What are the main conflicts that Salieri has in Amadeus?Explain his external conflict of man vs. man.

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laurniko eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Amadeus, Salieri's perceived deficiencies are reflected in the strengths of Mozart. Because Salieri is unable to accept his own strengths, weaknesses, and actions, he alternatively spends the entire play hating and attempting to sabotage Mozart. Though it seems throughout Amadeus that Salieri's conflict is with Mozart, ultimately his real conflict is with himself.

Salieri is dissatisfied with his status as a composer when he hears Mozart's music. He knows he has never been as talented as his adversary. In fact, he gains his exalted musical position by virtue of his political and social maneuvering. When Mozart's wife brings Salieri music composed by Mozart, hoping to get his financial help, Salieri is shocked at the condition of the pages:

Astounding! It was actually, it was beyond belief. But they showed no corrections of any kind. Not one. He had simply written down music already finished in his head! Page after page of it as if he were just taking dictation. And music, finished as no music is ever finished. Displace one note and there would be diminishment. Displace one phrase and the structure would fall.

Salieri himself continually writes and rewrites his music. This and other similar incidents cause him to be extremely jealous of Mozart and to plot against him.

His jealousy causes him to:

  • Work against Mozart gaining a foothold at court and in society.
  • Rejoice in the poor relationship between Mozart and his wife.
  • Hatch a plan to have Mozart write a requiem, kill Mozart, and then play the requiem at Mozart's funeral. Salieri believes that Mozart's piece—claimed by Salieri—will finally win him the acclaim he desires.

Unfortunately for Salieri, Mozart dies and the requiem is played under Mozart's name. In death, Mozart lays claim to one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever played. Salieri unsuccessfully attempts suicide and spends his life as a bitter, forgotten man.

Ironically, Mozart is very aware of his own flaws. At one performance, he says, "Forgive me, Majesty. I am a vulgar man! But I assure you, my music is not." If Salieri had attempted to help Mozart manage his finances and act more like a mature person, the scenario could have ended better for both men.

Salieri's failure to recognize that his own strengths are actually Mozart's weaknesses—and that Mozart's strengths do not diminish Salieri—causes him to waste his life in hatred and die a relatively unaccomplished and forgotten man at the end of the play.

bmadnick eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Salieri's main conflict is with himself because he can't get past his envy and feelings of inadequacy when comparing himself to Mozart. This then leads him to a perceived conflict with Mozart, the man vs. man conflict. Salieri wants to be famous, rising above mediocrity, but in the end, he can't. He declares war on God as well, feeling that God is making fun of him "through his preferred Creature--Mozart. . . in the waging of which, of course, the Creature had to be destroyed."  He decides if he can't be famous, then he will be infamous, known for his bad deeds rather than for his music. At least he will be immortal, and when people "say Mozart with love, they will say Salieri with loathing. . ." His attempt at immortality fails when his attempt at suicide fails. No one will then believe his false confession.