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Equus

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  12,520 ratings  ·  384 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 112 pages
Published October 2nd 1984 by Penguin Books (first published 1973)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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stephanie
i am a little sad that the play was recast with daniel radcliffe, as i feel that everyone now associates this brilliant, brilliant work with naked harry potter and a horse.

this is so much more than that. this is one of the greatest works of drama (and psychology) i think ever written. we read this my senior year of high school, in my ap lit course, with mr. hackling (one of my favorite teachers ever). and we read it in conjunction with our philosophy of religion course, so that we had four-time
...more
Ryan Chapman
Apr 23, 2007 Ryan Chapman rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: nonfiction
I don't care if it took Harry Potter to disrobe for people to finally see this masterwork. This is without a doubt my favorite play from one of my favorite playwrights. Like most great works, it conflates several dichotomies without leaning too heavily on any of them. Adolescene v. adulthood? Check. Urban v. Rural? Check. Rationalism v. Romanticism? Check. A teenage boy blinding six horses in a fit of psychosexual mania? Check.

There's whispers the London production's coming stateside. If so, I
...more
Granadian Knight
I was given this play by a dear friend of mine. Once I sat sail through its pages, I got addicted to it. Now it's 6:00 AM and I have been reading it all through the night. What I like most about it is that it is psychological. The plot is well built. I also like the part where Alan and Dysart mutually investigate the matter of each other's dreams to find out that it was the shrink's dream is more related to illnesses the dream being the doctor practicing the ritual of sacrificing hundreds of chi ...more
Ali
(Very minor spoilers). I love works that try to make you sympathize with the villain, rather than making them out to be barely human monsters, as so many books and movies tend to do. I can't help but think it's mostly laziness on the part of the creators. It's easier to create someone who, as the main character in Peter Shaffer's play, hurts animals in a fit of insanity and leave it at that, letting the audience mindlessly hate him, than it is to create a villain and really dig into his motives, ...more
Baiocco
Is it even possible to discuss Equus anymore without considering Harry Potter's wang? Were there conversations that existed about this strange, psychological, pre Law and Order play that didn't include a nude Daniel Radcliffe and horses? I never even saw the play but it was impossible to walk down a city block on the west side of Manhatten without seeing posters of that hilarious extra from the show "Extras" staring blankly at any passerby, arms outstretched christ-on-a-cross-like with his lower ...more
Leigh
Trust me: it's not just that play about Harry Potter getting (a) naked and (b) it on with a horse. It's about the construction of God and meaning in the modern waste land; and perhaps even more compellingly, about the moral dilemma of a therapist who has to convince his patient to abandon all escape routes and return to the waste land. (In that sense, it reminds me a great deal of Pat Barker's Regeneration .) It's a play of ideas, basically, only thinly veiled by its outrageous subject matter. P ...more
Alejandra
This play is not something I would usually read for fun but I also do not regret reading it because even though it was unusual it gave me a new perspective by the different ideas of all the characters. Something that I disagreed with was the part where Alan's mom was telling Dysart that it was not the parents fault of the their children being the way they are because I believe parents do have a huge impact in a children's life and sometimes it is their fault because in this case Dora kept puttin ...more
Kate
Jun 19, 2014 Kate rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kate by: Eric Kibler
Shelves: 2014-books
When I tried to read more short stories last year, I failed miserably as I really dislike the genre. I decided to try to read more drama as I enjoyed it in high school and took a Shakespeare and another drama course in college and since then had read none. For my summer BOTNS Bingo Challenge, I got the square that said "A play". Many thanks to Eric Kibler who recommended a handful of his favorites, Equus among them. I had never seen it performed and knew t was about horses. Written in 1973, it i ...more
Jenny
I really enjoyed Amadeus, so I decided to read this as well. At first, I wasn't sure where Shaffer was going, what point he was making. Alan is a a seventeen-year-old boy in a mental hospital because he stabbed six horses in the eyes with a metal pick. Dysart is Alan's doctor, and he wants to help Alan as well as understand him. He wants to know why he did it, why people do things like that, and why he has to "fix them."
Shaffer does an excellent job of characterizing Alan and Dysart before he r
...more
Lizzie
This play has sat on my shelf for eight years after getting it for a dollar at a theater flea market. (It's a Samuel French edition, but from London; the size is all wrong and the paper is all funny.) It seemed like a good idea at the time, since coming out of high school I self-educated myself in playwriting by simply reading every play I'd heard of. Heard of this one! But then I just sat there with it. A couple Saturdays ago I pulled it down to read. The play is getting a lot of press right no ...more
Denise
In a play including a character as complex as Alan Strang, who is sucking the cream off of a horse’s neck in one moment, and blinding six with a metal spike in the next, Peter Shaffer makes it an adventure for his readers to focus on the meat of his play. Equus, based on an actual crime that occurred in London, follows the psychoanalysis of a deranged youth who commits a heinous act against six horses, but it is the revelations of his psychiatrist, Dr. Martin Dysart, that emanate the play’s true ...more
Althea J.
Wow, so much to think about.
What do you choose, passionless sanity or ecstasy-filled worship and obsession?

I wish I could've seen Daniel Radcliffe in this play. I pictured him as Alan as I read it but I bet his performance was phenomenal.

And how ironic that he starred in this play at the height of the Harry Potter fandom. Mr. Radcliffe could probably tell you all about what passionate worship looks like from the perspective of the horse.
Laura
maybe 2.5??? idk i need to think on it but first impression lmAO i've had this book since hs and for the fricking life of me the only reason i'da pick this up is bc of daniel radcliffe and i just... man. i couldn't stop laughiHGN like i took it kinda srsly but mostly.. i just kept thinking 'he wants to sex a horse' and stared into space. ... obvs i'm starting to think plays aren't for me
Ian Johnston
An amazing play by an exceptional playwright. I'm into reading plays so I understand they are not for everyone, but Equus might be worth your time even if you don't generally read plays. Shaffer describes in enough detail the atmosphere his play is meant to evoke, and like most good plays it's all in the dialogue. The play is about a psychologist named Dysart who has been tasked with "curing" Alan Strang, a young man with a religious obsession with horses. Of course, there is more to the play th ...more
Jim
Back in the 70s I saw the Sidney Lumet film version of this play and was bowled over by Richard Burton and Peter Firth. As I remember, the audience stumbled out of the theatre in stunned silence. (And yes, at that point, the full frontal nudity was shocking: it worked exactly as Shaffer hoped it would, I'd guess.)

Recently I decided to read the script, which is sparer than the film. Thirty years later the play's tortured psychological revelations do feel a bit dated, but Equus is still a solid pi
...more
Fati
Facinating, I couldn't put it down. I enjoyed the psychological game of who's curing who. It is a play that makes you dig deeper into your own self. Allan has been able to explore the MARVELLOUS and create his own world of fantacy, worshiping his own God "Equus".
I feel thrilled and speechless because this play had a great impact on me. Altough its perversity It's just awsome. It will take you elsewhere.
Peter Kolesnikov
Peter Shaffer can do no wrong. Equus, Royal Hunt of the Sun and Amadeus...all great reads. Equus is disturbing in a way the other two plays aren't: budding sexuality crossed with an unhealthy fear of God, horses' eyes, but most importantly the therapist's belief that the adjusted existence to which he is supposed to return his patients is a barren and empty one. Favorite quote: "My desire might be to make this boy an ardent husband - a caring citizen - a worshipper of abstract and unifying God. ...more
Wayne Crich
A surprisingly good play, worth checking out if you have not read it or worth a re read if you have.
Luke
This is surely an intriguing story and the staging and structure was inventive. There are several big ideas woven into this compact piece. I read it in about an hour and half.
Many people seem to think that this book deals with the way modern society has dulled our capacity for awe and worship. The psychiatrist in the book even comes to envy the horse-worshipping patient because he hasn't lost his capacity for his adoration. This, I cannot go along with. Even just within the context of the book,
...more
Dan
A brilliant parable about how the modern, Apolloian, post-Christianity society is destroying humanity's natural Dionysian impulses.
Nicole
Mar 13, 2007 Nicole rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Open-Minded Play lovers
Shelves: drama
This is a great play if you enjoy being just a bit disturbed. The action centers around a doctor who is treating a mentally ill teenage boy who is believed to have done some nasty things to some horses. This play should really be seen in performance in addition to reading the script, but isn't that always the case? Reading and seeing this play takes theatrical balls, so don't approach if you don't have them.
Bonnie Fazio
Odd that I recorded this as having been read in 1975. When I was pregnant with our first son in late 1977*, I remember my obstetrician telling me he and his wife saw Equus onstage (maybe in Portland -- not sure).

He told me that his wife said to him, during the naked parts of the play, "Dear, it's just like work." That was my favorite thing about that particular OB-GYN. For unrelated reasons, I am so glad he didn't deliver my baby!

*How did I even know about this play in 1975? Maybe I was more wit
...more
Andy
Jul 17, 2008 Andy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: horse players
Shelves: kool-imports
Nightmarish play about a disturbed 17-year old stable boy who's awful with the girls but loves the horses more. He ends up racing about naked in the middle of the night and blinds the horses. Homo-eroticism blends in with angry punk energy UK style to create a play both sexy and horrifying.
Adam Floridia
This was the first book that made me truly appreciate literature. I always thought that symbolism and deeper meaning was a load of crap; this play changed my opinion. It deals with discovering one's true PASSION in life, which is, perhaps, the most important thing there is.
Louisa Talipski
Wow! I haven't read a play since college but I'm really glad I read this. Now that I have, I can't help thinking that Daniel Radcliffe was horribly miscast as the main character.
Jennifer Lauren Collins
Brilliant and clever, Shaffer's play revolves around a give-and-take of innocence and violence, belief and insecurity. Even though the play is obviously meant to be seen on the stage, it comes across nearly as smartly on the page as the characters spiral forward. Few characters make for an easy reading experience, and the abstract nature of the effects--when you take the time to imagine them as originally created and directed--may be nearly as powerful as Shaffer envisioned them if given real at ...more
Christopher
Peter Shaffer's 1972 play Equus is an original and often shocking portrayal of the relationship between Martin Dysart, a child psychiatrist, and Alan Strang, a young man who has blinded six horses with a spike. Shaffer's striking message is that modern technology and convenience has weakened Man by removing his capacity for worship and his understanding of pain. The playwright has given Dysart the hobby of archeology of ancient Greece, a time when people saw the hand of the gods in everything, a ...more
Juliet-Camille
Ostensibly the story of a doctor-patient relationship, Equus is just as limited by the therapist's suite as is Casablanca limited by the walls of Rick's Cafe.

The genuis of Shaffer is that he manages to create characters so indelible and unforgettable that they leap out of the read page just as much or more as they do out of the performed page. Put another way, even without Burton in the cinema or Hopkins on Broadway, his Dr. Dysart connects with you. You can easily find yourself joining Dysart
...more
Kaethe
In the latter half of the 20th century, talk therapy was viewed as a kind of treatment for mental illness. Despite the fact that it isn't at all effective in treating psychosis, and is rarely effective in lessening symptoms of other mental illnesses, writers seized upon the idea of that dramatic breakthrough moment. In this play Shaffer asks what would make a young man do something so heinous as blinding horses, and decides that it's a fair cop, but society is to blame, because culture is trivia ...more
cras culture
really really weird and wonderful. unfortunately, in the end it all makes so much sense.
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Does Alan want to have sex with Jill? 5 39 Mar 20, 2012 12:36PM  
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Sir Peter Levin Shaffer is an English dramatist, author of numerous award-winning plays, several of which have been filmed.

See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Sh...
More about Peter Shaffer...
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“He'll be delivered from madness. What then? He'll feel himself acceptable! What then? Do you think feelings like his can be simply re-attached, like plasters? Stuck on to other objects we select? Look at him! ... My desire might be to make this boy an ardent husband - a caring citizen - a worshipper of abstract and unifying God. My achievement, however, is more likely to make a ghost!” 20 likes
“Passion, you see, can be destroyed by a doctor. It cannot be created.” 16 likes
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