Equus Summary and Analysis of Act II, Scenes 27-31


Scene 27

Dysart and Alan have a session in the middle of the night. He says he has a truth drug for Alan that will make him talk without being able to help himself. Alan initially says he does not want to try it, but eventually agrees to take the pill. After he takes it, Dysart tells Alan that the pill will only make him say whatever he wants to say. 

They begin talking about Dysart's office; Alan says this room must have heard some funny things. Dysart says he has spent too much time in it and would like to leave and never see it again, to go to the green sea in Greece where the old gods used to bathe before they died. Alan says that gods cannot die, but Dysart disagrees. Dysart tells Alan he does not truly like being a psychiatrist, but he continues to do it because children like Alan are unhappy. On a whim, Alan says Dysart is unhappy too, but takes it back immediately, remarking on how the truth pill makes everything slip out in an instant. 

He asks Alan about Jill. Alan is initially reluctant to talk, and responds "dunno" to all the questions Dysart asks about the way she looks. But Dysart is firm, and tells Alan that he will reveal to him everything that happened with her. He tells him to show him what happened by acting it out. Alan reluctantly complies. 

 Scene 28

Alan and Jill act out the story, with Dysart observing. Jill talks about how her father disappeared and her mother never got over it, and she is always rude to the dates that Jill brings home because she has been turned off to men. Jill says that her favorite thing about boys are their eyes, and remarks on seeing Alan staring deeply into Nugget's eyes the other day; Alan adamantly says it was because something was in them. Jill says she finds horses' eyes sexy, and Alan is taken aback by her use of that word. 

One night when they are closing up the stable, Jill asks Alan if he would like to take her out. He stammers that he has to go home because his parents are expecting him, but Jill pesters him until he agrees to take her to a theater to see a pornographic film, which she suggests. Alan is reluctant to tell Dysart about this experience, but he insists.

 Scene 29

Jill is the only girl in the theater. Alan describes the contents of the film, which at first he thinks is stupid but later on gets excited about, since it is his first time seeing a girl naked. All the sudden, though, Alan sees that his father is also in the theater—and Frank sees him, too. Alan tries to hide, but Frank comes after him and demands that he come outside. Alan and Jill follow.

Scene 30

Alan tells his father that this was his first time ever going to the theater, and Jill takes the blame. It takes Frank a while to talk, but eventually he says that he came to the theater to see the manager and talk about printing posters for the theater since he is a printer. He claims that he did not know this theater showed films like this. At last the bus comes; Frank gets on, but Alan and Jill stay behind so that Alan can walk Jill home, and through the window Alan stares at his father's scared face. 

Scene 31

 Alan is heavily shaken by this incident, and realizes that his father must have been going to see these films many times while telling his mother that he would be home late from work. Jill agrees that it is horrible, but also thinks it is pretty funny. As they keep walking, Alan begins to feel sorry for his father, realizing that he probably does not get any kind of satisfaction like that from his mother. Alan realizes that his dad is very similar to him, going off and doing his own secret thing at night. 

Alan stops acting out the scene and tells Dysart that he cannot go on, but Dysart encourages him to continue. Alan admits that he felt free, knowing that other people had secrets, too. Jill starts holding Alan's hand, and Alan likes it; he stares at her eyes, but he really wants to look at her breasts like the woman in the film. Jill says she knows a place the two of them can go to be alone, but Alan is aghast when he realizes Jill is taking him to the stables. 


Alan comments that Dysart's psychiatric office must hear some funny things. This leads to an intriguing analysis of setting in this play. The primary action all takes place inside the four walls of Dysart's office; even though Alan's anecdotes are acted out onstage as if they were somewhere else, it truly is all meant to take place inside this office. This setting is extremely significant, since Dysart right now feels trapped by his profession, just like this show is confined within the small space of his office. He is also haunted by the children he has treated in the past, wondering if he has truly done the best by them—traces and memories of them all still lurk within this room.

In Scene 27, Dysart makes the chilling statement that gods can die. Based on Dysart's past musings, he believes that gods die when people stop believing in them. This is extremely relevant in light of his recent fears of taking Alan's worship from him. If Alan no longer believes in his God, Equus, then the spirit of Equus will die right along with his worship. Just like that, a god is dead. 

Throughout this play, but most prominently in this section, Alan's various anecdotes and confessions have been acted out rather than simply recounted. Peter Shaffer makes good use of the visual medium that is a stage play; if this were simply a novel, then whether these stories are acted out or recounted would not matter. Here, however, the visualization of these moments adds an important layer, bringing the past to life for Dysart and the audience. This is important because Alan truly wants Dysart to understand him, and the best way to understand what he went through is to live through it right along with him. 

Jill has a special purpose in this play as a means through which Alan can explore his sexuality in a more 'normal,' or socially accepted, way. Previously, Alan described the physicality of horses with an aroused, sexual fervor, as well as his erotic night rides on Nugget; there are therefore clear undertones of sexual ritual. Jill comes in as a test for Alan, to see if he can channel this extreme passion and sexual energy into an act that would fit society's definition of normality.

In scene 31, Alan appears to be responding positively to this test. He does truly appear to want Jill, perhaps not with the same intensity, but still with a sense of excitement. His dismay upon being led to the stables, though, foreshadows the fiasco that is yet to come when he attempts to follow through with this urge. 

This section carries on the recurring theme of freedom when Alan admits that after seeing his father in the theater, it felt freeing to know that other people have secrets too. It is especially freeing that one of the people who has these secrets is his parent, since Alan has spent most of his childhood feeling constricted and held back by the expectations of his parents. This encounter, while somewhat frightening, can also help Alan to move away from the guilt and pain that he feels as a result of his unorthodox passion.