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Equus Paperback – October 1, 2005

33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Remarkable...a psychiatric detective story of infinite skill."
-- Walter Kerr, The New York Times

About the Author

One of the foremost playwrights of our time, Peter Shaffer has had seven plays produced on Broadway. He has won every major dramatic award as well as an Academy Award for the screenplay adaptation of his play Amadeus.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (October 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743287304
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743287302
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,521 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Lyra Silvertongue on September 18, 2012
Format: Paperback
I'm going to be honest. For a while I thought the only reason this play was popular was because it was "the one where Daniel Radcliffe gets naked." As crazy it sounds, actually opening a book can make you feel a lot differently about it, and I certainly did after reading Peter Shaffer's Equus. Is it there still a boy who rides horses nude? Absolutely. But it's not what you might have heard. This isn't a play about sex, so much as it is intimacy.

At the heart of this story is Alan Strang, a disturbed young man whose obsession with horses has caused him to commit a horrible act of violence: the blinding of six horses in the stable where he works. Treating him is psychiatrist Martin Dysart, who, as we watch him interact with Alan, his parents, and those in the community, works to make sense of the events leading up to the act, and the mystery of why someone would do such a thing. As he does, he finds himself submerging deeper and deeper into the world not of a violent, crazy person, but a boy capable of great compassion and warmth; a boy who's problem we soon realize is not solely in his head, but also in the discord he feels between the detached feelings everyone else has toward horses and the intense tenderness he feels toward them.

In another life, Shaffer could have easily rocked the detective fiction genre. It's not every day someone can take a heady physiatrist narrative and turn it into a suspenseful psychodrama. Using flashback, hypnosis, and re-enactment, Shaffer is able to show us how the process of unraveling the mystery of another person can be just as thrilling and intense as solving a who-done-it.

At the same time, this isn't just a story about a strange act of violence.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 16, 2010
Format: Paperback
I was introduced to the title Equus when my high school's winterline played the "Equus Song". The music had a constant tempo with complex and driving rhythms, and a suspenseful melody. The book Equus, written by Peter Shaffer, matched the flow of th music with heavy foreshadowing in the beginning of the book, quickly coming to a climax.

This play was written in the 19720s, inspired by a true story. It was set in a small town, a town where everyone seems to know each other, and "downtown" was only a couple blocks away. The innocent setting soon gives way the the cruel events that are about to take place. The cruelty of Alan's actions is beyond the comprehension of many people in this unsuspecting town. Dalton, the owner of the stables, the place of Alan's crime, asks "Look...why would anyone do that?"

The play opens with a teenage boy stroking a horse, and a psychiatrist, Dysart, observing him. As Dysart watches the boy, his observations quickly turn into questions, which is Dysart's way of expressing his bewilderment at the workings of mankind. Shaffer skillfully integrates this case study with themes related to the dysfunction and cruelty of mankind when it is pushed past its tolerance level for sanity. The play proceeds through the investigation of Alan's crime through interviews and personal narratives. The suspense begins to increase as Alan tells more of his story. Suddenly, Alan breaks and tells Dysart everything. He tells the events of that night in detail, leaving the audience in shock at his sudden snap and stunned into silence at Alan's story. After telling his story, Alan throws a fit, and has to be calmed down by Dysart. At the very end, Dysart is asked to "heal" Alan.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By John Becker on February 12, 2010
Format: Paperback
Peter Schaffer has successfully captured what goes on behind closed doors between physiatrist and patient for both reader and audience in his play Equus. Developing a storyline around this relationship definitely provides for an interesting experience that the mentally stable wonder about but can never truly understand until they are in need of their own doctor. The fact that Equus is a play adds an extra twist because the reader does not have access to the thoughts of the patient or doctor but rather must imagine how the characters are feeling and thinking. This can produce frighteningly brilliant results for now the reader too is forced to evaluate their own mind based on their interpretation and reaction to the horrific acts that Alan, a young stable-hand and who is the patient, commits as well as the reaction that the doctor, Dsyart, has to Alan's actions and the conclusions about Dysart's own life he draws from them. I found myself asking, Is it okay that I understand why Alan gorged the eyes out of six horses with a steel hoof pick? Why am I not bothered by this gruesome act? These questions are what I think Schaffer was trying to achieve. He was successful in allowing me to understand the mind of a mentally ill patient. He explained enough in the story, gave me enough about poor Alan to be able to understand why he did what he did. He made the actions of a psychopath make sense to a relatively sane person and that is what is frighteningly brilliant.
For anybody interested in this play I would suggest to read it first and then see the production. Having a personal response and relationship with the characters before allowing other people to portray their interpretation I think will render the best results and achieve what Shaffer was getting at.
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