How are worship and passion related? Do they depend on each other? Is one a substitute for the other?
In the play Equus worship and passion are seen in many contrasting lights. In the example of Alan, the boy in the centre of the play, worship and passion are the same thing. What he is devoted to inspires excitement in him, in this case the God Equus. With his parents, it is the same, but in different ways of worship. Alan’s mother is a devout Catholic, and also has worship with a passion, but she is so devoted to this single cause she is unable to experience passion for anything else. With Alan’s father, he is not a religious man and has nothing to idolize, and this creates a lot of passion inside of him with no way for it to escape.
Finally, in the case of Dysart, Alan’s psychiatrist, he has lost the way to reach his passion and has become distanced from his wife. He envies the way that Alan can worship a being openly and feels it would be better to leave this boy with his pain but intensity rather than ‘cure’ him and leave him alone with no enthusiasm for life. From this we can see that passion and worship are inextricably linked, however they can be substituted for each other when needed but require each other to exist. In the play Equus, Alan Strang is a boy of 17 who has been sent to a psychiatrist for blinding six racehorses.
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Through the course of the play, we find out that he has been worshipping a new kind of god, a horse-god he calls Equus. He devotes himself blindly to this horse, transferring to it all the worship he used to have for Jesus and Christianity. This is revealed to us by the fact that Alan replaced a poster of Jesus he once has with a poster of a horse’s head. “DORA: Well, do you remember that photograph I mentioned to you. The one Mr Strang gave Alan to decorate his bedroom a few years ago? DYSART: Yes. A horse looking over a gate wasn’t it? DORA: That’s right. Well actually, it took the place of another kind of picture altogether.
DYSART: What kind? DORA: It was a reproduction of Our Lord on his way to Calvary. ” In this way he devotes all his passion towards horses and Equus, the same passion which his mother taught him to devote to Christianity as a child. “FRANK: Well, look at it yourself. A boy spends night after night having this stuff read into him; an innocent man tortured to death – thorns driven into his head – nails into his hands – a spear jammed through his ribs. It can mark anyone for life, that kind of thing. I’m not joking. The boy was absolutely fascinated by all that. He was always mooning over religious pictures. ”
Because worship is the only thing Alan has ever been passionate about, he cannot separate the two in his mind. Anything he worships becomes an object of desire to him. When we first see him really interact with Equus, it is almost a sexual experience for Alan. And when he’s with Jill, preparing to have sex with her, he can’t think about passion without thinking and hearing Equus. This shows just how inseparable these two ideas are to Alan. Also because of this, in Alan’s mind his god is jealous that he might share passion with someone other than him, which is blasphemy to Alan. “DYSART: The Lord thy God is a Jealous God.
He sees you. He sees you forever and ever, Alan. ” Alan tries to block out Equus in order to escape his presence, which is why he stabs the horses which are the symbol of Equus to Alan. In the case of Alan’s mother, Dora Strang, her worship is directed towards a more traditional God, the God of Christianity. She is very devout in her practice, and this leads her to devote all of her energy and passion into the serving of the god. “DYSART: Your wife is religious? FRANK: Some might say excessively so. ” Because of the fact she invests all of her attentions to the bible and Christ, she has none left to share with her loved ones.
The only way she can really relate to her son is by reading the bible to him late at night. Even when her son is taken away, she places the blame in the one area she knows most about, her religion. She knows that in many ways she and her husband have turned him into what he has become, but she places the blame on the devil; the devil that is the source of all evil to her. “DORA: You’ve got your words and I’ve got mine. You call it a complex, I suppose. But if you knew God, Doctor, you would know about the Devil. You’d know the Devil isn’t what mummy says and daddy says. The Devil’s there.
It’s an old-fashioned word, but a true thing… I’ll go. What I did in there was inexcusable. I only know he was my little Alan and then the Devil came. ” Alan enjoys this time they spend together, but feels repressed by his mother’s fanaticism. “ALAN: No one ever says to cowboys ‘Receive my meaning’! They wouldn’t dare. Or ‘God’ all the time. [Mimicking his mother. ] ‘God sees you Alan. God’s got eyes everywhere-‘” Despite this, Alan inherits the devotion that so annoys him in his mother, except applies it to his own personal god, Equus. The opposite is true in Frank Strang, Alan’s father.
He has no religion and which to dote. Instead he is passionate about any cause he chooses to support. Two examples of this are the importance of reading and the vice of television. “FRANK: You sit in front of that thing long enough; you’ll become stupid for life – like most of the population. The thing is it’s a swiz. It seems to be offering you something, but actually it’s taking something away. Your intelligence and your concentration, every minute you watch it. That’s a true swiz, do you see? I don’t want to sound like a spoilsport, old chum – but there really is no substitute for reading.
Also, as he gets to sexual gratification from his wife, he is forced to go to the local adult theatre to get it. When he is caught there by Alan, he gets very defensive and denies he was ever there, making it obvious to the audience that he has been there many times. This makes Alan realize he is just like him, and needs an outlet for his passion the same as Alan does. “ALAN: I just thought about Dad, and how he was nothing special – just a poor old sod on his own. Poor old sod! JILL: That’s right! ALAN: I mean, what else has he got? … He’s got mum, of course, but well – she – she – she – JILL: She doesn’t give him anything?
ALAN: That’s right. I bet you… she doesn’t give him anything. ” In this way Frank replaces worship with passion, but poorly. Finally in the case of Dysart, he is fascinated and jealous of Alan’s state as he has never been able to achieve such a state himself. Dysart is not a religious man and has lost all passion for life and for his wife. “DYSART: I go on about my wife. That smug woman by the fire. Have you thought of the fellow on the other side of it? The finicky, critical husband looking through his art books on mythical Greece. What worship has he ever known?
Real worship! Without worship you shrink, it’s as brutal as that… I shrank my own life. No one can do it for you. ” He envies Alan, because even though he is suffering from pain and guilt over what he has done, he has still had the experiences and is able to call them his own. Dysart feels he has never experienced true passion in the way that Alan has and he regrets it. This leads him to think is he really helping his patients by curing them, making them ‘normal’ and socially acceptable; or is he depriving them of the full, ardent lives they might have led. DYSART: I’ll heal the rash on his body. I’ll erase the welts cut into his mind by flying manes.
When that’s done, I’ll send him on a nice mini-scooter and send him puttering off into the Normal world where animals are treated properly: made extinct or put into servitude or tethered all their lives in dim light, just to feed it! I’ll give him the good Normal world where we’re tethered beside them – blinking our nights away in a non-stop drench of cathode ray over our shriveling heads. Dysart feels that a life without passion and worship is worthless. By the end of the play he is now that is haunted by Equus, and feels the need pay homage to it. To summarise, in the play Equus passion and worship are linked. One cannot fully be expressed without the other. When a character is deprived of either, they feel empty and need to search for it through other methods. Worship and religion are also the main ways that passion is expressed throughout the play and rely on each other to exist.