Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Each of Peter Shaffer’s three major serious plays The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1966), Equus (1975), and Amadeus, although totally different in situation, theatrical approach, and decor, have basically the same structure. An efficient, dedicated, man-of-the-world is forced into a conflict with an unworldly, intense antagonist, who embodies an entirely different set of mores and meanings. The protagonist “wins” the resulting confrontation, but it forces him into an acute critical awareness of his own weaknesses, the fragility of his beliefs, and the doubtful validity of his values, his direction, and his God. In his victory, he discovers his essential emptiness and impotency.

Thus, in The Royal Hunt of the Sun, Juan Pizarro is overwhelmed by the Inca vision embodied in his prisoner, Chief Atahuallpa, and is demoralized when that vision is destroyed by the forces that he, Pizarro, unleashes. In Equus, Dr. Dysart “cures” his young patient, Alan Strang, and in doing so, as the psychiatrist sadly realizes, dissipates the passion and identification with natural forces that has animated Strang, replacing them with the dull normality of everyday middle-class life. Much the same, Antonio Salieri, seeing his rival, Amadeus Mozart, as a symbol of God’s mendacity, sets out to destroy the young genius, thoroughly corrupting himself in the process.

Early in his career, Peter Shaffer worked for a London music publisher and, in 1961-1962, he was the music critic for Time and Tide. Music, therefore, has always been one of his major interests and has frequently played integral, if less central roles in his plays. Given his preoccupations and background, Shaffer’s decision to dramatize the court intrigues surrounding Mozart’s meteoric career and disastrous personal life, as well as his bizarre, mysterious death, was a logical yet inspired one.

The historical situation pits two natural enemies against each other, the successful man of worldly talent against the inspired genius, and the known facts are sufficient to provide a solid historical context, while leaving a number of tantalizing, ambiguous questions for the dramatist to explore and exploit. (Shaffer claims to have read all the material available on Mozart’s life.) Without sacrificing “historical accuracy,” the ambiguities surrounding Mozart’s career and death leave the playwright free to use these personages and events to dramatize his deeper concerns about life and art, talent and genius, and, ultimately, man and God.

The question of historical accuracy is further mitigated by Shaffer’s decision to tell the story entirely from the perspective of the aged Antonio Salieri shortly before his death. The stage directions emphasize the fact that most of the play is presented “in recall” via the protagonist’s mind. Thus, it is Salieri’s Mozart that one meets, his memory of the events that one sees, and even his version of the younger Antonio Salieri with whom one must deal. For all of its elaborateness and complexity, Amadeus is essentially a monodrama, the garrulous confession of an old man attempting to “leave an impression” on a world that has forgotten him and a posterity even less likely to remember. Better than anyone else, Salieri realizes that his only claim to lasting fame is that he “murdered” Mozart, an assertion he only half believes himself.

When we first meet Salieri he is an aged broken recluse huddled in his room on what he believes to be the last night of his life. He gorges himself on sweetcakes and reminisces at length about his life. Having recently publicly confessed to the murder of Mozart thirty years earlier, he realizes that few either believe him or care. Even in his bitterness, however, Salieri appreciates the irony of his fate. The...

(This entire section contains 1745 words.)

See This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this study guide. You'll also get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

nature of God, or at least his characters’ views of Him, has been central to all of the major Shaffer plays; inAmadeus, God seems to be the extreme ironist and Salieri is the victim of His most subtle, ingenious, and cruel ironies.

As a young man Salieri makes a pact with God: if God grants him talent and fame, he will work very hard all his life, pursue virtue and holiness in His name, and will compose only works that glorify Him. God answers this prayer; it is His first joke on Salieri. No sooner is Salieri established in Vienna as the brightest of the newer court composers, then along comes Mozart, who has no virtue, composes immortal works on salacious subjects, and does it all with ridiculous ease. Thus, Salieri immediately is forced into an unequal competition with a thoroughly unworthy genius.

God’s second joke is to grant to Salieri and to him alone, the critical capacity to appreciate Mozart’s genius. After hearing Mozart for the first time, Salieri exclaims: “I was suddenly frightened. It seemed to me I had heard a voice of God—and that it issued from a creature whose own voice I had also heard—and it was the voice of an obscene child.” The third joke, of course, is to give Salieri a long life, thus forcing him to see and live through the realization of his own worst fears and expectations.

Salieri’s reveries move in chronological order from the events surrounding his first meeting with Mozart to the young composer’s death a decade later. The first act shows the confrontation between the two men, and Salieri’s growing awareness—not shared by those around him—that he has encountered true genius in the person of an infantile, vulgar, erratic competitor. The most moving demonstration of this occurs at the first formal meeting between them. Salieri plays an innocuous “March of Welcome” for the Austrian Emperor, Joseph II. Mozart takes the keyboard to play Salieri’s march. He begins to improvise on it, gradually the famous march “non piu andrai” from The Marriage of Figaro emerges. Salieri—and the audience—are stunned.

It is not only Mozart’s genius and his garish behavior that shocks Salieri, but it is also the implications—musical, social, even metaphysical—that go far beyond any personal envy. Salieri would be willing to welcome Mozart as a colleague, another “stone” in the “musical edifice” of the times. Mozart is no builder, however; he will destroy the musical vision of the day and replace it with something newer, more complex, and more “realistic.” Worse yet, Mozart’s vision challenges the philosophical, even religious assumptions, behind Salieri’s world. The safe, ordered, formulaic music of the mid-eighteenth century implied a world equally fixed and safe. The complexity and realism of Mozart’s music threatens social class, even cosmic chaos. By speaking through such an undeserving, erratic vehicle, God implies a chaos in His world and even in His Being that Salieri must reject. Thus, Salieri’s agonized question—why will God not speak through those worthy of Him?—becomes a defiant challenge: “You are the Enemy! I name Thee now—Nemico Eterno! And this I swear: To my last breath I shall block You on earth, as far as I am able!” The first act of Amadeus might be subtitled “Salieri’s disillusionment,” the second, “Salieri’s revenge.”

In Act Two, Salieri systematically sets out to destroy his rival: manipulating the arrogant, frivolous Viennese musical establishment; the vain, hypocritical aristocracy and royalty; and the gullible, vulgar Mozart himself. He exploits the musical and social prejudices of his day to discredit Mozart’s work and to undercut his rival’s ability to support himself and his growing family. Finally, in the mysterious events surrounding the composition of Mozart’s Requiem Mass, he attacks the young composer’s sanity itself. Disillusioned, penniless, half-mad, Mozart dies proclaiming Salieri his murderer, an accusation that brings great satisfaction to his “victorious” rival.

This summary oversimplifies Shaffer’s provocative, subtle play, making it sound like little more than a protracted exercise in personal spite, petty villainy, and metaphysical conjecture. The real impact and meaning of the play are not simply in the events chronicled, even through the distorting glass of Salieri’s vision, but in Shaffer’s adroit manipulation of tone and emphasis. In a subtly Brechtian fashion, the playwright makes us “judge” his characters and reflect upon the meaning of their actions. Amadeus is neither a tragedy nor a philosophical tract; it is an extremely sophisticated comedy.

Throughout his career, Shaffer has demonstrated impressive talents both as a “serious” dramatist and as a skillful comedy writer, but he has seldom brought these talents together in the same work. Except perhaps for his first play, Five Finger Exercise, his straight plays have been quite straight and his comedies, comedic. There are few laughs in The Royal Hunt of the Sun and Equus, few dark patches in The Private Ear and The Public Eye, Black Comedy, or The White Liars. Amadeus is Shaffer’s best play because he has combined the best elements of these earlier plays. It has the spectacle of The Royal Hunt of the Sun, the rhetorical intensity of Equus, and the wit, in a more subtle fashion, of his comedy triumphs.

Salieri and Mozart are both clowns. Mozart is a giggling, awkward, erratic misfit, who chastizes rivals in scatalogical language and woos his wife with baby talk and obscene gestures. Salieri is a pompous, pretentious collection of affectations, with no more substance than the ornate, sticky pastries he continually consumes. Their conflict is no clash of titans, but a farcical series of petty intrigues, deceptions, and misunderstandings. When Mozart evokes his great talent to mock a rival, he does so as a bratty child might snub a playmate. When Salieri rages against God and fate, he resembles Oliver Hardy more than Lear or Oedipus. When, in the final moments of the play, he attempts to kill himself and fails ignominiously, we realize that he has bungled everything in his life. Whatever they both may think, it was not Salieri who killed or even ruined Mozart. Mozart’s music “failed” in his own time because the public, a collection of lesser Salieris, was not ready for it. He was a financial failure because there was no market for his new vision. He was a personal failure because he nursed a positive talent for self-destruction.

Amadeus is, therefore, a play about failure—the failure of the genius to be worthy of his talent, of the mediocrity to be worthy of his vision, and, perhaps, even of God to be worthy of the world He made. To be “amadeus”—“loved of God”—is a mixed blessing to say the least.

The Play

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Amadeus begins with the “savage whispers” and “snakelike hissing” of the Ventricelli, the two Little Winds who will appear throughout the play, spreading rumors. At first the sounds are indistinguishable, creating an atmosphere of suspicion and foreboding. Then the words “Salieri” and “assassin” emerge, followed by talk of Mozart’s death, or murder, and finally the questions that the play will attempt to answer dramatically rather than definitively: Did Salieri murder Mozart? If he did, why has he waited thirty-two years to make his confession? Like the words and then the questions, Salieri emerges only slowly from the obscurity to which history and Peter Shaffer’s stage directions have assigned him. He steps from the darkness to address the audience, Ombri del Futuro (men of the future), directly, asking them to become visible, claiming to need them desperately, yet rather playfully inviting them to listen to his final composition, “The Death of Mozart: Or, Did I Do It?”

At this point, Salieri steps out of his dressing gown and into the year 1781, a young man again. The Salieri of scene 2 is a troubling figure, at once self-deprecating and haughty, even cynical. This division goes deeper, however, for the Salieri who speaks to the audience both is and is not the young man who had made a bargain with God: In exchange for God’s making him a composer, he would dedicate his art to God and his life to serving God and man. The Salieri who addresses the audience is that young man turned inside out, his naïveté into cynicism, his love into hate.

The Salieri of 1781 is an esteemed and prolific composer in the court of Joseph II, emperor of Austria. He accepts what he assumes is God’s beneficence, including his role as servant; he is well educated and well rewarded but a servant nevertheless. His complacency measures all too precisely the level of his ambition (to be Kapellmeister) and artistic achievement. The arrival in Vienna of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart challenges all Salieri’s assumptions: social, religious, and aesthetic. Mozart’s character, like Salieri’s, is two-sided. He is the child prodigy grown into a musical genius yet simultaneously a vulgar young man given to scatological chatter, sexual excess, and general ill-mannered behavior.

Listening to Mozart’s Serenade for Thirteen Wind Instruments, Salieri wonders, “What is the need in the sound? Forever unfillable, yet fulfilling him who hears it utterly,” only then to wonder how and why the God with whom Salieri made his bargain could have chosen to speak through such an instrument as this “creature,” this “obscene child.” The doubleness of Mozart’s character—the vulgarity of his behavior coupled with the incomparable beauty of his music—disturbs Salieri so deeply because he believes so strongly in the world of neoclassical order and conventions, not of modern ambiguity and innovation.

Salieri’s recognition of Mozart’s genius causes him to feel naked, empty, and jealous. Worse, he feels betrayed by God, fated, as he now believes, “to be the sole man alive in this time who shall clearly recognize Your Incarnation.” To a large degree Salieri is right. He can appreciate and understand Mozart far better than any other character in the play, and only he, therefore, comprehends what that means for Antonio Salieri, condemned to know his own mediocrity. If part of the play concerns Salieri’s recognition of how diminished his own art becomes in the presence of Mozart’s music, then another deals with the psychological and metaphysical implications of this recognition and, more specifically, his need to kill Mozart in order to strike at his real betrayer and enemy, God.

The first act ends where it began, in 1823, with Salieri once again a bitter old man, interrupting his tale in order to relieve his bladder, stopping on the way to tear at a pastry “voraciously.” It ends ominously yet comically—disturbingly so, for Salieri’s black humor seems the all-too-logical outcome of a religious belief taken to the limit and turned back on itself, of love transmogrified into hate.

As act 2 begins, Salieri again turns to the audience, pleading this time not for forgiveness but for understanding. The audience may well come to realize that it is the former which is easy, the latter which is hard. To forgive would be to play God, but Salieri’s belief in God and his subsequent rejection of him makes the audience unsure how to proceed. Salieri is more certain. He will do whatever he can to thwart Mozart, even kill him, in order to force God to acknowledge Salieri’s existence, if not as the composer Salieri thought he was then as the blasphemer he has become. Salieri does all he can to keep Mozart poor and out of favor and to have his operas canceled after only a few performances. Mozart declines while Salieri prospers—an inexplicable response on God’s part, or so Salieri, ever the believer in a providential universe, contends.

Salieri cannot abide a world without God and consequently posits divine purpose and intervention at every turn. Mozart, on the other hand, accepts the autonomy of art and the human basis of the creative process, imagining God as humankind’s audience. However, even Mozart needs a God to affirm his music, to protect him from evil, and to rebel against—a role that his father, Leopold, is made, or chooses, to play. Leopold’s death forces the son to confront his dependence on the father and to acknowledge his psychological complicity in that death.

As the play moves relentlessly toward its climax, Salieri’s and Mozart’s lives begin to run even more clearly parallel courses, as each pathologically awaits supernatural punishment for his sin: Mozart from his father, Salieri from his God. As Mozart’s financial, marital, physical, and psychological situations worsen, however, Salieri appears to gain strength, feeding Mozart’s delusions and feeding on them. What Mozart confides to him, Salieri turns to his own purposes. Most horrifying of all, he dresses up as the Messenger of God, or Death (from Mozart’s nightmares), and stands beneath Mozart’s window until his friend and victim beckons him to come up, at which point he reveals himself. “Ecco mi. Antonio Salieri. Ten years of my hate have poisoned you to death.” Still composing mentally the requiem mass that an actual masked figure (a representative from a certain Count Wallsegg) has commissioned, Mozart obligingly dies.

Salieri, feeling “the pity God can never feel,” narrates the scene of Mozart’s death in the arms of a dull-witted wife and burial in a pauper’s grave (thanks to the ill-will of a former patron, Count Van Swieten, who easily could have afforded a first-class funeral). As the pathos grows, Salieri seems to forget who the real villain is.

Mozart’s death is, in this telling, sad; Salieri’s is at once self-serving and terrifying. “Buried in fame—but for work I knew to be absolutely worthless,” Salieri survives only to see himself become extinct as Mozart’s posthumous reputation increases. For thirty-two years Salieri nurses his hate, refusing to be God’s joke and demanding to be remembered, “if not in fame, then infamy.” Thus, he composes “a false confession” in which he explains “how I really murdered Mozart—with arsenic—out of envy!” Then, as the sun rises and the play draws to its conclusion, he cuts his throat with a razor. Again, however, Salieri fails. He does not die; his confession is found but not believed. It is dismissed as the ravings of a madman. Unable either to die or to compose, Salieri avails himself of his last power. Inverting the Christianity from which his hatred and obsession have grown, he plays the part of confessor and patron saint. He speaks to his audience the words of a blessing that is actually a curse: “Mediocrities, everywhere—now and to come—I absolve you all. Amen!”

Dramatic Devices

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Shaffer’s plays combine stagecraft and metaphysics in equal measure as if in an attempt to play the one against the other, with Shaffer hedging his bets in a modern version of Blaise Pascal’s seventeenth century “wager.” Significantly, Amadeus is Shaffer’s most speculative and his most technically advanced play; of its technical achievements, three are especially noteworthy. Two are implied in Shaffer’s own description of the play as “a fantasia on events in Mozart’s life”: history (or biography) and music.

In Amadeus, Shaffer uses music more extensively and integrally than in any of his other dramas. Brief selections from Salieri’s and, more frequently, Mozart’s works are heard throughout the play’s two acts in order to delineate further the different characters and musical styles of the two men and to deepen the play’s dramatic texture. The music also affects the play’s structure, stepping forth as if itself a character every bit as interesting and complex as Salieri and Mozart. This foregrounding of the music contributes to the play’s status as fantasia and also as opera (Shaffer conceived Salieri’s monologues as arias and the Ventricelli’s exchanges as duets).

As for Shaffer’s handling of historical facts and more particularly his controversial portrait of Mozart, one must understand that his intention here, as in his other plays based upon historical incidents, has never been to dramatize history but rather to heighten dramatic effect. This emphasis evidences itself not only in his preference for biographical legends over scholarly facts but also in his handling of the play’s temporal and even spatial dimensions. Shaffer strives to make the play’s action as continuous as possible: a single fluid movement through its thirty-one scenes. The time of the play, though, is clearly twofold: the past (1781-1791, when most of the action takes place) and the present (the two predawn hours sometime in November, 1823, when Salieri tells his tale, plus a disconcerting leap of a day or so, later in the play’s final scene). Time in Amadeus is therefore at once expansive and narrowly circumscribed, fluid and at times frozen, as when Salieri speaks in an aside to the audience in order to comment on the past action. Shaffer manipulates time and space even more noticeably in the Light Box, “an immense Rococo peepshow” placed upstage and into which backdrops are lowered and on which images are projected.

Finally, and most important, Amadeus displays its innovativeness in Shaffer’s use of Salieri as narrator (as well as character) and his transformation of the audience into one of the play’s characters. In some ways the audience serves as Salieri’s absent God, invoked by Salieri, or imagined into existence, in order that he might continue to exist and that he might better achieve a dubious and wholly theatrical immortality. The technique recalls that of playwrights Bertolt Brecht, Luigi Pirandello, and Peter Weiss, but its use in Amadeus is nevertheless highly original. Shaffer uses it to explore further the problematic relationship between art and life, and nowhere is the confusion of realms more effective or more troubling than in act 2, scene 7, where, at the opening performance of The Marriage of Figaro, the emperor and others stare out at the play’s audience as if its members have become actors in Mozart’s opera—a disconcerting reversal of roles, to say the least. Thus, the effectiveness of Amadeus derives as much from Shaffer’s continued efforts to explore drama as a medium and the stage as a space—the meeting place of past, present, and future, of history and drama, of action and narration, of music and drama—as it does from the play’s speculations.

Historical Context

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

In the twentieth century, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's reputation grew considerably. His works, which include a variety of forms from chamber music to symphonies and operas, have been heralded for their classical grace, technical perfection, and melodic beauty.

Shaffer's play, Amadeus, records several details of Mozart's life. Mozart was a child prodigy who started composing before he was five. A year later, his father began taking him and his talented sister to play for the anstocracy in Europe. In 1781, he relocated to Vienna and married Constanze Weber against his father's wishes. The newlyweds had financial difficulties when Mozart could not find suitable employment. While his work was often applauded during his lifetime, audiences were sometimes critical of the demands his innovations placed on them. He also clashed with the emperor's court over issues of artistic freedom. Eventually, he was appointed chamber musician and court composer to Joseph II, but the paltry salary he earned did not ease his financial troubles. He gained public acclaim for The Magic Flute, but the work's references to the secret rituals of the Freemasons lost him the support of one of his most ardent defenders, Baron von Swieten. Mozart worked on his final piece, the Requiem Mass, with the sense that it would be played at his own funeral. He died, however, before he could complete it and was buried, unceremoniously, in an unmarked, mass grave.

Mozart and Salieri
Other artists have created works based on the rumor that Salieri may have murdered Mozart. In 1830, Alexander Pushkin wrote a tragedy entitled Envy, which he later renamed Mozart and Salieri. In 1897, Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov based his opera, Mozart and Salieri, on Pushkin's short dramatic sketch, which focuses on Salieri's envy and his subsequent poisoning of Mozart, who dies playing his Requiem on the piano.

The Order of the Freemasons is a secret fraternal order also known as the Free and Accepted Masons, or Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. The Freemasons has over six million members worldwide and is the largest secret society in the world. No central authority governs the Masons. Each national group, called a grand lodge, is a self-governing body.

The Masonic rituals and ceremonies are elaborate and symbolic. They often employ the tools of stonemasonry—the plumb, square, level, and compass—and use as an allegorical backdrop the events surrounding the building of King Solomon's Temple. Masons are expected to believe in a Supreme Being and to read a holy book designated by the lodge. All members are sworn to secrecy concerning the order's ceremonies and rituals.

Some scholars argue that the order emerged from the English and Scottish stonemason fraternities and cathedral workmen in the early Middle Ages. Traces of the order have been found in Great Britain in the fourteenth century. Other historians speculate that evidence of the order can be found in antiquity. The order flourished worldwide after the formation of the English Grand Lodge in London in 1717. Famous freemasons include Voltaire, Joseph Haydn, Johann von Goethe, and Benjamin Franklin.

Literary Style

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

The play is structured like a deathbed confession, similar to Monticello's in Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Cask of Amontillado." The play opens after the main events have occurred and with one of the main characters, Antonio Salieri, speaking to the audience as an old man. Salieri frequently addresses the audience directly, sometimes in an aside, during the course of the play to gain support and understanding. This self-conscious, expressionistic device not only provides the audience with useful information; it also allows them a glimpse of Salieri's inner thoughts and emotions. When Salieri speaks to the audience, the other characters often "freeze" and the soundtrack stops. The venticelli, or the ''Little Winds," sometimes speak directly to the audience as they relate important information about the events surrounding Salieri's relationship with Mozart. The venticelli also provide Salieri with useful information about Mozart's activities and the public's response to both composers.

Salieri's narration frames the play, which opens and closes with a focus on Salieri as a bitter old man, lamenting the loss of his fame and the overwhelming appreciation of Mozart's work. The older Salieri also appears at the middle of the play to offer a commentary on the main plot details surrounding his relationship with Mozart.

Point of View
Shaffer tells the story of the relationship between Mozart and Salieri from Salieri's subjective point of view. While other characters in the play often substantiate Salieri's opinion of Mozart's character, especially when he challenges the composer's petulance and immaturity, they do not validate his portrayal of God's motives and behavior. Salieri's God is "an old candle-smoked God in a mulberry robe, staring at the world with dealer's eyes''—a vision he takes from a painting he saw as a child. Salieri cannot admit to any responsibility for his artistic shortcomings and so must blame God for them. He insists that when he was young, God promised to grant him the gift of music. When He does not live up to this promise, He becomes Salieri's "cunning Enemy," whom Salieri continually tries to block. Salieri's God proves unjust to him after, he claims, God gave Salieri the desire to serve Him through music, but then "saw to it the service was shameful in the ears of the server'' and gave him the ability to recognize greatness while acknowledging his own mediocrity.

Salieri's God is also pitiless, insisting that He (God) does not need Salieri because He has Mozart. When Salieri decides God has also turned his back on Mozart, Salieri tells the artist that God will not help or love him, for "God does not love. He can only use. . . . He cares nothing for whom He uses; nothing for whom He denies."

The title of the play, Amadeus, translates into "God's love" and thus becomes ironically symbolic in the play. Salieri continually tries to gain recognition of God's love for him, especially since his "one desire was to join all the composers who had celebrated His glory through the long Italian past." However, he sees an expression of God's love only in Mozart's music, which baffles him and drives him to the verge of madness. When he hears one of Mozart's compositions, Salieri confesses, "it seemed to me that I had heard a voice of God—and that it issued from a creature whose own voice I had also heard—and it was the voice of an obscene child!"

Shaffer also uses music symbolically in the play. His inclusion of Mozart's most lyrical and stirring passages illustrates "God's voice" in the music, especially when juxtaposed with Salieri's more pedestrian pieces. Shaffer also uses the music to allow the audience to glimpse Salieri's inner turmoil. For example, when Salieri reads the manuscripts Constanze brings him, he hears Mozart's swelling music and "staggers" forward "like a man caught in a tumbling and violent sea." When the drums "crash," Salieri echoes the emotion of the piece as he drops the manuscripts and "falls senseless to the ground." Shaffer directs, "At the same second the music explodes into a long, echoing, distorted boom, signifying some dreadful annihilation.'' At this climactic point, Salieri's dream of becoming God's chosen has been shattered.

Compare and Contrast

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

1781: Joseph II is Emperor of Austria.

1918: The Austrian monarchy is abolished as a result of the political turmoil of World War I.

Today: Austria is a prosperous and independent country.

1781: Music flourishes in eighteenth-century Austria, due in large part to the strong support and patronage of Joseph II.

Today: Many American congressmen support massive cuts in subsidies for the arts.

Media Adaptations

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

An overwhelmingly popular film version was released in 1984. Amadeus was directed by Milos Forman and starred F. Murray Abraham as Salieri and Tom Hulce as Mozart. Shaffer wrote the screenplay. This film is available in VHS and DVD formats.

A television version appeared in Romania, directed by Radu Cernescu and starring Razvan Vasilescu as Mozart and Radu Beligan as Salieri. The production used Shaffer's play for the script.

Bibliography and Further Reading

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Brustem, Robert, Review in New Republic, January 17, 1981.

Gelatt, Roland, "Peter Shaffer's Amadeus: A Controversial Hit," in Saturday Review, November 1980, pp. 11-14.

Gianakaris, C. J. , Review in Opera News, Vol. 46, February 27, 1982.

Hinden, Michael, "Trying to Like Shaffer," in Comparative Drama, Vol. 19, Spring 1985, pp. 14-29.

Huber, Werner, and Hubert Zapf, "On the Structure of Peter Shaffer's Amadeus," in Modem Drama, Vol. 27, No. 3, September 1984, pp. 299-313.

Jones, Daniel R., "Peter Shaffer's Continued Quest for God in Amadeus," in Comparative Drama, Vol. 21, No. 2, Summer 1987, pp. 145-155.

Kauffmann, Stanley, Review in Saturday Review, February 1981, pp. 78-79.

Levin, Bernard, Review in Times (London), January 9, 1985.

MacMurraugh-Kavanagh, M. K., Peter Shaffer: Theatre and Drama, MacMillan Press, 1998.

Nightingale, Benedict, "Obscene Child,'' in New Statesman, Vol. 98, No. 2538, November 1979, p. 735

Chambers, Colin, "Psychic Energy," in Plays and Players, Vol. 27, No. 5, February 1980, pp. 11-13. Chambers includes comments from Shaffer on his plays, including Amadeus.

Connell, Brian, "The Two Sides of Theatre's Agonized Perfectionist," in Times (London), April 28, 1980, p. 18. Connell interviews Shaffer on several topics including his literary development and the structure of his plays.

Taylor, John Russell, Peter Shaffer, Longman Group, 1974. Taylor analyzes Shaffer's use of language in his plays.

Toynbee, Polly, Review in Spectator, Vol. 243, No. 7896, November 10, 1979, pp. 29-30. Toynbee comments on the structure of Amadeus. She praises the play's opening premise but faults what she considers its overlong second act.


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Sources for Further Study

Arens, Katherine. “Mozart: A Case Study in Logocentric Repression.” Comparative Literature Studies 9 (Summer, 1986): 141-169.

Brown, A. P. Review of Amadeus. The American Scholar 61 (Winter, 1992): 49-66.

Cooke, Virginia, and Malcolm Page, eds. File on Shaffer. London: Methuen, 1987.

Denby, David. “Mozartomania.” New York 17 (September 24, 1984): 93-96.

Giankaris, C. J. “Drama into Film: The Shaffer Situation.” Modern Drama 28 (March, 1985): 83-98.

Giankaris, C. J. “A Playwright Looks at Mozart: Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus.” Comparative Drama 15 (1981): 37-53.

Klein, Dennis A. Peter and Anthony Shaffer: A Reference Guide. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1982.

Klein, Dennis A. Peter Shaffer. Rev. ed. New York: Twayne, 1993.

Klein, Dennis A. “The Third Part of Peter Shaffer’s Dramatic Trilogy.” Modern Language Studies 13 (Winter, 1983): 31-38.

Lounsberry, Barbara. “Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus and Shrivings: God-Hunting Continued.” Theater Annual 39 (1984): 15-33.

Mikels, Frank X., and James Rurak. “Finishing Salieri: Another Act to Amadeus.” Soundings 67 (Spring, 1984): 42-54.

Plunka, Gene A. Roles, Rites, and Rituals. Teaneck, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1988.


Critical Essays


Teaching Guide