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2.2 Psychological and psychoanalytic elements

The emphasis in Amadeus lies on the "interior characterization, and on the motives, circumstances, and internal action" (Thrall and Hibbard, 386) of the characters. The drama starts with the confession of a murder and then "goes on to explain the why and the wherefore of this action" (Thrall and Hibbard, 386). This focus on the interior activity of the characters is typical of psychological plays and films. In Amadeus, the psychological elements are presented in a psychoanalytic manner regarding the portrayal of Salieri and the development of his mental condition.

Although the title suggests Mozart to be the protagonist, it is really Salieri and not Mozart who occupies the centre of the stage and whose mind we are invited to enter. The dramatic situation is that of a deathbed confession. At the same time, it resembles a psychoanalytic session in which the narrator is the patient and the audience takes over the role of the analyst. Shaffer has already applied the same device in his other plays (such as The Royal Hunt of the Sun or Equus), as it enables him to control the dramatic pace and allows for flashbacks and interior monologues. Moreover, "his narrators control the prism through which the work is viewed" (Stern, 638); this allows him to manipulate the spectators' reception of the events on stage.

In the play, Salieri is the narrator who, at the same time, recounts his own story. He is at no time objective and we see the action on stage only through his eyes, often clouded with envy, hate, and pain. He starts with an invocation to the audience in which he begs the spectators to come and be his confessors (Play, 14). Then he begins to tell his tale in a manner resembling a patient's monologue to his analyst. At times he gets excited, and is then again distracted by such trivialities as cakes or his servants. The audience is subjected to something that appears to be a free flow of Salieri's consciousness, but his narration is only seemingly incoherent. In reality, he is leading his listeners deep into his mind, so that they can experience his tragedy almost directly.

Amadeus shows "two men of widely differing temperaments linked by a common spiritual bond" (Smith, 352). Throughout the plot, Salieri is shown to develop a love-hate relationship with his rival. Although he pretends only to despise the childish and obscene Mozart, there is a part of him that admires him for his independence. One example of this is Mozart's libertine behaviour: Salieri is enraged when Mozart seduces his prize pupil Katherina Cavalieri, but only because he regrets not having done it himself when he was given the opportunity. He feels cheated and the incident merely nourishes his hate.

One way of interpreting this relationship is to regard Mozart as the alter ego of Salieri, the personification of all the instincts and secret wishes that he had stifled in himself all his life, in short -- his id. This conflict between the id and the superego is carried out on several levels. For example, it is expressed in the clash between Salieri and Mozart:

Salieri is shown as being strongly dominated by his superego, which manifests itself in his permanent and obsessive attempts to be in control of himself as well as of the situation around him. [...] In contrast, Mozart is presented as being dominated much more by his id. (Huber and Zapf, 305)

The only weakness that Salieri allows himself is a taste for sweets, which he positively devours throughout the play. His sweet tooth is obviously a compensation for his poor sex life. While trying to seduce Constanze, Salieri tells her: "I live on ink and sweetmeats. I never see women at all..." (Play, 52). In the play, he is married to a woman whose main quality is "lack of fire" (Play, 18), and freely admits that "[his] invention in love, as in art, has always been limited" (Play, 60). Nevertheless, he later breaks his vow of sexual virtue and makes Katherina Cavalieri his mistress. In the film, he is presented as strictly celibate, like a mad Satanist monk.

There is also a conflict between Mozart and his father Leopold, a strong and domineering superego. Since Mozart is shown as immature and irresponsible, he is never able to free himself from Leopold's overpowering influence and always remains the little boy who fears his severe father. In his immaturity, his irresponsibility and childish behaviour, as well as his sexual profligacy, Mozart represents the id. His father, on the other hand, is the controlling agent who looks after his son's interests, but demands subordination in return. In the end, both psychological conflicts end in disaster.

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