Saturday, October 14, 2006

Y11: Equus One of you chaps emailed me and asked what the connection was between the personal response and stuff about consumerism and religion as themes of the play you are doing now and the main body of the essay, which is about dramatic devices and theatricality. Good question. My reply is below as it ay help you.



Good question- genuinely. Right, bit of course design for you- you have two essays on drama for Literature (the Shakespeare essay counts for Language as well but we'll leave that aside) - your pre-1914 play (in our case, Romeo and Juliet) and your post 1914 play- Equus. The marking scheme for both is identical. So, I try to use one essay to cover some of the aspects of the marking scheme and the other to sweep up the rest. Your R and J essay was about character and social historical context- we spent ages looking at Juliet as a character and her place as a woman in a patriarchal society and how that reflected Shakespeare's own historical moment, right? We also did a bit of stuff on theatricality and personal response. With Equus, the focus was on theatricality- looking at the play specifically as a play and thinkng about how it's staged, with a little bit of social historical context (the consumerist 70s) and personal opinion- the stuff you're writing about now. That way, we've got tightly focussed essays that cover everything without wasting time hitting the same objectives twice in detail: both essays do cover everything, but with a very definite bias one way or the other.

What that means is there isn't a tight connection between the cultural stuff/ personal response stuff you're doing now and the rest of the essay- I'm just making sure we've covered all the bases. For students like you who are aiming for A*, you should be concerned that that means the last section will appear a bit 'bolted on'. Glad you noticed! So, here's a couple of ways you can connect the theatricality bit with the context / personal response bit:

1. The staging of the play itself is symbolic and refers to Greek theatre. Theatrical style in the 70s was generally very naturalistic- the sets looked like real rooms with the forth wall taken out. The very theatrical style of shaffer's play, therefore, insists on the importance of symbols, the imagination, things beyond the material world. You should get something out of that, hopefuly...

2. The play is didactic, polemical, parabolic, allegorical (look these up and use the one you like best). It's about Dysart and Strang, who strike me as pretty convincing characters, but they are also symbolic characters- Strang is disaffected youth, alienated by a society that doesn't stimulate the imagination, Dysart is the generation that, despite itself, allowed this to happen by losing its own passion and imagination. We are encouraged to look at the characters as symbols because so much of the play's staging is symbolic- the horses, the wooden square etc. Usually, symbloc characters are very 'flat' and unrealistic. Shaffer manages to be both realistic in his characterisation ('these are real people') and symbolic ('these characters tell you something about society') Staging and meanng / theme are connected that way, too.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sir can you give me some advice of whether i am on the right tracks or not with my conclusion so far. Cheers James.

Shaffer uses the plotline of Equus to get across his own opinions of consumerism and religion. Shaffer channels his feelings about consumerism through Alan. This can be seen when Alan is working at the shop and people are chanting store brands at him “This isn’t a Remington, I wanted a Remington.” This shows that Shaffer thinks people only care about what products they can buy. Later on when Alan is riding the horse he chants to Equus to abolish the houses of consumers such as Remington and Hoover. He is saying that mans religion is not a god but consumer brands. His opinions are backed up by the quote “All men have a religion whether they know it or not. Find out what a man gives his deepest loyalty to and you’ve found his religion. Our society gives its deepest loyalty to consumerism” said by Peter House. Shaffer also gets across his own views on religion through certain characters in Equus. A quote that back up his opinion is “When people stop believing in God, they do not stop believing in nothing. They believe in anything,” which was said by G.K Chesterton who’s a famous English writer and critic. This point can be seen through several characters in Equus. One could be Dysart who first says he has no religion but after sessions with Alan he starts to believe in Equus, which as the quote said when people stop believing they start believing in anything and Equus is the only thing Dysart thinks he can believe in.
My own opinion of Shaffer's view of consumerism, is that I disagree with some aspects of them. I mainly disagree with Peter House’s quote “All men have a religion whether they know it or not. Find out what a man gives his deepest loyalty to and you’ve found his religion. Our society gives its deepest loyalty to consumerism.” I disagree with this because not all people believe in consumerism. There are people such as Buddhists who don’t believe in having any consumer items so how can all men believe in consumerism when not all the population get involved with consumer items. On the other hand I do agree with G.K Chesterton’s quote because I think people want to believe in something so that they can have the inner happiness of believing there is life after death.

5:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey sir, i m struggling with the conclusion part of equus, i dont know how to start it. can you help me please? thank you. jodi!
heres my last paragraph of the main bit:

During scene 1, Dysart reveals a dream he had to the audience saying “…I fit in the knife and slice elegantly down to the naval, just like a seamstress following a pattern. I part the flaps, sever the inner tubes, yank them out and throw them hot and steaming onto the floor.” Dysart uses this metaphor in contrast with what he actually does. The use of “elegantly”” shows that analysing a child’s psychology is to be done with precision and care but word like “yank” show that Dysart feels he is destroying part of their “spirit” and he is doing so with an unwilling mind.

6:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

michael
sir im kind of stuck again

9:03 AM  
Blogger Mr.D said...

James: here you go, tweaked it a bit, very good attempt, some nice thoughts.

Shaffer uses the plotline of Equus to get across his own opinions of consumerism and religion. Shaffer channels his feelings about consumerism through Alan. This can be seen when Alan is working at the shop and people are chanting store brands at him “This isn’t a Remington, I wanted a Remington.” This shows that Shaffer thinks people only care about what products they can buy. Later on when Alan is riding the horse he chants to Equus to abolish the houses of consumerist products, such as Remington and Hoover. Alan seems to understand that consumerism has replaced God as the centre of mankind's spiritual life, and by manufacturing his own mythology in Equus he seeks to go back to real worship. Shaffer seems to have hit on an area of real concern in today's society: an American preacher called Peter House wrote in the late 1990s that, “All men have a religion whether they know it or not. Find out what a man gives his deepest loyalty to and you’ve found his religion. Our society gives its deepest loyalty to consumerism” . Similarly, the English writer GK Chesterton once said, “When people stop believing in God, they do not stop believing in nothing. They believe in anything” This point can be seen through several characters in Equus. One could be Dysart who first says he has no religion but after sessions with Alan he starts to realize that Alan's strange obsession with horses gives him a far richer life than he has, caught in a job he doubts is useful and a loveless, passionless marriage: as Chesterton said, when people stop believing in God they start believing in anything and Equus is the only thing Dysart thinks he can believe in.
My own opinion of Shaffer's view of consumerism is that I disagree with some aspects of it. I disagree with this because not all people believe in consumerism. There are people such as Buddhists who don’t believe in having any consumer items so how can all men believe in consumerism when not all the population get involved with consumer items? On the other hand I do agree with G.K Chesterton’s quote because I think people want to believe in something so that they can have the inner happiness of believing there is life after death.

12:59 PM  
Blogger Mr.D said...

Jodie- here's a couple of sentences for you, the rest you will probably be okay with:

Dysart's concern over destroying Alan's spirit gets to the heart of the play's theme: that contemporary culturehas degenerated into passionless, soul-crushing consumerism because the majority of society have lost their belief in any religion. The style of Shaffer's play and it's theatrical devices try to restore this spirituality. For example, Shaffer's use of symbols such as...



You get the idea!




Michael,

Have a good look at these posts, they'll help you.

1:04 PM  

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