ISBN: 0060907835
ISBN 13: 9780060907839
By: Peter Shaffer

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About this book

0riginating at the National Theatre of Great Britain, Amadeus was the recipient of both the Evening Standard Drama Award and the Theatre Critics Award. In the United States, the play won the coveted Tony Award and went on to become a critically acclaimed major motion picture winning eight Oscars, including Best Picture.Now, this extraordinary work about the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is available with a new preface by Peter Shaffer and a new introduction by the director of the 1998 Broadway revival, Sir Peter Hall. Amadeus is a must-have for classical music buffs, theatre lovers, and aficionados of historical fiction.

Reader's Thoughts

Scott Lee

This is one of my favorite plays. Although, I must admit, I've never actually seen it. I encountered Amadeus through the Best Picture winning film version adapted for screen (and directed? I don't remember...) by Peter Shaffer and starring F. Murray Abraham as Salieri. What I would have given to see the Broadway production starring Ian McKellen as Salieri and Tim Curry as Mozart, if I remember correctly. This is one of the most compelling uses of stage and theater I've ever seen, embracing the theatricality as so many modern pieces do, but without their often showy weakness. Shaffer writes with power of art, of talent, of the immortality of art, etc. And of the horror of mediocrity in the face of true greatness. as powerful a commentary on art and on human nature and competition as can be found in literature. Yes, I mean it. And I've read enough to know such claims often come across as hyperbole. Read it. Decide for yourself.

Lisa Cook

I saw the film version first, and to this day it is still one of my favorite movies. I had high hopes for the play that spawned it, and I was not disappointed. This play was fast-paced and very well-written. The characters themselves were also very carefully crafted and wonderful to watch. That being said, I think that simply because of the absence of the music that plays such an important role in the story, reading the script and experiencing the film are two complete separate things, almost so much that it's hard to compare the two. Seeing this play performed on stage however, might be a complete different experience all together.

Vikas Datta

Not what I thought what it would be but still okay... perhaps the stage needs another approach


can we say. dipping into the haterade.daaaaaaamn. talk about a spiteful motherf*cker.and by spiteful motherf*cker. we’re talking about mozarts rival salieri.everybody know someone like this know. semi talented. but mediocre at best.doing everything he can. to bring a talented brotha yeah. that’s basically what went down in this play.but like all true genius. works of art are eternal.and in the end. people be like.salieri…who.


This is a fabulous work. I only occasionally like to read plays (the only other I really enjoyed was Stoppard's "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead") but this was gripping as any prose.The movie does a good job but it is a bit different. In his introduction, Schaffer discusses the changes that he himself made to adapt it, which I found helped set my expectations for where the two diverge and kept my mind open enough to embrace those differences. The characters are fascinating, the dialogue well done, and the narrative very tight. This work has received scads of awards for the movie and plays, and are all well deserved. A classic!


Ah, i loved this. Everything about it was intriguing to me. Great fun to perform and play around with also.

Arun Divakar

To me the most stirringly powerful of all emotions are lust & envy. Powerful as in they make many a level headed person lose all self restraint and act in ways unbeknown st to them so far.Amadeus is a potent combination of envy with the addictive capability of music. I am too much of an amateur in savoring plays but this definitely is a tour de force.It is anything but a biography of Mozart. Told entirely from the perspective of Antonio Salieri, this is the downfall of one man and the ascension of another but not in the order as we assume. Mozart was a genius in composing music and as someone rightly said "Genius is about realizing that there are no rules to anything". One amazing thing about the play is that we watch Mozart from the sidelines through his downfall. We also get to sit inside the mind of the man who plots this downfall and that makes all the difference. The best characters to me are the Venticelli, the gossip mongers who are the actual wheels that make this whole.Amadeus is a wave of music that slowly picks up with each passing line of dialog to finally reach a crescendo that blinds us with light. As it reaches a point where its strength could leave us deaf,it fades out until we are back in reality. Just something I picked up from the dialog was by Salieri : I felt the pity God can never feel, I weakened God's flute to thinness. God blew-as He must-without cease.The flute split in the mouth of his insatiable need. P.S : I never saw the movie either !!!

Neil Schleifer

Is passion alone enough reason to create art? Is art worthy of comparison? What happens when jealousy of another's creative spirit dominates one's own ability to tap into the creative spirit to the point where one becomes emotionally crippled...or worse....spiritually dead?These are some of the over-riding themes of Shaffer's brilliant play. Filled with amazing imagery as well as diatribes on the unfairness of a world that would allow a child to be perceived as a genius while leaving others to wallow in obscurity, this play is fascinating -- both as a drama of historical fiction and as a concerto of themes on the power of art. Destined to spark many a lively discussion among its readers/viewers.


I have always, always loved this story. I remember watching the movie growing up and being fascinated by the way they incorporated Mozart's music into the story (even though most of it isn't true). The play is somewhat different than the movie, and is very powerful. The role of Salieri is any actor's dream! It is such an interesting story on good and evil, gifts from God, who He bestows those gifts on and why. If you like the movie, I highly, highly recommend reading the play.

Rebecca N. McKinnon

A long time ago, in a high school library far, far away ... I judged Peter Shaffer's "Equus" by its vague title and its enticing cover. An unnatural and dangerous flirtation with playwriting and Latin pronunciation caused me to crack open the spine of this book that day, but Shaffer's fascinating writing style sent me back to it multiple times throughout my time at Douglas Anderson. I'd never experienced a playwright like Shaffer before, and I haven't experienced a playwright like Shaffer since. For years, "Equus" has steadfastly remained my favorite play. When director Thea Sharrock revived the play for production in London and, later on, in New York, my boyfriend and I traveled the East Coast to see it. With this being said, I can't believe it took me so many years to read "Amadeus," a Shaffer play which has competed vigorously and perhaps successfully for the title of Shaffer's greatest work."Amadeus" immediately impressed me. It was a powerfully successful decision on Shaffer's part to frame the entire work's structure around the destruction of the fourth wall. He less frequently but just as powerfully used the same technique in "Equus." This proved essential to the audience's omnipresence. I understood. I cared for. I despised. I revolted. Though shocked, nothing came as a shock. Shaffer's intimate writing brought flat characters of an indistinguishable society into my bedroom, mind, and heart. I've taken both lower level and upper level music appreciation college courses, but only through the lens of "Amadeus" was I able to clearly see Mozart's plight for the first time. I also, for the first time, gandered at the possible effect Mozart's talent must have had on the professional musicians around him. Shaffer's writing allowed me to see these historical figureheads as people. Just people. With lives full of catastrophe and wonder--the evil and good we all battle and strive for through (forgive me) tears and years of struggle.


نمی دانم به عنوان کسی که فقط فیلم این کتاب را دیده، حق دارم نظری راجع به آن بدهم یا نه.به هر حال.داستان در سطح متوسط به بالا بود. تلفیقی از واقعیت های زندگی موتزارت و تخیلات نویسنده و این دو را به زیبایی با هم تلفیق کرده بود. مثلاً موتزارت یک مرثیه برای مرگ خودش نوشته است و نویسنده، علتی تخیلی برای این کار عجیب آهنگساز مشهور بیان می کند. علتی که به زیبایی با داستان زندگی موتزارت در هم آمیخته است.فیلم پر است از صحنه های اپرا و ارکستر که اگر به موسیقی کلاسیک علاقه داشته باشید، برایتان مهیج خواهد بود. مخصوصاً تفسیرهای تخیلی که از اپراهای موتزارت ارائه می شود که با داستان تخیلی هماهنگی زیبایی دارد. نمی دانم کتاب که شامل این موسیقی ها نیست، آیا جذابیت فیلم را دارد یا نه؟و در نهایت، مضمون کتاب، حسادت و در عین حال عشق دو شخصیت به هم است. هر دو شخصیت، از موسیقی دانان برجسته ی قرن هجدهم بوده اند: یکی موتزارت و دیگری سالیری، استاد بتهون و شوبرت و داستان، تلفیقی از کمدی و تراژدی است.

Alexander Arsov

Peter ShafferAmadeusA Play in Two ActsHarper Perennial, Paperback, 2001.8vo. xxxiv, 124 pp. First edition of the Sixth version. Introduction by Peter Hall [vi-xiii]. Preface Amadeus: The Final Encounter by Peter Shaffer [xv-xxxiv]. First produced, 1979.First published, 1980.Sixth version, 2001.CHARACTERSAntonio SalieriWolfgang Amadeus MozartConstanze Weber, wife to MozartJoseph II, Emperor of AustriaCount Johann Kilian von Strack, Royal ChamberlainCount Franz Orsini-Rosenberg, Director of the Imperial OperaBaron Gottfried van Swieten, Prefect of the Imperial LibraryTwo ''Venticelli'' - ''Little Winds'', purveyors of information, gossip and rumorA MajordomoSalieri's valet (Silent part)Salieri's cook (Silent part)Kapellmeister Bonno (Silent part)Teresa Salieri, wife of Salieri (Silent part)Katherina Cavalieri, Salieri's pupil (Silent part)Citizens of ViennaThe action of the play takes place in Vienna in November 1823 and, in recall, the decade 1781-1791. =============================================I am not the one to beat about the bush, so I'll say it directly: Peter Shaffer's play is a very fine piece of drama - but it is certainly inferior to Milos Forman's movie. This may sound heretic, but I have a number of reasons and I shall presently state them with as much clarity as I am capable of. Comparing a movie and a play is of course a silly business, but in this particular case it is all but inevitable: both works have become classics; rightly so, for they deal with eternal issues in a most powerful way. Two things should never be forgotten: 1) Peter Shaffer had a lot to do with the movie as well; after all, together with Milos Forman, he adapted his own play for the screen; and 2) a play is written to be played on stage and a movie is a great deal more than a mere screenplay; since I have seen the latter quite a few times but never the former, I am naturally biased in favour of the screen version - but not unnecessarily so, I should like to believe. Last but not least, be warned:Spoilers ahead! Let me start with the mundane details. This Harper Perennial edition is by way of being a historical one. It contains a long, and somewhat dull, preface by Peter Shaffer in which he describes in slightly intolerable detail how the play passed through at least six versions between its London premiere in 1979 and one of its many revivals some two decades later; incidentally or not, both were directed by Peter Hall. Almost all of the numerous revisions through the years were concerned with the crucial final scene between Mozart and Salieri - rightly indeed, as it is the most unconvincing one in the whole play. The version printed here is regarded as last, final and best by both the author and the director. (By the way, the preface by Peter Hall is completely fascinating and does show that sometimes directors really know what they are doing - and why they are doing it.) So let's see how great the play really is and how it stands a comparative analysis with the movie.The play is very ingeniously constructed. It has only two acts, but each of them consists of numerous scenes that change with amazing speed: Schönbrunn, the Prater, Mozart's or Salieri's apartments, opera houses, and many others; the movement of the characters, physically and through the years, ''freezing'' and ''releasing'' them constantly, as well as the superb dialogue, are by no means less swift and incisive. Peter Shaffer himself describes the stage vividly in a short note in the beginning, titled simply The Set and inspired by Jonh Bury's original concept from 1979. He specifically declares that, though the entire design is modern, costumes and objects are, and should be, sumptuous and typical for the period no matter where the play is produced. The whole set actually consisted of a large rectangle of patterned wood, changing almost out of recognition under various lights, on which virtually the whole action takes place; in addition, of course, there are period pieces like a fortepiano, a chandelier and a cake stand; these are changed accordingly to the scene by actors in eighteenth-century livery who have nothing else to do. The action is continuous. The constant changes of place and time - in addition to various locations the play spreads over a period of some forty years - are indicated by changes in the lighting. Most remarkably of all, there is in the back a grand proscenium with grand curtains that could rise to reveal an additional space into which superb projections show boxes of opera, a masonic lodge or a street at night, the splendours of Schönbrunn or the scandal-mongering citizens of Vienna; Peter Shaffer charmingly calls the device ''an immense Rococo peepshow'' and refers to it in the text as the Light Box. Together with fine acting and lots of great music, carefully selected and played exactly at the right place, Amadeus must be an amazing experience live in the theatre.The funny thing is that the play is eminently readable and immensely entertaining on paper as well. Shaffer's stage directions are copious but never excessive, bringing to life both the characters and the surroundings with staggering vividness. One doesn't need any great imagination to visualise easily everything to the last detail. Enthralling read. One of Shaffer's most brilliant touches are the two fellows called ''Venticelli'', or ''Little Winds'', described as ''purveyors of information, gossip and rumour.'' From time to time they rush on the stage and give Salieri, speaking rapidly and always trying to outdo each other, tons of important information that makes the play much more coherent and plausible. Another advantage of the play over the movie is that the secondary characters - van Swieten, Orsini-Rosenberg, von Strack, emperor Joseph - are much better drawn and adroitly included in the action; the only exception is the Kapellmeister Bonno whose part is silent but it's no loss at all. On the whole, the play is vastly amusing, immensely powerful and not a little disturbing; it is visionary and overwhelming. It certainly makes fantastic read not to be forgotten soon - for it would bear a good deal of re-reading as well. Yet, for all its greatness, the play falls short of the movie, and I don't mean the visual side at all. I don't think I would have been able to rate Peter Shaffer's Amadeus as highly as possible even if I had never seen the movie. The next few paragraphs try to explain the paradox. But first - be warned again:Tons of Spoilers AheadTo begin with some major flaws, the play does overemphasize Mozart's infantile personality. Now, don't get me wrong; I am not at all concerned with historical accuracy here, even though Shaffer's Mozart has a great deal to do with the one who lived two centuries ago; I absolutely agree that a dramatist is at perfect liberty to manipulate the historical facts as he chooses. It is obvious that Peter Shaffer has searched for a dramatic contrast here, and the great disparity between the musical genius and the vulgar man offers him an excellent opportunity. The problem is not with Mozart's inanity but with Shaffer's grossly overdoing it; we see much too much of Mozart's idiotic behaviour and way too less of the great composer. The same, though on smaller scale of course, goes for Constanze as well. Apart from colourful language such as ''you shit'' and ''you bitch'', which is fairly rare, there are much too many ''conversations'' between Mozart and his wife that are incomprehensible babbling worthy of five years old kids (like that hideous playing of cat and mouse in Act 1, with Mozart's unforgettable line ''Miaouw!'' - the same word repeated thrice in the very next line). Certainly I don't want realism, nor do I expect it in such a play, but Shaffer gives way too minor a place of Mozart's musical genius. Of course there is a lot of music which deeply affects Salieri, making him terribly conscious of his mediocrity, but there are at best just a few vague hints that these glorious sounds might possibly have come from that giggling and obscene little creature. Indeed, there are many moments in the play when the profound issues it is generally concerned with - mediocrity and genius, above all the incomprehensible nature of God - are actually lost in vacuous banter or simply idiotic exchange of meaningless phrases.This aspect is handled masterfully in the movie. Without making a perfect idiot of Mozart, he is shown to be a dissolute bohemian, with foul-mouthed tongue and scatological idea of humour. But he is also rather forcefully presented as a musical genius who composes impromptu masterpieces with ease that is literally unbelievable. Now we can much better understand why Salieri is consumed with envy and vitriol out of proportion. This is almost completely missing in the play. The magnificent music is there all right and Salieri's reaction is brilliantly conveyed, but there is hardly any hint that such music could ever have been composed by this Mozart.The character of Salieri is much better done. Of course it is the main character in the play - and in the movie for that matter; I have read opinions that the film shifted the focus from Salieri to Mozart: to such people I can only say to watch it again, for such claim as theirs is nonsense. I am probably influenced by F. Murray Abraham's mesmerising performance, but it seems to me that Salieri in the movie is much more sinister a figure, yet one who deserves a great deal of sympathy, even compassion. Salieri in the play displays the same utterly fascinating dichotomy, but on far smaller scale. Here Shaffer has diluted the character with totally inappropriate brilliant sense of humour and a certain amount of inanity à la Mozart family. To take but one example: Salieri's attempts to seduce, not to say rape, Constanze are frankly preposterous; and hardly essential for the action indeed. The same scene in the movie (available only in the Director's Cut) is mercilessly chilling and dramatically very effective without making ridiculous neither Salieri nor Constanze .Then there is the final confrontation of course. I am ready to believe Peter Shaffer that his final revision - printed here for the first time - is the best he could ever get to, but I should like to add: only as far as different versions of the play are concerned. For the final scene in the movie is infinitely more affecting. Who can forget that dictation of Confutatis from Mozart's Requiem, with the composition of all vocal parts and all layers of the instrumentation and the final result - music of terrifying horror - accompanying Constanze's carriage through the night? Nowhere else in the whole movie is the huge difference between the genius of Mozart and mediocrity of Salieri more brilliantly conveyed. Just compare this with the puerile conclusion of the play: Salieri confesses his crimes and Mozart - babbles a childish song. Peter Shaffer finely describes the ending of the movie as ''utterly improbable, and in many ways entirely fitting.'' I daresay he is right that it would not have worked on the stage. But I, for one, would rather take this tremendous ending, no matter how lamely rendered on the stage, than the last and best revision of the original scene. The rest of this review + another one of the Penguin Classics edition here:


It's an interesting play, no doubt about that. The portrayal of Mozart is incongruous with what I imagined he was like but it does make sense. I liked the way the rivalry and jealousy was portrayed.


Amadeus is Latin for “beloved of God,” and as such not only Wolfgang Mozart’s middle name, but also the theme of Peter Shaffer’s eponymous play. It’s a perfect title for an entertaining, libelous mea culpa given to court composer and Mozart contemporary Antonio Salieri, whom historians agree had nothing to do with Mozart’s early death. Why, Salieri struggles to understand, should impish Mozart be beloved of God (if not Fate) and Salieri condemned to know himself an ambitious no-talent? Shaffer concocts his Salieri as a tinpot tiger, mewling, seething, and steeping his sorrows in cattish plots all the while downing Italian creams.This theatrical version is extremely stagy, virtually a direct-to-the-audience Salieri monologue merely punctuated by illustrated scenelets. The Milos Forman film is far more compelling. It’s great fun in any version, but the terrific thing about this “Signet Movie Edition” of the play is that it couples the play with Shaffer’s musings on the results of his extensive adaptation work later with Forman (who co-wrote the screenplay). It is instructive that the only scenes from the play that made the leap to the film (a seduction and a hunting sequence) nonetheless ended up on the cutting room floor (see the Director’s Cut of Amadeus, or rather, don’t). To juxtapose reading this edition of the play with a viewing of the movie is thus to get a real lesson in effective editing and dramaturgy. How does the film so improve on the play? For one thing, the cinematic version significantly reduces Salieri’s exposition, which allows viewers to draw their own conclusions about the action (albeit aided by a surrogate confessor, whose reactions to Salieri’s confessions we are presumably to share). For another, the movie adds the fully fleshed-out supporting characters the play lacks – Constanze Weber’s mother, Mozart’s father, the diva Katherina Cavallieri, the Emperor Joseph II, and even the soundtrack which makes die musik a character in its own right – combining to make the story a meatier, more substantive work. Finally, the transition makes the piece a seamless narrative, devoid of any crude, contrived intermission, to wit, Salieri excusing himself from the proceedings to take a bathroom break. (I’m guessing that this was not one of Shaffer’s finer moments as a writer).I find it remarkable how so profound a piece can be built of such insubstantial dialogue. The play sacrifices no profundity in its transition to celluloid, not even in its language. For the most part, the “lines” of each amount to little more than ‘Ta very much’ drolleries, with but one exception. Having relieved his bladder, Salieri opens Act II with a quip: “It is obvious that cats have declined as badly as composers. Domenico Scarlatti owned one which would actually stroll across the keyboard and pick out passable subjects for fugue. But that was a Spanish cat of the Enlightenment. It appreciated counterpoint. Nowadays all cats appreciate is coloratura. Like the rest of the public.” (p. 77)What, Salieri, do you include patron Emperor Joseph II? Such a cattivo observation! Well… there it is.


I read Amadeus on a plane flying home from Prague, and it transported me away from the dreadful grey feeling being squashed into a metal box with hundreds of other people and returning to reality and rain. Its dark, incisive examination of loathing, envy and talent is an alluring read. I watched the film when I was younger, but missed out on the finer points largely because we only saw a few sections of it, as an end-of-term crowd-pleasing move by my Year 9 Music teacher.The play is very, very interesting. I liked and hated Salieri in equal parts. Mozart seemed to demand pity, rather than anything else, made interesting only because of Salieri's obsessive hatred. I'd like to see it performed, but as a book, it's an interesting study of envy, isolation and power.

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