Act One Scene Twenty-one

Synopsis of Scene 21

Alan mimes taking off his clothes, describes the field to Dysart and mimes placing a stick in his mouth, as part of his ritual. He strokes the horse all over, but is upset by the mention of Nugget’s eyes and runs away. He returns and gives Nugget a sugar lump, then mounts him. As he rides, he tells Dysart what he is doing, explaining his ritual and his feeling that he alone can tame and ride the horse-god Equus. As his excitement grows, Alan feels he is becoming one with the horse, reciting ritual words. Eventually Alan shouts ‘Amen!’ and the scene ends.

Commentary on Scene 21

Ark of the Manbit: Alan is using biblical terminology here; the place where the ‘Manbit’ is kept is known as the Ark, like the Ark of the Covenant described in the Old Testament book of Exodus, which is the chest in which the tablets of stone containing the Ten Commandments were kept.

His ribs are of ivory: Alan’s adoration of the horse echoes the extravagant imagery of the Old Testament erotic love poem, Song of Songs (e.g.Song of Songs 5:14).

Last Supper: This phrase refers to the Last Supper shared by Jesus with his friends, prior to his crucifixion (Matthew 26:26-7, 1 Corinthians 11:23-25), at which Jesus stated that he was pouring out his blood ‘for the forgiveness of sins’. Christians commemorate this by celebrating Holy Communion (also known as the Eucharist or Mass).

Take my sins: Christians believe that when Jesus died on the Cross, he offered himself as a sacrifice to pay for the sins of the world. Here, Alan inverts that action by offering up his own sin.

Eat them for my sake: Alan echoes Jesus’ injunction at the Last Supper: ‘Do this in remembrance of me’ (1 Corinthians 11:24) but reverses it, asking for his own sin to be taken away, rather than (as Christians believe Jesus did) taking away the sins of others.

Faithful and True: Alan echoes Revelation 19:11 about a horse and its rider:

And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. KJB

Into my hands … himself: Alan again subverts the words of Jesus on the cross (‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit’, as recorded in Luke 23:46), by taking the spirit of Equus into himself.

His neck.. my body. It lifts.. / I’m stiff: Alan’s words could be those describing an erection.

The Hosts … its tribe: This is again using biblical language (e.g. Joshua 10:5). The brand names Alan refers to are those he had come across in the shop.

AMEN!: Alan ends his ritual with the traditional ending of a Christian prayer which signifies support of – or agreement with – what has gone before.

Investigating scene 21...

  • How convincing do you find this scene?
    • Does the staging help you to imagine what is happening?
  • How do you think Alan is feeling while he is riding the horse?
    • How do you think Dysart might react to Alan’s re-enactment of his midnight rides?
  • Do you think Alan’s emotions in this scene are sexual?
    • How much of this scene relates to areas of his life which he has repressed?
  • Does the biblical language enhance the sense of ritual?
    • Why do you think Alan has developed these rituals for riding the horses?
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