Monday, December 27, 2021

Psychotherapeutic Humanities - The play, Equus, by Peter Shaffer

Equus is a Tony Award winning play by Peter Shaffer about a seventeen year old male, Peter Strang,  who blinds six horses with a metal spike and is committed to a mental hospital in which his psychiatrist, Dr. Martin Dysart, attempts to understand the motivation and meaning of Peter’s  behavior. This play is considered by some a classic and has been studied in various college courses.

The intended audience is adults with an interest in psychodynamics and the impact of  religiosity on behavior. 

The creative tension builds as the psychiatrist, in the course of his psychotherapeutic work, must work through the difficulties in his own life.

There might be many lessons derived from the story. The main one seems to be that repressive upbringing in the 50s led to repressed sexual energy which was acted out in destructive ways. This seems to be a lesson which in subsequent decades has been learned as patriarchal structures have been deconstructed as feminist values have manfiested more prevalently in society.

The story seems a bit outdated since the play was first produced in 1973. In the last fifty years the values and attitudes about sexual expression have radically changed. The main utility of studying the play at this time might be to increase the understanding of the management of sexual impulses in previous decades influenced by the cultural conditioning of the time.

The play is recommended to those interested in the dynamics of sexual repression in previous decades in western societies especially of England and the United States.

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