Front Cover
Avon Books, 1975 - Drama - 125 pages
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 playwright created an atmosphere and situation that so harshly pinpoint the spiritual and mental decay of modern man.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - noonaut - LibraryThing

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 ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - varwenea - LibraryThing

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 ... Read full review


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About the author (1975)

The psychiatrist Dysart and the composer Salieri, the protagonists of Shaffer's most successful plays, are overcivilized men, each faced with a figure of tormented inspiration---the horse mutilator Strang and the simpering and sublime Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (see Vol. 3). The envy felt by the cultivated and repressed for a mind capable of confronting its own demons (and angels) is a subject that runs back through Shaffer's earlier pairings of liberal and reactionary in Shrivings (1970), of conquistador and Inca in The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1964). It may even be traceable, in some way, to Shaffer's own equivocal position in the British drama. Shaffer burst into public attention at the very moment the new drama found its voice---Five Finger Exercise won him a citation as the most promising British playwright in 1958, the same year that Harold Pinter and Arnold Wesker had their first London productions. Yet from the start, Shaffer was chided for the impersonality---the overconstructed and underinspired quality---of his playwrighting. (Five Finger Exercise was, as its title suggests, an essay in traditional domestic melodrama.) Director John Dexter made heroic efforts to enrich the texture of The Royal Hunt of the Sun with ritual, mime, and music in a grand National Theatre production. He was more successful in Equus (1973), in which he brought some of the audience onstage and placed horse-head masks on actors. But Dexter's near-collaborative efforts, and the extensive rewriting that marked Peter Hall's production of Amadeus (1980), suggest that Shaffer, despite his successes, is too reticent for the overheated contemporary stage, a Salieri clever enough to acknowledge his own exclusion. Born in Liverpool, Shaffer spent three years working in coal mines before entering Cambridge University, and several more employed by a music publisher and the New York Public Library. The twin of playwright Anthony Shaffer (Sleuth, 1970), he has also written detective novels and music criticism.

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