1.1 Peter Shaffer
The dramatist Peter Shaffer has been present on the British stage since his first play, Five Finger Exercise, written in 1958. His following plays included satirical comedies, such as Black Comedy (1965), White Liars (1967), and Lettice and Lovage (1987), but he is best known for his philosophical dramas: The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1964), Equus (1973), and Amadeus (1979), as well as The Battle of Shrivings (1970) and Yonadab (1985). Though very different in place, time, and setting, these plays often show a pair of antagonistic male characters searching for an answer to the metaphysical question about the relationship between man and God.
Shaffer is known to create "principal characters of startling credibility" (Scott, 40) who come into a strong and destructive conflict with each other. All of his plays display the clash between a rational, "Apollonian" personality, and a childlike, "Dionysian" personality, such as Pizarro and Atahualpa in The Royal Hunt of the Sun, Martin Dysart and Alan Strang in Equus, and, last but not least, Salieri and Mozart in Amadeus. His Apollonian characters destroy the Dionysian characters in order to extinguish the divine, but through this act they also kill a part of themselves and suffer for it. Because his plays touch the hidden and painful aspects of the human soul, they "tend to evoke varied and contradictory responses" (Gianakaris 1992, 5).
Music has always been a vital element of Peter Shaffer's life and career. He plays the piano "far beyond average competence" (Gianakaris 1992, 6) and for several years he worked as a music critic for the magazine Time and Tide. Accordingly, he is known for the distinctive and impressive use of music in his plays, where it forms "an integral aspect of their soundscape" (Stern, 639). He employs chant, sounds, and instrumental sequences to reinforce the nonverbal communication with the audience as well as to show the inner state of mind of the characters and the development of their condition throughout the plot. Among all of Shaffer's works, music plays the most important role in Amadeus, as it determines the dramatic structure of the play.
So far, six of Shaffer's plays have been turned into films: Five Finger Exercise, The Private Ear, The Public Eye, The Royal Hunt of the Sun, Equus, and Amadeus. However, Amadeus is the most successful adaptation and the only one with which the author was satisfied. This is largely due to Milos Forman's experience at adapting literary material and to his outstanding cinematic personality, as well as to the close co-operation of the two artists.