What Do I Read Next?
Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 358
Amadeus, often regarded as Shaffer’s greatest dramatic achievement. The 1979 play is a probing exploration of the human psyche, centering on the court composer Antonio Salieri and his jealousy for fellow composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who is portrayed as a vulgar, self-centered musical genius. The play won the 1980 Antoinette (Tony) Perry Award. In 1984, the film adaptation won Academy Awards for best picture and best screenplay adaptation, which Shaffer composed from his original text.
The Royal Hunt of the Sun, a 1964 play which secured Shaffer’s reputation as an accomplished dramatist. The play—which creatively blends ritual, dance, music, and drama—reenacts the sixteenth-century Spanish conquest of the Incan empire. Like Equus and Amadeus, this play employs two opposing central characters to create not only dramatic tension but also a philosophical dialectic on central themes.
One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey (Viking, 1962). Set in a mental institution and told through from the perspective of Chief Bromden, a Native American patient, Kesey’s book was adapted for the stage and made into one of the most successful films of all time. The novel depicts the struggle between the wild and free-spirited Randal McMurphy and the autocratic Nurse Ratched, offering an unqualified criticism of the treatment of individuals at the hands of the psychiatric institution.
The Butcher Boy, by Patrick McCabe (Fromm, 1993). This novel (recently adapted into a film by Neil Jordan) explores the descent into madness of a boy who has experienced a harsh upbringing in a small Irish town. Like Alan in Equus, Francie Brady inhabits a world largely of his own imagination. Francie’s growing antagonism toward the society around him culminates with an act of startling violence.
The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundations of a Theory of Personal Conduct by Thomas Szasz, M.D. (revised edition, Harper Row, 1974). Szasz is the author of dozens of iconoclastic books challenging the fundamental principles of the psychiatric industry. In this ground breaking work, he argues that human behavior has reasons rather than causes, dissects what he views as flaws in the medical model of mental illness, and challenges the notion of psychiatrists as benefi- cent healers.