Equus And Amadeus

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate August 2001

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These texts challenge the reader to re-define his/her concept of what it means to be normal in our society.

The play "Equus" by Peter Schaffer and the visual text "Amadeus" (the screen play for which was written, incidentally, by the same man), have many themes in common. However, the major unifying theme is the controversial view of what is perceived as "normal" by any society. I say "any society" because the play and the film are set in two completely different time periods. This lets us explore the concept of normality "through the ages," so to speak.

"Equus" is a play about a boy named Alan who stabs out the eyes of several horses due to his twisted perception of religion and sex. The psychiatrist - Martin Dysart - delves deeper and deeper into Alan's mind, attempting to find out not only WHY Alan committed such a deed, but also what the boy believes in terms of religion.

"Amadeus" - a film about Mozart - explores the life of the genius and the way he wrote music. It tries to make sense of how a genius' mind works by introducing Salieri who is set out to find out just how Mozart writes his pieces.

both of these texts have a mentally unbalanced persona as the protagonist. The degrees of the mental illness are almost bordering on the extreme opposites. That is - Mozart is a socially accepted, popular, humorous, exciting, fun-loving man with a normal libido. Alan, on the other hand, is a sulky, depressed, cynical teenage religious fanatic with a warped perception of sex in relation to horses. So what do they have in common? Both the main characters - Mozart and Alan - have one obsession in life. For Mozart it is music, for Alan it is horses. These are just not normal obsessions - they are possessed by these things. Music takes over Mozart's life, literally killing him. Worshipping horses takes over Alan's life, causing him to blind six horses.

Going on the examples discussed above, it can be said that passion leads to destruction in some form or another. And men like Mozart and Alan stand out from the rest of the society because they have given in to passion and it led to drastic consequences.

These texts lead the reader to decide whether it is wrong for a person to have such a strong obsession. And is it, above all, a normal and socially acceptable way to live one's life - possessed completely by something which cannot be explained nor accepted by anyone but yourself. is it normal for a person to have complete faith in something, faith which cannot be explained to anyone by logical reasoning? "Equus" and "Amadeus" manage to question the values of the society . It is obvious that Alan and Mozart have their priorities and values twisted around - either by their upbringing or a series of incidents. However, it causes the reader toquestion whether the values of the society is the norm. And what is the norm? How is it defined? Is the normal that which causes less destruction than the alternative? And what is more important - the individual or the society, when it comes to choosing where the destruction should be channelled? Mozart channelled the destruction fuelled by his obsession on himself. Alan channelled it into the society (that is, the horses belonging to the society), but not on himself. Therefore, which of these men was more acceptable? Obviously, Mozart, since he was more socially balanced than Alan, who hardly had any friends. However, quite often society promotes selfishness and the sense of individuality. So why was it wrong for Alan to stab out the eyes of horses if all he wanted to do was, in a sense, protect himself? Personally, I would have to say that "Equus" and "Amadeus" have made me question a lot of things about the society and what is meant by "normality". I think that, in the end, Peter Schaffer is simply trying to figure out who is "normal" and who is not. I think his works come back to the age-long paradoxical idea: are the mental hospitals, in reality, full of normal people?