Does the play "Amadeus" suggest our lives should be shaped and directed by inner desires or the pursuit of individual recognition?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that this is a critical issue in the play.  On one hand, I do think that the play makes the argument that inner desires are extremely important to both the creative process as well as to one's state of being in the world.  It is inner desires that motivate both Mozart and Salieri to embrace the world of musical composition as part of their own identities.  Additionally, it is inner desire that compels Mozart to compose music that few, if any, really understand.  That being said, the drama does suggest that individual recognition, on some level, is important to the endeavor of artistic composition.  Mozart and Salieri are really not content with the idea of not being known or not receiving acknowledgement for their work.  Mozart struggles with this more that Salieri.  For Mozart, individual recognition is a challenge when the mediocity of the general population fails to embrace his talent.  Consider when Mozart utters a line that captures the fundamental dilemma in which Mozart finds himself:

They are musical idiots- and you want them to judge my work?

It is at this point, where Mozart recognizes the tension between inner pursuit of artistic greatness and seeking external praise and adulation.  There is no problem when the two converge, but there is a considerable problem when they diverge, something that great artists usually find because they are introducing an element into the discourse that is not entirely understood, the source of their greatness.  In the end, Mozart does forego the audience and public appreciation of his work in favor of the pursuit of something internal, something intrinsic only to him.  The composition of both his works, Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute, are shown in the drama to be endeavors that he might only understand more than the audience.  While this does not please him, he understands this, and recognizes that the musical genuis he holds in both heart and mind has to be acted upon more than public appreciation of his efforts.  In the end, though it causes great pain to Mozart, he understands that his primary responsibility as an artist is to his own inner desires and composition of music.  Buried in a pauper's grave, he ends up paying the ultimate price for a lack of recognition during his lifetime for this, something that ends up being altered afterwards with an appreciation towards him that is unparalelled.

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