Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Drama)

Although Equus ends with Dysart believing that he can make Alan normal, he also paradoxically believes that to be normal is to be spiritually dead, unoriginal, and homogeneously predictable. This latter belief is a source of great tension in the play, and Dysart’s struggle between his personal conviction and his professional duty allows Peter Shaffer to explore his central concern: the ways human life is shaped by spiritual belief, as well as the extent to which it can or should be shaped by such belief. Indeed, Dysart’s life becomes profoundly complicated when, in the process of uncovering the reasons Alan blinded the horses, he discovers that he envies Alan’s passion and religious fervor.

At the play’s beginning, Dysart tells the audience that he is “reined up in old language and old assumptions, straining to jump clean-hoofed on to a whole new track of being I only suspect is there.” He doubts the worth of what he does professionally (he is experiencing, he says, “professional menopause”), and he leads a boring life without passion or spiritual engagement of any kind. His longstanding and childless marriage to a dentist is one of mutual convenience and a shared domicile. His wife finds “repulsive” his abiding interest in ancient Greece, its art and religion, and he wishes he had one “instinctive, absolutely unbrisk person” with whom he could share Greece and “stand in front of certain shrines and sacred streams and...

(The entire section is 518 words.)


(Drama for Students)

There is an ethical ambiguity explored in Equus, the conflict between two ideas of right. The freedom...

(The entire section is 1122 words.)