Themes and Meanings
Peter Shaffer has described Amadeus as “a fantasia on events in Mozart’s life,” but such a description, while accurate, obscures the fact that the play is only ostensibly biographical. Its significance derives not from its most sensational feature, its portrait of Mozart, but instead from its handling of complex and largely overlapping psychological, philosophical, and aesthetic matters. At the most accessible and perhaps most melodramatic level, Amadeus concerns the mystery of creative genius. Here Shaffer draws heavily on biographical legends in order to suggest that Mozart’s greatness was more than human and the man himself touched by God. Mozart’s genius, however, also raises a number of troubling questions. How, for example, is it to be reconciled with his immaturity and vulgarity? The relationship between genius and talent (Mozart and Salieri respectively) or, to put it somewhat differently, between the greatness of the few and the mediocrity of the many, is a more troubling question than it may at first appear, given the play’s political context: the weakening power of monarchy and corresponding rise in democratic aspirations.
The problem is compounded by Salieri’s depiction of Mozart as not only the greatest of composers but the most independent and innovative as well, and thus a double threat to the status quo. The play’s theological dimension is more apparent than the political, to which it is necessarily related; the divine right of monarchs parallels the divine inspiration...
(The entire section is 626 words.)