve the boy not only of his pain but of all feeling, inspiration, and imagination. As for himself, the lesson of Alan has showed him how lost he truly is: ' 'There is now, in my mouth, this sharp chain," Dysart concludes. ' 'And it never comes out. " Act II 7 Act 1, Scenes 1, 2, 3 and 4 Act 1, Scenes 1, 2, 3 and 4 Summary The story of this play is anchored by the parallel journeys of two people, an emotionally disturbed young man and the psychiatrist treating him, as they confront themselves and each other with uncomfortable personal truths.
The narrative utilizes both traditional and innovative storytelling techniques to explore themes relating to the nature of worship, the power of faith, and the extent of personal accountability. The first four scenes introduce the central characters of Alan and Dysart, explain the situation in which they find themselves, and dramatize the first steps of the power struggle between them that define the action of the entire play. Scene 1 - The play begins with Alan standing next to the horse, Nugget, (portrayed by a human actor wearing a stylized mask of a horse) in a posture of great affection.
Dysart appears, speculating on what the posture means to the horse. Perhaps he might be trying to not be a horse any more and enjoy freedom from the reins in which he spends his life. Alan leads Nugget offstage as Dysart wonders whether asking such questions are any use to an overworked psychiatrist, suggesting that they might even subversively undercut his own effectiveness. He reveals that he himself feels desperate, reined in like a horse and prisoner to old belief systems and philosophies. These thoughts weren't triggered by his experience with Alan, but that he's had them for years.
He apologizes for not making much sense and begins to explain what happened, saying it all began with a visit from his friend, a jurist named Heather. Scene 2 - As Heather is brought in by the nurse, Dysart comments to the audience that he sometimes blames Heather for the self-doubts with which he's now plagued. Yet he then changes his mind when he realizes that the Alan Strang case wasn't the cause of those doubts, but rather the catalyst for them to emerge. Heather greets Dysart and, after some small talk about how tired he looks and warning him that he'll find the facts Act 1, Scenes 1, 2, 3 and 4 8 f the case troubling, tells him the boy she's asking him to see (Alan) blinded six horses in a stable with a metal spike. She adds that when he appeared in court he offered no explanation. He just sang. She says there's something very special and intriguing about him. Dysart agrees to see him, and Heather returns to her seat (stage directions indicate that all the actors remain on stage throughout the play, visible and seated on benches). After Heather has gone, Dysart comments that he wasn't expecting Alan to be anything other than the usual troubled teen. The nurse brings Alan in.
Dysart introduces himself and puts out his hand to shake Alan's. Alan doesn't respond. Scene 3 - Dysart attempts to get Alan to answer some basic questions. In response, Alan sings songs from television commercials. Dysart himself responds with teasing good humor, eventually telling the nurse to take Alan back to his room (Alan lives, and Dysart works, in a psychiatric hospital). As Alan leaves, Dysart asks which parent forbids him from watching television. Alan doesn't answer, but goes out with the nurse. Scene 4 - The nurse shows Alan to his room, warning him to behave.
Alan, speaking words for the first time, tells her to "Fuck off". The nurse goes out in a huff. Act 1, Scenes 1, 2, 3 and 4 Analysis The first thing to note about this play is the manner in which it dramatizes its story. The scene numbers are essentially irrelevant. Action flows smoothly from one scene to the next without breaks for blackouts or scene changes. Within this flow, Dysart moves with equal fluidity between addressing the audience and addressing other characters. All the characters shift in and out of descriptive speeches, often playing the scenes they're talking about.
This highly stylized and non-realistic approach creates a sense of both unpredictable flow and continuity. Given that the play's action and themes pivot around thoughts; beliefs; and triggers that cause one to flow into, transform or eliminate the other; the play's style and substance can clearly be seen as Act 1, Scenes 1, 2, 3 and 4 9 echoing, reinforcing and illuminating each other. This stylistic approach also works well in relation to the play's other governing convention, its structural similarity to a traditional murder mystery.
Such stories start with a murder, a detective uncovering and examining clues and eventually arriving at the truth. Equus also starts with what is almost a murder (Alan's blinding of the horses), Dysart (the detective) uncovering a series of clues, and eventually arriving at the truth (why Alan did what he did). These two conventions, stylistic unpredictability and the mystery structure, work together to draw the audience deeper and deeper into the ultimately horrifying encounters experienced by both Alan and Dysart, as they probe ever more deeply into each other's thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.
These encounters are foreshadowed in Dysart's first speech and repeatedly throughout the play. What Alan has to face is relatively simple - the true motivation behind his actions in blinding the horses. Dysart's challenge is more complex, but no less chilling, at least to him. His monologues and conversations with Heather express his deepening self-doubt about whether he has any right to do what he does, and whether the results truly create better lives for those he treats. This is one of the play's core themes, the nature and extent of personal responsibility when it comes to affecting the lives of others.
What's important to note is that this question relates, not only to the personal responsibility of psychiatrists and/or physicians, but also to the actions of anyone who takes any kind of action to affect the life and/or beliefs of another. As the action of the play reveals, both Alan's mother and father take such actions, which may or may not be directly responsible for Alan's mental breakdown, and both deny any responsibility for the effects of those actions. One key question the play asks is simply this: Should they? Should Dysart? Should anyone? Act 1, Scenes 1, 2, 3 and 4 10 Act 1, Scenes 5 and 6
Act 1, Scenes 5 and 6 Summary These two scenes develop the play's theatrically innovative narrative style, exploring the relationships between the members of the Strang family and developing the core power struggle between Dysart and Alan. Scene 5 - Dysart narrates a dream he had the night after seeing Alan, in which Dysart wears an Ancient Greek mask and presides over a series of ritual killings of children. He describes his high status, how the children are killed (by slicing them open with a knife and spilling their internal organs) and how, at the height of the ceremony, his mask slips.
This leads him to be removed from both the ceremony and his position as high priest. Scene 6 - Heather, to whom he has recounted the dream at the same time as he's recounted it to the audience, understands the dream to be an expression of Dysart's fears that he's hurting the children he's working with. She reassures him, but he remains concerned. She tells him that Alan's face is on every child he sacrifices, describing his stare in their sessions as being strange and accusing. He also explains that the nurse has told him Alan has frequent nightmares. At that point, the play's sense of stylistic range comes into play.
The nurse speaks with Dysart and Dysart speaks with Heather, as the nurse tells how Alan wakes up shouting the word "Eck". She also conveys how Alan burst into Dysart's office the day after their first session with a one word answer to Dysart's question about who forbids him to watch television - "Dad". Heather remains and listens as a scene plays out between Alan's father, Frank, and his mother, Dora. (The sense here is that Alan told Dysart what happened and that Dysart is telling Heather, but rather than having Dysart simply talk about it, the audience sees the scene played out. Frank tells Dora and Alan, who's watching television, that it's Act 1, Scenes 5 and 6 11 bad for young people to watch it, calling it a "swiz" - something that offers something, but in fact is taking something else away. He tells Dora to return the television set to the dealer where they bought it. Alan shouts that he wants it to stay; but Frank remains firm as he exits. He then sits on a bench and observes a conversation between Heather and Dysart, about what Frank and Dora did for a living. This leads to dialogue between Dysart and Alan, who claims that because Dora was a teacher, he knows more about history than Dysart.
They challenge each other with questions. Eventually Dysart asks Alan who's his favorite king of England. Alan says King John "because he put the eyes out of that smarty ... " He stops himself, aware he's said too much (presumably because what he's saying is similar to what he did to the horses). Dysart then asks another question, one relating to religion. Dysart comments to Heather that he observed Alan's nervousness when he asked it, and that he thinks the question is associated with something troubling in his relationships at home.
He says he's going over to the Strang home to get a sense of the family dynamics for himself. Act 1, Scenes 5 and 6 Analysis These two scenes develop and expand the boundaries of the play's narrative technique. The storytelling here is like the construction of an onion, layers within layers - in this scene, the television argument taking place within Dysart's conversation with Alan, which takes place within Dysart's conversation with Heather. This layering of narrative is a stylistic reinforcement of the sense of layering thoughts and inhibitions in the minds of both Alan and Dysart.
On the other hand, the dream in Scene 5 is actually a fairly literal representation of the doubts Dysart refers to in his opening speech, as well as on several other occasions in the play. These doubts can be boiled down to the fear that he's destroying the young people he works with, by cutting their emotions and minds open (instead of the more literal bodies he cuts open in the dream), spilling their deepest dreams and beliefs (instead of their internal organs) and thereby killing them (THAT part is the same).
This idea is developed in even more depth later in the play, when Dysart reveals his core belief, the innermost layer of his Act 1, Scenes 5 and 6 12 philosophy which,at the core of life, is the kind of passion Alan has for horses. The concurrent fear is that in destroying Alan's passion (or at least re-defining it), he's destroying what makes him a unique and fully alive human being. Also in these scenes, the structure of mystery again comes into play, as another clue to Alan's behavior appears - the reference to "Eck", the meaning of which Dysart uncovers in Act 1 Scene 14.
Finally, these two scenes also establish one of the narrative's core conflicts, the power struggle between Alan and Dysart. Each is after honesty from the other; and both are prepared to do or say anything to get it. The reasons Dysart is so determined are quite clear. First, it's his job. He's also desperate to prove to himself, not only that his job has value, but that he's not wrong to believe it has value. The reasons Alan is so determined are less clear. Perhaps he wants a kind of power in Dysart's office that he doesn't have at home. Perhaps he's so desperate to avoid acing the truth that he'll do anything to turn attention away from himself. Or perhaps he's desperate for attention, and believes the only way to do it is get Dysart angry at him. Then again, and this is possibly the most likely explanation, perhaps he's so desperate for truth from an adult (given that he's had none, or so he believes, from either his mother or father), that he's willing to do anything to get it. Whatever the reasons, as the result of their mutual probing, both Alan and Dysart come face to face with the painful truths at the core of their respective existences.
The irony is that when these truths are revealed, neither man seems able, prepared or knowledgeable enough to move forward with them. Act 1, Scenes 5 and 6 13 Act 1, Scene 7 Act 1, Scene 7 Summary Scene 7 - Dora greets Dysart, saying Frank is out. When Dysart asks whether she has any idea how Alan could have done what he did, she says she can't understand it. She tells him that for years Alan has had a picture of a horse hanging on the wall opposite his bed. She explains that, as a little boy, he used to love hearing her read stories about horses, which she did in a horsy kind of voice.
She also relates telling Alan that when the Christian cavalry first appeared in the New World, they thought the horse and rider were one being, a god. After being prompted by Dysart, she talks about how she used to quote all the Bible verses about horses to the enraptured Alan, how she let him visit a friend next door to watch his television, and how he particularly enjoyed westerns. Frank appears, and Dora explains what she's been telling Dysart about Alan's love of horses.
She adds another detail, She once had an uncle who rode every day, referring to it as "equitation", a word that he says comes from the Latin word "Equus" and a word Alan has always been fascinated with. Dora and Frank then speak about how Alan never rode a horse, even when he was working at the stables. Yet he could have gone riding every day. Dora goes out, but eavesdrops. Frank tells Dysart how much she spoiled and indulged Alan, and how she spent a great deal of time and energy teaching him about the Bible, Christ's death and torture in particular.
This, he says, Alan was also fascinated with. Dora interrupts, asking what that all has to do with what Alan did. Frank says it has everything to do with it. Dysart changes the subject, asking whether either of them spoke with Alan about sex. Dora says she told Alan the biological facts. She also talked about how sex should only happen when one was in love, and how expressing love in that way brought a person closer to the love of God. She breaks down in tears, agonized at the thought of what Alan did. Frank gently takes her off and sensitively comforts her. Act 1, Scene 7 14
Act 1, Scene 7 Analysis Aside from adding more clues and/or evidence to the mystery (the horse picture, the word "Equus", the Bible references, the horse-and-rider-as-a god story), the essential purpose of this scene is to define relationships in the Strang family - the rivalry between Dora and Frank, their respective influences on Alan, and their somewhat surprising mutual vulnerability at the end of the scene. It's clear that the Strang household was filled with mixed messages, strong and evocative images and deep feelings, all of which form another piece to the increasingly complex puzzle Dysart is faced with.
Is it a coincidence that the name "Strang" is the word strange with the "e" (for equus? ) left off? Act 1, Scene 7 15 Act 1, Scenes 8, 9 and 10 Act 1, Scenes 8, 9 and 10 Summary These scenes dramatize key moments in Dysart's treatment of Alan and the history of Alan's relationship with horses. Scene 8 - Alan cries out in his sleep in exactly the way the nurse said he did, shouting "Eck! " over and over. Dysart comes into his room and watches him. Alan wakes. They study each other, and then Dysart goes out. Scene 9 - Alan comes in to Dysart's office.
Dysart apologizes for startling him the night before (Scene 8), asking whether he dreams often. Alan says he'll only answer if they can take turns asking and answering questions. Dysart agrees, on the condition that they always speak the truth. Alan agrees. In their first set of turns, Dysart reveals that he, too, has bad dreams. Alan claims that he can't remember his dream from before, or his first experience with a horse, or what "Eck" means. Dysart, fed up with him, tells him their session is over. Alan loses his temper and calls him a "swiz" (see Act 1 Scene 6 for a definition).
Dysart tells him again to go. Alan starts to leave, but then changes his mind and tells Dysart his first encounter with a horse took place on a beach. Scene 10 - As Alan tells the story of his encounter with the young horseman, it's also played out in action. Alan goes back and forth between telling the story and being in it. Dysart listens all the time, occasionally interjecting questions. Alan tells how he was on the beach building a sandcastle when a young horseman rode up and told him how good it was.
Alan is allowed to pet his horse, and then lifted up onto it (at this point the young horseman becomes the horse, with Alan riding on his shoulders). Alan rides with increasing joy until Frank and Dora appear, Frank ordering him off the horse and accusing the young horseman of being both irresponsible and dangerous. Act 1, Scenes 8, 9 and 10 16 He drags Alan off the horse, bruising him. Dora tends to him, as Frank and the young horseman argue. The young horseman speaks insultingly to Frank and rides off, spattering all the Strangs with water and sand.
Alan and Dora find this funny; but as they laugh, Frank loses his temper and goes. Alan and Dora fall silent, with Alan turning back to Dysart and explaining that ever since, he's never felt the inclination to get on a horse. He admits he thinks of that encounter often, but only because it's funny. He then challenges Dysart, as part of their back and forth game, to now tell him a secret. Dysart tells him that sometimes the people he works with are reluctant to talk. He gives them a little tape recorder to keep with them, so he doesn't have to talk to them directly, and they use that instead.
Alan says the idea is stupid, but takes the tape recorder anyway. Act 1, Scenes 8, 9 and 10 Analysis More pieces of the mystery puzzle appear in this scene. The encounter with the young horseman is clearly essential to Alan's story; but because he clearly doesn't reveal the whole truth of the experience, the audience is drawn further into the mystery in exactly the same way as Dysart. The drive for both audience and doctor to understand what's going on is becoming increasingly important.
Meanwhile, the confrontational nature of the Dysart/Alan relationship is played out more overtly in this scene, as Alan challenges Dysart directly and without compromise. Dysart, uncomfortable as he might be, answers the way he does because he's aware that this is one possible way, if not the only way, of finding out why Alan did what he did. Alan's challenging reference to him as a "swiz" (promising one thing but failing to deliver) also intensifies the pressure Dysart places on himself to, not only to do his job, but to justify his job.
From this point on he becomes increasingly desperate to prove to himself that he's not ripping the emotional guts out of his patient, and that his acceptance of the responsibility for treating them is both justified and necessary. His actions are a dramatization of one of the play's core themes, an examination of the nature of that sort of responsibility. Act 1, Scenes 8, 9 and 10 17 The scene between Alan and the young horseman takes the stylized, heightened realism of the play one step further. When the young horseman essentially becomes his own horse, it's more than an interesting visual and narrative technique.
It suggests that the play, the audience, the characters and the actors all inhabit a world of interpretation. Everything about Alan's experience depends on how he interprets the pictures he sees on his walls, the lectures he receives from his parents and the contacts he makes with horses. If Alan heals, it will be the result of how Dysart interprets Alan's stories, the stories of Alan's parents and his own intuitions. The audience's experience of the story will be determined by whether they're fully able to interpret the play's symbolic and stylistic language.
As the young horseman becomes his horse, as Alan becomes his beliefs, as the actor playing the young horseman also becomes Nugget and as Dysart becomes his own beliefs, the play's style embodies its meaning. Act 1, Scenes 8, 9 and 10 18 Act 1, Scenes 11, 12, 13 and 14 Act 1, Scenes 11, 12, 13 and 14 Summary These four scenes add new pieces to the mysterious puzzle of why Alan did what he did, and develop the core theme of personal responsibility. Scene 11 - Dora appears, offering a piece of information she says both she and Frank think might be important. She explains she can't stay long, because Frank will be home soon wanting his dinner.
The implication is that Frank doesn't know she's there. She tells Dysart that the picture of the horse (Act 1 Scene 7) was a replacement for a picture of Christ that Alan had bought. She says she found it extreme (Christ in chains bleeding heavily from the vicious Roman whipping he received before his Crucifixion). She didn't want to interfere with her child expressing his wishes, so she let Alan keep it. She concludes by saying that after she and Frank had one of their regular arguments about religion, he went upstairs and tore it off the wall, leaving Alan in tears that lasted several days. And he was not a crier," she says, adding that he was twelve years old at the time, and that he cheered up as soon as the picture of the horse was put in its place. She asks Dysart to give Alan her love. He says she can visit any time she wants, to which she responds that she'll come sometime without Frank. They don't get along too well these days. Dysart then asks for a description of the horse picture. She describes it as being taken from a strange angle, head on, so that the eyes are looking straight at the viewer. As she goes, Dysart tells the audience that it was at that moment that he first felt real alarm.
He then recounts how his next visitor was the owner of the stable where Alan worked, when he put out the horses' eyes. Scene 12 - As Dalton, the stable-owner, comes in, he tells Dysart that he thinks Alan should be in prison for what he did. he stresses how both he and Jill, the girl who works for him, have been traumatized. He tells how Jill introduced Alan to him and Act 1, Scenes 11, 12, 13 and 14 19 convinced him he should work there, going on to say that for most of the time he worked there Alan was an exemplary employee. The only thing that seemed unusual was that he didn't ever ride any of the horses.
He confesses that after he found out what Alan had done, he began to wonder whether he'd been secretly riding at night, and then grooming both the horses and their stalls to make it look as though he hadn't. Alan interjects a comment from the sidelines - "It was sexy. " This leads Dysart to tell the audience that Alan's first tape arrived that evening. Scene 13 - Dalton resumes his seat on the sidelines as Alan's tape begins. Dysart listens intently as Alan speaks at length about how riding the horse was a sensual experience, and how he heard the horse speak to him.
He stops before he tells Dysart what the horse said, talking instead about how horses became an obsession with him after that ride. He becomes increasingly upset, as he comments that horses are the freest animals and the most naked animal there can be. As the nurse comes to tell Dysart that Frank has come to see him, Alan mocks both his father and mother and then suddenly stops. He shouts that he's not going to make any more recordings. Scene 14 - Frank comes in, telling Dysart he was just passing, and asking him to keep secret what he's about to say.
After Dysart reassures him that everything said is confidential, Frank begins his story (as is the case throughout the play, as the story is told the actions are played out by the characters involved). He tells how one night, about eighteen months ago, he heard chanting coming from Alan's room. He looked in and saw Alan kneel before the picture on his wall, as he quotes paraphrases of prayers and stories from the Bible. One such paraphrase refers to "Equus, my only begotten son", a direct quote of a line from the Bible in which God refers to Christ.
As he plays out the scene, Alan speaks the word "Eck" repeatedly, and Dysart (apparently in response to Frank's story) suddenly understands the word Alan's been using in his nightmares. Meanwhile, Frank describes how Alan made himself a horse's bit and put it between his teeth. He then took a wooden spoon and beat himself, as a rider using a crop would beat a horse. He concludes by saying that he couldn't bear to watch any longer and left, never speaking to anyone about it. Frank starts to leave. Act 1, Scenes 11, 12, 13 and 14 20 Before he goes out, however, he gives Dysart one last piece of information.
On the night of the blinding of the horses, Alan was with a girl. When Dysart asks for details, Frank tells him to ask Alan. Act 1, Scenes 11, 12, 13 and 14 Analysis As well as introducing more pieces of the mystery puzzle (Dora's story of the strange stare of the horse in the photograph, the revelation of the potential relationship with Jill, the reference to the horse talking), this sequence of scenes starts to put all the pieces together. It's becoming clear that Alan somehow blended the image of the tortured Christ with the image of the horse, and that his mother's faith in Christ was a big factor in that blending.
This all led him into a relationship with living horses that he felt he had to conduct in secret. There are hints that this need for secrecy came from Alan's sexually charged response to the horses that, for whatever reason, he believes is shameful. In these hints can be found foreshadowing of the final moments of the act, in which Alan apparently reaches a spiritually heightened sexual ecstasy while riding. The previously discussed competition between Dora and Frank, which began over religious issues, seems to be evolving into a competition over who can blame the other more.
Neither of them actually comes out and says so, but the implication is clear. They each come to see Dysart alone, so the other doesn't have the chance to defend oneself. Furthermore, the story that each tells implies that the other traumatized Alan. This is a manifestation of the play's core theme relating to personal responsibility. Neither Frank nor Dora seems aware that they've contributed to the problem, and neither seems to be willing to consider the possibility. Later (Act 2 Scene 23), Dora comes right out and says what happened to Alan; and what Alan did is his responsibility alone.
In that moment her lack of responsibility contrasts with Dysart's over-developed sense of responsibility, suggesting that both extremes are wrong and that genuine, balanced health lies somewhere between. Therein is another aspect of the play's question. Where does responsibility for another leave off, and the other's responsibility begin? Act 1, Scenes 11, 12, 13 and 14 21 Act 1, Scenes 15, 16, 17 and 18 Act 1, Scenes 15, 16, 17 and 18 Summary In these four scenes, the competition between Dysart and Alan for both information and power deepens and intensifies. Scene 15 - Dysart welcomes Alan into his office and thanks him for the tape.
Alan says he's not making any more, and also denies he ever said the horse spoke to him (Scene 13). When Dysart asks who first took him to the stables (already knowing it was Jill) Alan evades the question, saying it was someone who he served at the small appliance shop where he worked. From the sidelines, other actors shout out comments and questions of angry customers Alan resentfully served. Their comments are full of references to particular brand names - Philco, Remington, etc. The entrance of Jill, who asks Alan if he can help her find any blades for horse clippers, interrupts the customers.
As they look, Jill tells him she recognizes him as the boy who always comes and looks through the stable gates. She asks whether he's looking for a job. When he finds out that there is a job for a weekend stable hand, Alan becomes very excited. Jill invites him to the stable on the weekend, and Alan tells Dysart that that was when he met Dalton. Scene 16 - As Alan moves benches into place and sets the scene for the stable, the actors playing horses rise from their places, ceremonially put on stylized horse's head masks, and take their positions.
Dalton heartedly greets Jill and Alan, as he removes a stone from the hoof of one of the horses with a (invisible) hoof pick. He tells Alan to watch Jill carefully and learn from her. He hands Alan the pick, and then goes out. Alan carefully puts it aside (foreshadowing his use of it later) and learns grooming techniques from Jill. She sees he's got a good feel for the horses, gives him permission to work on Nugget, and then goes out. Act 1, Scenes 15, 16, 17 and 18 22 Nugget (portrayed by the actor who portrayed the young horseman) is nervous at Alan's approach; but is soon calmed and allows Alan to groom him.
Alan is soon enraptured at being so near a horse, and seems to become sensually aroused, as he smells his hands after stroking Nugget. Dysart asks probingly from the sidelines how Alan felt, how he felt about Jill, and whether he ever took her out. Alan's temper explodes;, comparing the way Dysart is always asking questions to the way Frank does. Scene 17 - The action from the previous scene continues. Dysart apologizes and Alan ignores him, taking his turn in their back and forth game by asking impertinent questions about Dysart's wife. Dysart loses his temper and sends Alan back to his room.
Dysart berates himself for being manipulated, theorizing that ever since he told Alan about the dream, he's been waiting for a chance to use his vulnerability against him. This leads him into a conversation with Heather. Scene 18 Heather tells Dysart to stop worrying. Dysart comments that he and his wife don't understand each other; and Heather comments that they never seemed to get along. Dysart speaks at length about how they've got nothing in common. He'd love to travel to Greece with someone who, like him, values and appreciates what the Ancient Greeks said about how every living and non-living thing having a spirit.
Although Heather tries to leave, Dysart continues to talk, asking what he's supposed to be doing by treating Alan. She says he's supposed to be giving him a normal life, and he asks what normal really is. Her response is that it can't be defined; but they both know they know it when they see it. She reassures him that he's doing well, and they bid fond farewells. Act 1, Scenes 15, 16, 17 and 18 Analysis The parallel nature of Dysart's and Alan's individual journeys begins to become clear in this sequence of scenes.
Alan moves closer to the truth of his experience of horses and Dysart moves closer to the truth of his experience with his life. Do these parallels extend to the experiences themselves? Alan's relationship with horses is based on a Act 1, Scenes 15, 16, 17 and 18 23 misguided, confused interpretation of powerful influences from his parents. Dysart's experience with his life is based on a misguided, confused interpretation of the value of both his work and his 'hobby-ish' love of Ancient Greece.
So, yes, there are parallels in their actual experiences; and what's interesting to note is that they include, not only incidents in the past (the blinding of the horses, Dysart's marriage), but also the circumstances of the present. In the same way as Dysart is leading Alan to a deeper understanding of himself, Alan is leading Dysart to a true understanding of what Dysart thinks he already understands - the philosophy of Ancient Greece. As Dysart himself says later, Alan embodies the Ancient Greek belief in universal spirits, an understanding Dysart longs for.
This is perhaps why Dysart questions himself so deeply and painfully about what he's doing to Alan, and why Alan has had an experience of faith and utter worshipfulness that Dysart is so desperate to have had himself. How can it be right, he asks himself, to destroy that which he considers it a benefit to a full, genuinely lived life? Specific resonance and meanings, triggered by the play's narrative style, manifest themselves four different ways in this section. The first is the fact that the actor, who also portrayed the young horseman and his horse, portrays Nugget.
This creates for the audience a clear sense of identification and relationship between the two experiences. It is a sense that Dysart intellectually understands and Alan emotionally and spiritually understands, but has psychologically suppressed. A different resonance is triggered by the appearance of the horses, which in stage directions are described as wearing stylized masks. The fact that this is done, rather than by any attempt at realistic representation (such as the horses going on all fours), is a symbolic dramatization of how Alan himself didn't perceive the horses realistically.
The third level of meaning triggered by the play's theatricality is the appearance of the invisible hoof pick. Aside from foreshadowing its reappearance in Act 2 Scene 34, at which point it's used to blind the horses, the fact that it's invisible is a metaphor. It's a metaphor for the invisible, and still potentially dangerous, power of religious and sexual thoughts and beliefs, instilled in Alan by his mother and father respectively. Act 1, Scenes 15, 16, 17 and 18 24 The fourth level of meaning defined by the play's style is the dramatization of Alan's experience in the electronics shop.
The use of offstage actors' voices to portray the customers is an interesting way of illuminating how their nasty attitudes, and the brand names associated with those attitudes, entered into Alan's consciousness. In other words, the actors are heard but not seen, their communication existing solely in Alan's interpretation of what they mean. Here again, the play makes its thematically relevant point about the key role interpretation has in defining experience. Act 1, Scenes 15, 16, 17 and 18 25 Act 1, Scenes 19, 20 and 21
Act 1, Scenes 19, 20 and 21 Summary These three scenes build the action to its climax, in which Dalton's conviction that Alan has been riding the horses at night is confirmed in dramatic, chilling fashion. Scene 19 - Alan comes to Dysart's office for a therapy session. They apologize to each other, albeit in backhanded fashion, for their previous argument; and Dysart offers to play a new game. Alan says he doesn't want to, but Dysart convinces him to give it a try. Alan sits and Dysart begins to play his new game, "Blink". It soon becomes clear that Dysart is actually hypnotizing Alan.
When he's fully under, Dysart leads him (in memory) back to the scene at the beach, where Alan recounts his non-verbal conversation with the young horseman's horse. The horse refers to himself as being in chains. Dysart suggests the horse is like Jesus; and Alan enthusiastically agrees (this refers back to the picture of the tortured Christ Alan purchased, and which Frank tore down, in Act 1 Scene 11). Dysart suggests the horse's name isn't Jesus; and Alan says his name is Equus, agreeing when Dysart says Equus lives in all horses the same way that God is the spirit of humanity.
Alan goes on to say that when a human is riding Equus, they're one person (a reference to Dora's story in Act 1 Scene 7). Dysart then guides Alan into recalling how he learned to both groom and ride Equus (in the form of Nugget), saying that Equus didn't teach him - he had to learn on his own because that was "Straw Law", ride or fall. As Alan confesses that he stole a key to the stable and copied it, Dysart guides him into a memory of one of the nights when he rode. Scene 20 - The action here and in the next scene is narrated by Dysart and Alan, and also played out by Alan and other actors.
Alan takes Nugget out of his stall, ceremoniously puts the bit and bridle on him, saying he never uses a saddle, and leads him out of the stable. He says that when he and Nugget get to the field Nugget is reluctant to go in: "it's his place of Ha Ha". Dysart makes him make Nugget go in. Act 1, Scenes 19, 20 and 21 26 Scene 21 - Alan leads Nugget into the field, which he says is full of mist. He tells how he takes off all his clothes (miming it at this point - he's still under hypnosis), bows before Nugget/Equus (his god), and puts his "Man-bit" (a stick) into his mouth.
When Dysart asks why, he says that it's to keep "it" from happening too fast. It's not clear at this point what "it" is, but becomes clear later in the scene. Alan recounts how he gently and thoroughly strokes Nugget everywhere, becoming frightened for a moment by his staring eyes (a reference to the similarly staring eyes of the horse in the painting). After recovering, he offers Nugget a cube of sugar as his "Last Supper" before "Ha Ha". Alan quietly and reverently speaks the name "Equus" three times, and then runs and jumps on Nugget's back. Nugget is eager to run but Alan holds him back, calling him "Godslave".
Dysart gives him permission to let Nugget run. Stage directions describe how the other actors/horses work a turntable so it looks as though Alan and Nugget are riding. Alan describes himself as the "King", saying only the King can ride Equus. Together he and "Equus" ride out against all their foes, with Alan shouting out their names in the same way as the customers shouted them out in Act 1 Scene15 - Philco, Remington, etc. The turntable moves faster as Alan urges Nugget to move faster and faster. He shouts with more and more excitement that he's getting stiff (ie an erection), that his mane and flanks and hooves are stiff.
He wants to be IN Equus and ON Equus and WITH Equus. His shouting becomes more ecstatic as he cries out that they're becoming one person, One Person, ONE PERSON (again, a reference to Dora's story from Act 1 Scene 7)! He rises up, twisting and shouting HA HA HA HA HA - having his orgasm, reaching the place of "Ha Ha". The turntable slows as Alan slides off, kisses and strokes Nugget reverently, falls to the ground and, as the turntable stops, shouts out "AMEN! " The stage goes black. Act 1, Scenes 19, 20 and 21 Analysis Alan's ride on Nugget/Equus is the climax of the act.
This is a horrible pun, but because climax is another word for orgasm. It's unfortunately an inevitable one. The action of the earlier scenes in this section build a sense of momentum and movement toward this moment, as pieces of the mystery puzzle are put together, creating an Act 1, Scenes 19, 20 and 21 27 understanding of at least part of Alan's truth. His love of horses, his respect of them as sacred beings, has become inextricably bound together with the undeniably intense Christianity, instilled in him by his mother, and defined in the picture of the tortured Christ.
When Alan gives his and Equus' "foes" the names of the appliances shouted out by the customers, it makes the symbolic suggestion that Alan, in his triumphantly spiritual ride, is challenging the pettiness of the material world embodied in his job and by his parents. Meanwhile, his reasons for putting a bit in his mouth become clear later in the ride, at the moment he reaches "Ha Ha" (orgasm). This is what he didn't want to have happen "too fast". He wanted to control himself, at least to a point, and imagines he's doing so in the same way that a horse is controlled by the bit.
Another aspect of his experience that becomes clearly apparent is that in Alan's mind, his orgasm is the equivalent of Christ's resurrection. Both are moments of great joy and transcendent release following the Last Supper, or in the case of Alan and Nugget, the presentation of the sugar cube. As a result of this sequence of scenes, which is the emotional, spiritual and intellectual high point of the play so far, the intensity level of Alan's spiritual involvement with the horses is clear. One manifestation of that intensity (the sexual aspect of his beliefs) is very clear.
How that intensity led him to the point of blinding the horses, however, is still unknown. Developing and answering that particular mystery is at the core of the action of Act 2. The various symbolic meanings of the various stages of Alan's spiritual and physical orgasm are charted as they occur in the Summary. What's not commented on is the relationship between Dysart's actions and Alan's. Here, and in the climax of Act 2 (in which Alan recalls the night of the blinding), Dysart leads Alan's memory like a rider leads a horse.
He has Alan's memory by the (metaphorical) reins, as he guides him into the past and into the truth. The irony, of course, is that Alan is also leading Dysart by similarly metaphorical reins into a basic questioning of his beliefs, fears, and doubts. Act 1, Scenes 19, 20 and 21 28 Act 2, Scenes 22, 23, 24 and 25 Act 2, Scenes 22, 23, 24 and 25 Summary This section examines the aftermath of Alan's hypnosis session and its effect on Dysart. Scene 22 - This scene, the beginning of Act 2, opens with the same line as Act 1 "With one particular horse, called Nugget, he embraces. Dysart recounts Alan's poetic description of Nugget, comparing his (Nugget's) grace to that of a ballet dancer. He then tells how Alan is now in bed and asleep, leaving him (Dysart) alone with Alan's evocation of the Equus image. He describes the image as challenging him to explain and interpret it, adding that doubts the image gives rise to are the doubts he's had in himself and his work all along. His musings are interrupted by the nurse, shouting that Alan and Dora are fighting. Dysart rushes over to them, as Dora is shouting to Alan that his angry stares don't work on her.
Dysart tells her to leave, and she goes into his office. Scene 23 - The action is continues as Dysart joins Dora in his office and tells her to not come to see Alan any more, since her presence upsets him. Dora's temper explodes as she asks what she's supposed to do about how upset Alan makes her. She speaks at angry length about how tormented she is by what happened, how she and Frank both ask themselves what they did or could have done differently. She reiterates that what happened to Alan is the result of Alan alone, not of what she or Frank did or didn't do.
She concludes by suggesting that even though Dysart probably doesn't believe in the Devil, she does. She describes Alan as her loving little boy until the Devil came into him. Scene 24 - After Dora goes, Dysart goes to Alan, telling him he told her nothing about what Alan said under hypnosis. Alan says everything he said was all lies anyway, implying that what he said was in order to get back at Dysart for playing the "Blink" Act 2, Scenes 22, 23, 24 and 25 29 game, which he describes as a trick.

Warning! This essay is not original. Get 100% unique essay within 45 seconds!


We can write your paper just for 11.99$

i want to copy...

This essay has been submitted by a student and contain not unique content

People also read