A 17 year-old boy, Alan, is brought to a psychiatric hospital because he has blinded several horses with a hoof pick. A psychiatrist, Dysart, works to "normalize" the boy, all the while feeling that though he makes the boy 'safe' for society, he is taking away from him his worship and sexual vitality--both of which are missing in the doctor's own personal life. He actually envies Alan the sexual worship he has experienced.

In spite of his own hang-ups, though, the doctor does help the boy work through his obsession, which identifies the horse Equus with God. But the doctor comments that "when Equus leaves--if he leaves at all--it will be with your intestines in his teeth. . . . I'll give him [Alan] the good Normal world . . . and give him Normal places for his ecstasy. . . Passion, you see, can be destroyed by a doctor. It cannot be created."


This play explores questions about what is Normal and to what extent society will go to normalize people (or to lock them away somewhere if they can't be normalized). The role of the psychiatrist in this process both challenges and depresses Dr. Dysart, who hates the losses such normalization necessarily requires, and finds himself envying the passionate obsessions of his patient. The play is built wonderfully around symbolic use of masks and staging. The film version, on the other hand, is brutally realistic.


Equus won the Tony, Outer Critics Circle, and NY Drama Critics Awards for best play.



Place Published

New York



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