THE THEATRICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE FAMILY IN

THE THEATRICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE FAMILY IN THE DRAMA ‘EQUUS’ BY PETER SHAFFER

2007

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In the post-war epoch British dramatists rejected the former literary conventions and manners, bit by bit turning to naturalism that was particularly employed in the play. While anterior to 1950s the play reflected unrealistic portraitures due to the bing censoring system, the post-war play began to picture the worlds of the modern universe. One of the major issues that playwrights discussed in their dramas was the implicit or expressed impact of female subjugation on the household that was greatly destroyed by World War II ( Wandor 10-15 ) . In hunt of equity with work forces, adult females in the early 1970s acquired sexual freedom and societal high quality over males. The purpose of the present essay is to critically measure the theatrical significance of the household and household dealingss in the playEquusby Peter Shaffer, paying attending to the single female characters that subvert the male liberty.

Throughout the drama Shaffer analyses female subjugation in footings of category and sexual struggles. Contrasting the dealingss of Dora and Frank Strang with the dealingss of Alan Strang and Jill Mason, the playwright reveals the negative effects of pent-up sexual desires. As a representative of middle-class society, Dora Strang suppresses her desires because of her spiritual beliefs. As a consequence, she non merely destroys her individualism, but she besides inspires the formation of the troubled outlook in two close individuals – her hubby and her boy. Frank, an atheist and a socialist, loses his liberty and represses his gender under the influence of his socially-superior married woman, while Alan, a mentally-destroyed child, develops a pathological desire for Equus caballuss. Harmonizing to Dysart, Alan’s head-shrinker, “Alan is sunk in this glowing universe of horses” ( Shaffer 56 ) . However, Dora fails to gain that it is her attitude toward sex that destroys her boy ; this is particularly obvious in her talk with Frank: “DORA: And what has that got to make with Alan? FRANK: Everything! … [ Seriously ] Everything, Dora. DORA: I don’t understand. What are you stating? ” ( Shaffer 34 ) . For Dora, sex is necessary merely for childbearing ; the female character does non see it as a agency for satisfaction and release. But Alan unconsciously strives for passion and sexual release ; eventually, the male child finds the manner to see these powerful emotions through his unusual intercourses with the Equus caballus Nugget ( Witham 61-62 ) . As Dysart acknowledges after his brush with Alan, “That male child has known a passion more fierce than I have felt in any 2nd of my life. And allow me state you something: I envy it” ( Shaffer 82 ) . Therefore, the head-shrinker does non fault Alan for his unhealthy worship of the Equus caballus ( Stacy 325-328 ) ; on the contrary, he compares himself with the male child, gaining that Alan’s life is full of unusual interior feelings, while Dysart ‘s household life lacks any strong emotions or sexual intercourses. Both Alan and Dysart crave for something greater than accustomed being or conventional household dealingss ; nevertheless, similar to Frank Strang, the head-shrinker is already crippled by his married woman Margaret, claiming at the beginning of the drama: “I am despairing. You see, I ‘m have oning that Equus caballus ‘s caput myself. That ‘s the feeling. All reined up in old linguistic communication and old premises ” ( Shaffer 18 ) .

In this regard, the writer inquiries the ‘normality/abnormality’ of dealingss between work forces and adult females ; on the illustration of Dora and Margaret he demonstrates that, although adult females seem to get equality with work forces, they continue to destruct their households because of the incorrect values or stereotypes. For Shaffer, the household is a integrity, but in the household of Dora and Frank Strang this integrity is disrupted, as Alan’s female parent and father do efforts to enforce different positions on their kid. Alan appears between two fires, he lives in the kingdom of contradictions, and there is no admiration that the male child hunts for certain ways of release. Harmonizing to Mendez Garcia, “Alan’s clearly aberrant behavior is explained in some parts ofEquusas a consequence of a retaliation on the establishments that are the footing of society, such as household or religion” ( 83 ) . When Alan speaks to Dysart he bit by bit uncovers his interior ideas and his motivations, but this clip it is Dysart who doubts that his intervention may assist the male child to make strong household dealingss. As Dysart puts it, “Passion, you see, can be destroyed by a physician. It can non be created” ( Shaffer 108 ) . So, for Shaffer, passion is prerequisite for any dealingss between work forces and adult females ; if one spouse suppresses his/her sexual desires, the dealingss are destroyed. Furthermore, such individuals as Dora and Frank, Dysart and Margaret are unable to get existent freedom, because they avoid all appendages of life, all powerful feelings, like love, passion, familiarity or hurting. In the instance of Dora and Frank these emotions are substituted for false political orientations: Dora is obsessed with faith, while Frank is absorbed in socialist thoughts. The clang of these political orientations consequences in misconstruing and changeless wrangles that are considered normal for a household ( Leff 382 ) . As Dora claims, “We loved Alan. We gave him the best love we could. All right, we quarrel sometimes – all parents quarrel” ( Shaffer 78 ) . However, Dora pretends non to detect that her hubby and she are similar two aliens who “ live in the same house as if they were in different parts of the universe ” ( Shaffer 61 ) . The same respects Dysart and Margaret who live together, but on their ain ; their dealingss lack any passion, familiarity or tenderness. They exist in different universes and they do nil to go closer to each other. In fact, both Frank and Dysart are so oppressed by their married womans that they search for satisfaction outside their household kingdoms ; in specific, Frank goes to films and Dysart is absorbed in Grecian literature and art.

On the other manus, Shaffer introduces another female character as a contrast to Dora ; it is Jill Mason who masterfully uses her sexual beauty to score Alan during their day of the months. However, being under the impact of Equus, the made-up God of Equus caballuss, he fails to hold sex with Jill and, in retaliation, he blinds Equus caballuss at the stable. Such a sudden action reveals that Alan wishes to acquire rid of this painful worship of Equus caballuss and originate sexual dealingss with the miss. Alan appears to be a victim of his parents, a victim of ‘normal’ dealingss that cripple his mind, particularly when he finds out that Dora rejects sex and Frank tickers adult movies. As an progeny of two contradictory kingdoms – spiritual and unbelieving, Alan wishes to unify his sexual desires with spiritual constructs.

Reaching the age of pubescence, the male child is unable to stamp down his sexual urges, but at the same time ( under the impact of his female parent ) he is unable to alleviate his passion in a normal manner. Unlike Alan, Jill is non obsessed with spiritual thoughts and, therefore, she has more interior freedom than Alan. It is Jill who makes regards to Alan, such as “You’re a existent Man of Mystery, aren’t you? ” ( Shaffer 90 ) . Actually, this female character is full of vernal ardor and she makes everything to get as much sexual experience as possible. In her dealingss with Alan she turns to decisive actions, and, in Shaffer’s point of view, such passion is what all matrimony spouses need. Possibly, the dealingss of Jill and Allan can non be considered ‘normal ‘ in a conventional sense, but these dealingss have hereafter, these dealingss ( unlike the dealingss of the presented matrimony twosomes ) are alive. As the writer claims, “The Normal is the good smiling in a child’s eyes – all right. It is besides the dead stare of a million grownups. It both sustains and putting to deaths – like a god” ( Shaffer 65 ) . Dysart doubts whether he should handle Alan, whether he should extinguish his ‘abnormality’ , because the head-shrinker realises that the boy’s normality is necessary for society, non for Alan. After all, normalities may except the male child ‘s passion, may kill his psyche and destruct his individualism. Harmonizing to Plunka, “Dysart learns that Alan is a individual who knows who he is, while the head-shrinker is still seeking for his ain identity” ( 92 ) . But, as Shaffer indirectly points out, Alan may continue his passion, reassigning it from Equus caballuss to the miss, because Alan’s familiarity with Jill is both religious and physical. His parents ‘ unusual ‘love’ deprives Alan of normal life, but the male child craves for true love that is based on passion, friendly relationship and trust. Gradually, Alan starts to see these feelings with Jill ; no 1 is closer to him than this immature miss, although he feels that he is non ready for intimate dealingss.

Therefore, as the essay suggests, Shaffer’s playEquusanalyses the bing stereotypes about household and household dealingss. Picturing a realistic portraiture of ‘normal ‘ households in the early 70s, the dramatist reveals how female subjugation destroys close dealingss between matrimony spouses and deprives work forces of liberty. In this regard, the theatrical significance of the household in Shaffer ‘s play is inexplicit, instead than explicit ( MacMurraugh-Kavanagh 18-23 ) ; throughout the drama the writer challenges the characters’ attitudes to the matrimony and relationship, although he does non openly support or reject any of the presented political orientations. On the other manus, Shaffer bit by bit brings his readers to the thought that sexually-repressed dealingss ( Dora – Frank Strang, Dysart – Margaret ) are rotten in the really kernel, while dealingss that are based on passion and familiarity ( Alan Strang – Jill Mason ) consequence in satisfaction, felicity and sexual/moral release of both spouses. As Mendez Garcia puts it, “Marriage is, for Shaffer, a societal establishment that allows no inquiring, a hypocritical understanding by which merely society as an establishment is satisfied” ( 84 ) . So, as the dramatist demonstrates, the household is created and shaped by society ; nevertheless, society merely destroys the unity of the household and manipulates the person.

Plants Cited

Leff, Julian. “Why is Care in the Community Perceived As a Failure? ” British Journal of Psychiatry, 179 ( 2001 ) : 381-383.

MacMurraugh-Kavanagh, Madeline. Peter Shaffer: Theatre and Drama. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan Press, 1998.

Mendez Garcia, Carmen. “From ‘Bad’ to ‘Mad’ : Labelling and Behaviour in Peter Shaffer’s Equus” . The Wicked Heart: Surveies in the Phenomena of Evil. Eds. Sorcha Ni Fhlainn and William Andrew Myers. Oxford: Inter-Disciplinary Press, 2006. 81-90.

Plunka, Gene A. “The Experiential Ritual: Peter Shaffer’s Equus” . Kansas Quarterly, 12.4 ( 1980 ) : 87-97.

Shaffer, Peter. Equus. London: Penguin, 1984.

Stacy, James. “The Sun and the Horse: Peter Shaffer’s Search for Worship” . Educational Theatre Journal, 28 ( 1976 ) : 325-337.

Wandor, Michelene. Look Back in Gender: Sex and the Family in Post-War British Drama. London: Methuen, 1987.

Witham, Barry B. “The Anger in ‘Equus’” . Modern Drama, XXII ( 1, 1979 ) : 61-66.

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