ISBN: 0060907835
ISBN 13: 9780060907839
By: Peter Shaffer

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Classics Drama Favorites Fiction Historical Fiction Music Play Plays Theatre To Read

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


My mom told me about this book, but she failed to tell me it was a play. Once I got into it, and started to understand what it was really about, I thought it was very interesting. It is basically a play about how Mozart was murdered. I loved that the author put so much detail into this drama; it was like the author was really there. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes reading plays.

Vikas Datta

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


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.

Charlotte Jones

I went into this not knowing anything about it at all and I'm glad I did. The story of Mozart and Salieri was completely unknown to me and to be honest I have no idea how much of this play is fiction but I enjoyed it all the same. As I am not too accustomed to reading plays, I was happy that this one was written in a way that was easy to follow and that really kept me engaged throughout. The stage directions and the dialogue were written beautifully and the themes discussed were really interesting overall.There were some vulgar jokes and some outrageous actions from some of the characters but I think that it all suited the play and the plot quite well. I liked the way it included themes of the seven deadly sins as these were interesting to think about whilst reading. This is a play that definitely translates well into being read, not just performed, and I enjoyed the writing style enough that it didn't drag at any point. My only problem with this piece was that I didn't like or connect with any of the characters so the consequences of their actions, no matter how dramatic, didn't really evoke any emotion in me in a particularly strong way. Putting this aside this is definitely a classic piece of drama that is worth a read in my opinion.

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 !!!


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.


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.

شريف ثابت

"هلموا إلىّ يا أنصاف الموهوبين، قد غفرت لكم"سالييرى


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.

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.


Like so many, I first became acquainted with Amadeus by watching the acclaimed film version. In a nutshell, I prefer the film (adapted from the stage version), but the play is a masterwork as well. Just ask the people who give out Tony awards. Amadeus the play, though burdened with copious exposition and history lessons, achieves a quick pace. It benefits from high energy Greek chorus work, which helps move things along. It also creates a sense of the gossip-dependant culture of the time. (Have things changed?)On stage, Salieri is a master villain in the tradition of Shakespeare's Richard III. He'll make you laugh, and then he'll make you hope God isn't listening. Salieri's humor is dark, rich, and cutting. In deliberate contrast, Mozart's dialogue is raunchy and a bit overdone. I think the film does a nimbler job fleshing out Mozart's flamboyant and bawdy persona. However, the play has one treasure the film does not: Salieri's monologue at the end of Act I. It is as grand and thunderous as a Wagnerian aria. Salieri says at one point, "What use, after all, is Man, if not to teach God His lessons?"In addition to reading the play, I've seen two great professional productions of it. Far from being overshadowed by the film, the play lives on in regional revivals. If you have a chance to see Amadeus the play done by professional actors, I strongly recommend it.


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!

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.

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.


Again, it's always funny seeing the movie before reading the book or play it was based off of but I found this play very enjoyable to read. I really liked how Salieri narrated the whole thing. It made Mozart seem, if possible, even more annoying than he was in the movie, which emphasized that you were watching him through Salieri's eyes. I loved the venticelli who brought him gossip. I just loved the way their characters talked - it made them really seem like the little winds their name is based off of. I also really liked the mix of French and Italian with the English. It kept me on my toes because, especially for the Italian, I really had to think about what they were saying. It was fun trying to do it without the help of a translator. Fetes and fireworks I say...

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