The action takes place in 1968 at the offices and laboratories of a large pharmaceutical company. Dr. Michael Daly is replicating a series of psychological experiments purportedly designed to enhance the efficiency of learning. In these experiments the actual subjects are asked to inflict electric shocks on mock "subjects" who fail to give correct answers to mathematical problems.

The mock "subject" is ostensibly wired to an electric chair. In fact, she is really an actress pretending to be in pain. Even though she cries out in agony every time she makes a mistake, the actual subject--an ordinary person, who is just following instructions--pulls a switch that (he believes) gives her a progressively higher jolt of electricity.

The subjects almost invariably follow the evil instructions. In fact, one of them, Mr. Harley-Hoare, a sniveling and obsequious office worker, is truly outraged at Sally (the mock subject) for not learning faster. Against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and the corporate world, this play re-explores the issue of personal responsibility for evil actions.


The Dogs of Pavlov dramatizes and reflects upon the experiments of Professor Stanley Milgram at Yale, who showed that subjects would obey orders that were strongly in conflict with their consciences. In Act 2, scene 2, Dr. Daly summarizes the issue when he says, "Disobedience is associated in our minds with fearful consequences, even death. No wonder most hardly operate their consciences as they react to a command from some apparently respectable authority. So we press down a level or turn up a switch, obey this order or that in Mai Lai or Ulster. Consciences, even when they are in operation, are remarkably soluble."

Primary Source

he View from Row G: Three Plays


Seren Books

Place Published

Cardiff, Wales




James A. Davies

Page Count