Anthony Shaffer Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

A longtime admirer of the classical mystery story in the tradition of Agatha Christie, John Dickson Carr, and Dorothy L. Sayers, Anthony Shaffer won lasting fame for his popular and wildly successful satirical send-up of the cozy genre, Sleuth (pr., pb. 1970). The play, which ran for more than twenty-three hundred performances in London’s West End, and for more than two thousand performances on Broadway, garnered a Tony Award and an Edgar Award for the best play of 1970. The film of the play, for which Shaffer wrote the screenplay, also won an Edgar Award and secured Oscar nominations for both principal actors Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier (Olivier won a New York Critics’ award for his role). Sleuth has been called one of the best examples of the comedy-thriller ever written.

Shaffer, who despite the enthusiastic reception of Sleuth never achieved quite the level of name recognition as his twin brother Peter Shaffer (author of such works as Amadeus, 1980; The Royal Hunt of the Sun, 1964; and Equus, 1973), nonetheless became quite respected for his film work with director Alfred Hitchcock. He won Edgar Awards for his screenplays of Frenzy (1972) and Death on the Nile (1978). Shaffer also won the Grand Prix from the Oxford and from the Miami film festivals for the screenplay of his own play Absolution (1978), and won the Grand Prix for his film script of the critically acclaimed play he cowrote with Robin Hardy, The Wicker Man (1973).

Anthony Shaffer Bibliography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Carlson, Marvin A. Deathtraps: The Postmodern Comedy Thriller. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993. This volume examines mystery and detective comedic plays, including Sleuth by Shaffer.

Glen, Jules. “Anthony and Peter Shaffer’s Plays: The Influence of Twinship in Creativity.” American Imago 31 (1974). Considers the phenomenon of twin writers.

Glen, Jules. “Twins in Disguise, II: Content, Form, and Style in Plays by Anthony and Peter Shaffer.” In Blood Brothers: Siblings as Writers, edited by Norman Kiell. New York: International Universities Press, 1983. Considers the phenomenon of twin writers.

Hewes, Henry. “The Theater: Two Can Play at a Game.” Saturday Review 53, no. 48 (November 28, 1970): 6. A highly favorable review of the production of Sleuth, starring Anthony Quayle and Keith Baxter, which points out the “cat-and-mouse byplay in which comedy and terror fluctuate,” and which notes the author’s clever criticisms of a number of British institutions.

Kalem, T. E. Review of Sleuth, by Anthony Shaffer. Time, November 23, 1970, 100. A highly favorable review of the stage version of Sleuth, which points out its satirical nature in which the author gives vent to anti-British sentiments, and calls the work...

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