In both Equus and Amadeus Shaffer shows insanity in his characters. He does this not only to stress the characters feelings and state of mind of which they are in. Also, he attempts to cast a blanket over the reader; it gives the reader the feeling that Shaffer designed the characters to express and reflect the beauty in insanity and to convey the ugliness on normality.
“Madness, if not out rightly divine, is at best preferable to the 20th century’s ruthless and uninspired sanity, is in this play, as it is so much fashionable philosophizing, totally dependent on a pleasant, aesthetically rational form of derangement for the credibility of its argument” (Richardson 389). Shaffer brings us into these feelings with the story of Alan Strang, a seventeen-year-old British boy. He has been sent to Rokeby Psychiatric Hospital in southern England to get “help” for the crime of blinding six horses that he worked with.
“Equus…. surgically probes man’s continuing fascination with violent forms of belief” (Gill 387). Shaffer makes this all so obvious to us. Alan is an insane young man with no justification and quandary that must be dealt with. His therapist Dysart sees that this boy is troubled and can be helped, but fears that there might be something deeper. “Dysart recognizes also that the boy he is treating has experienced ‘a passion more ferocious that I have felt in any second of my life” (Real389). Clearly he envies this.
In turn Dysart fears that the passion of the boy, not because he can’t understand it, but because he does. “The inference is that, once cured, that is, rid or his ‘divine’ suffering, Alan will become a dullard like most normal people” (Clurman 388). Shaffer is trying to illustrate that “normality” is not good, but bad and that the only way to be divine is this state of mind is to go by Shaffer’s idea of “insane.”
Shaffer wants us to think in the mindset of the boy and see what he sees. He wants us to feel the insane thoughts of Equus and experience the urge to follow to voice, but we must ask our selves; what divine spirit is this we see? There is nothing to it but the pure crazed madness of a boy. After reading the play you are left feeling sorry for the poor soul because he was never able to fit into society and the normality, but hear he is being forced into it. Shaffer uses the word insane is strong context because as the author he has cont…
…ely worthless,’ Salieri survives only to see himself become extinct as Mozart’s posthumous reputation increases. For thirty-two years Salieri nurses his hate, refusing to be God’s joke and demanding to be remembered, ‘if not in fame, then infamy.’ Thus, he composes ‘a false confession’ in which he explains ‘how I really murdered Mozart—with arsenic—out of envy!’ Then, as the sun rises and the play draws to its conclusion, he cuts his throat with a razor. Again, however, Salieri fails. He does not die; his confession is found but not believed. It is dismissed as the raving of a madman” (Morace 39).
Shaffer ends off leaving us with our mouths wide open, craving more of the story like bees after honey, more of the tale told by the insane old man. This story of the insane from the eyes of the insane also makes it seem as if the norm is insanity and we are all but puppets with our strings being dangled for us by normality. “But positioning such an alternative is false. One need not be ‘crazed’ to live untrammeled by conventional proscriptions. Most of the insane are in every way for more wretched and pitiful than the average man in his quiet despair of humdrum gloom” (Clurman 388).