Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Equus” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.94  ·  Rating details ·  18,616 ratings  ·  646 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)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
Hamlet by William ShakespeareMacbeth by William ShakespeareThe Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar WildeRomeo and Juliet by William ShakespeareWaiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
Best Plays Ever
787 books — 1,173 voters
Hamlet by William ShakespeareMacbeth by William ShakespeareThe Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar WildeRomeo and Juliet by William ShakespeareThe Crucible by Arthur  Miller
Best Play Ever
487 books — 517 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.94  · 
Rating details
 ·  18,616 ratings  ·  646 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Equus
Jun 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
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
This is messed up. This is SERIOUSLY messed up... and I loved it for it.
Monika Sadowski
Jul 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
That was actually very interesting read. I would like to see this play on the stage one day.
Nandakishore Varma
Sep 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: play
This is one of the most terrific plays I have read. I first saw the movie version, which I enjoyed - but reading the play, I think the stage version would be infinitely better. I would love to see it performed one day.

A boy commits a bizarre act of random cruelty. The play is an exploration of the "why". As the psychoanalysis unfolds, we are not sure whether the patient is getting cured or the doctor is getting sick.
Apr 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays
Shaffer starts the play by offering the readers and audiences alike, a character to dislike - even hate. As the play progresses, the psychologist takes the audience into the minds of the troubled young teen who blinded six horses. Very early on the psychologist makes a note of Alan's reciprocity during his sessions; the unabashed effort being covert or being blatantly verbally abusive to his doctor only showed the extent of devolution of his mind. Alan's mind warps God, horses, religion and its ...more
Cody Sexton
Oct 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A child is born into a world of phenomena all equal in their power to enslave and since Dysart can’t account for this power he is forced to question his whole profession, even his whole existence.
Shaffer was inspired to write Equus when he first became aware of a crime involving a 17-year-old boy who blinded six horses in a small town near Suffolk. He then set out to construct a fictional account of what might have caused the incident, without knowing any of the details of the crime. The charact
Ryan Chapman
Mar 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Jan 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: uk-irish, plays
I hardly ever read plays; I know little about drama, and even less about its technicalities. So I wasn't supposed to ever come across this 1973 pièce by P. Shaffer, an author I had never heard about.
That cover though... it's gorgeous, isn't it? And the Latin one-word title that kept echoing in my mind. And, yes, the price (1.17 € for the Penguin edition).
Well, I wasn't disappointed at all.

The subject is loosely based on a true act of violence that took place somewhere in England - a teenage b
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
all of my favorite topics explored in a really uncomfortable way, huge fan
Nelma Gray
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
I really don't appreciate the idea of a know it all psychologist. Descriptions are too explicit, too much monologue and little space left for contemplation. ...more
Bookish Dervish
Mar 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was given this play by a dear friend of mine. Once I set 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
Bryan--Pumpkin Connoisseur
Equus is the dramatization of a psychologically damaged young man, Alan, who, for no known reason, blinded six horses with a hoof pick at the stables he worked at. The action takes place after the event in the hospital which the courts have remanded Alan, and while the crime is central to the play, the play revolves around the character of the psychiatrist, Dysart, who is tasked with 'curing' the boy.

Those who have a wider background in such things are probably well aware of this play--it won a
Adam Floridia
Mar 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-star-books
On re-reading 12/10/18: Been teaching it for years now, but haven't actually read it cover-to-cover in a while (2016, it seems). Anyway, I finally decided to read the copy that the students buy and update page numbers in questions and stuff. Just gotta say, play is still amazing! I'd love to see it performed.

On re-reading 3/20/16: I've re-read this numerous times since my junior year of high school; however, the last time was probably about a decade ago. Now, in revising my ENG 102 class and rea
George K. Ilsley
Jan 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, play
This is a play I read when an actor friend landed the role of the deranged youth ( hint — friend’s name is not Daniel Radcliffe).
The play is powerful and disturbing. Like all works of art it is multifaceted. I didn’t see my friend’s production, but I know he enjoyed cavorting with the horses — strapping young men in masks. The play lends itself to many readings, and homoerotic horses, unspoken of course, is just one of them.
William Gwynne
Jun 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: drama
This was incredible to watch live last year, and holds its own as a script as well. A disturbing plot that focuses around the psychology of a young man's actions. The relationship between Alan and Dysart is fascinating to read and so intricately woven that everything comes together perfectly at the end. ...more
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 ...more
BAM Endlessly Booked
Jun 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, plays
I became interested in this play years ago when I heard Daniel Radcliffe was starring in it, but I never got around to reading it. Recently I found it at a charity book sale and snapped it up. I was not disappointed. The antagonist's relationship with his horse and his twisted sexuality lead the reader down a trail of serious personal interpretation. ...more
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
This hit all the beats for me: psychology, religiosity, philosophy, bizarre (and deeply unsexy) sex stuff, and horses. As a former "horse girl," I can agree that horse girls are a strange breed. Horse boys though? Whoaaaa, Nelly. 🚫 ...more
Mar 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Devastating. Compelling. A must read.
I'm counting this book for the OWLs Readathon for my Care of Magical Creatures class. This is my 6th completed OWLs class. ...more
Victoria Chung
May 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Okay. I respect this book a Lot a Lot.
Sep 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
"Can you think of anything worse one can do to anybody than take away their worship?" (93)

Okay, lets blame Albee's outrageous and overtly homosexual/incestual/ultratabooistic THE GOAT; or who is Sylvia? for my less than ***** impression of something I can only imagine to be a gothic and dark work of art, on stage. Shaffer even does an almost apology (which is absolutely what Tony winning dramatists do, or should) about disparities between page and stage.

What exists there, though, is taught, and
Jul 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Third time I've read this. A brilliant play, and one of my personal favourites. I'd pay a lot of money to see this play. ...more
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
Jan 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shaffer's great play of psychological suspense.

A teenage boy, caught between a religious mother and an atheist father, suffers from a unique delusion that causes him to commit a shocking act. The task of discovering why falls to a middle aged psychiatrist who is dealing with his own midlife issues.

The answer to the boy's mystery slowly unfolds during probing psychoanalysis and reenactment of key events. Actors portray six horses, who act as a (very) Greek chorus and as objects of the boy's delus
Althea J.
Dec 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 29, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Someone once told me that they thought Equus was outdated. Now that I've read/experienced the play myself, I think they were wrong in saying so. The themes of blame, religion, pain, and normality found within this play all ring true still to this day. I think the person who said this to me perhaps forgot what life was like as an adolescent and doesn't do good with the sadness that comes with nostalgia. It's all there in everyday life. You just have to be aware of it. ...more
Miriam Sanchez
Dec 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Interesting, disturbing and devastating! I rather enjoyed this play and find myself, in the end, a little heart broken. Great, quick read!
Max Abramson
I’m usually one for weirdness. I usually think it’s funny and clever and even wall-shattering. We shatter walls of normalcy to build back up a broader, wider definition of what is normal. But this was too much for me. I liked a lot of the philosophical debate that Dysart had with himself but I feel like that just never got resolved and was also hard to focus on because of all of the batshit crazy stuff that was going on. I could only read the book in like 8 page spurts at a time. I just wasn’t w ...more
Jevron McCrory
Aug 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
I actually wrote an essay on this play as a favour to a girlfriend years ago. It was part of her A Level coursework and she'd forgotten all about it!

I had to read the play and write the essay in one night. Got a A- for it - or whatever the marking was back then. Not bad for one night's work!

From what I remember, I absorbed this material effortlessly, as you always do with great writing. It was dark and shocking and played right into my wheelhouse. I seemed to get the metaphors fairly fast and th
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Granger AP Reads: 4B Equus 4 12 Jan 09, 2020 11:30AM  
Granger AP Reads: 1B Equus 4 13 Jan 06, 2020 04:09PM  
Goodreads Librari...: Please Add Edition of Book 2 13 Mar 11, 2017 02:03PM  
Does Alan want to have sex with Jill? 5 52 Mar 20, 2012 12:36PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Saved
  • The Dumb Waiter
  • Top Girls
  • The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?
  • Chatterton
  • Philadelphia, Here I Come!
  • The Birthday Party
  • The Pillowman
  • The Powerbook
  • Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
  • The Zoo Story
  • Cloud 9
  • Buried Child
  • Machinal
  • Look Back in Anger
  • Blithe Spirit
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
  • The Homecoming
See similar books…
Sir Peter Levin Shaffer was an English dramatist, author of numerous award-winning plays, several of which have been filmed.

See also

Related Articles

  Speaking with Adam Grant feels like having your brain sandblasted, in a pleasant sort of way. As an author, professor, and psychologist,...
70 likes · 1 comments
7 trivia questions
2 quizzes
More quizzes & trivia...
“Passion, you see, can be destroyed by a doctor. It cannot be created.” 38 likes
“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!” 32 likes
More quotes…