A Study of the Metatheatrical Aspects of Peter Shaffer’s Equus

Document Type : Original Article


1 Associate Professor of English Language and Literature, University of Guilan, Rasht, Iran

2 MA in English Language and Literature,University of Guilan Rasht,Iran



The present article aims to analyze the notion of metatheatricality in Peter Shaffer’s Equus and to investigate the functions of such metatheatrical notions as self-reflexivity and fictionality in the overall structure and theme of the play. The central questions of this survey include: In what ways are typical metatheatrical techniques employed in Peter Shaffer’s Equus, and what are the structural and thematic functions of these elements? The present dramaturgical study first reviews the basic tenets of the concept of metatheatre as a postmodern genre in the theatre and then contextualizes them in the structural fabric of the play, focusing on two important metatheatrical elements, namely, play within a play and breaking the fourth wall. The present research shows that there are inner plays in the narrative structure of Equus, which are aligned with the characteristic features of metatheatricality as delineated by Richard Hornby in Drama, Metadrama, and Perception (1986). These plays within a play, which belong to the so-called “the inset type,” construct two sharply distinguishable structural layers. As metatheatrical plays within a play, they self-reflexively call attention to the fictional nature of the play as well as to the possibilities of narrative diversity. Equus breaks the fourth wall of the realistic drama when its lead character directly addresses the spectators, thereby getting them physically and mentally involved in the action. The spectators, as a result, step into the fictional world of the play and start to interact with the characters as the characters start to interact with them. Judgment and interpretation become reciprocal as both the audience and the performers take part in the process of narration and meaning-creation.  


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