The play “Amadeus” by Peter Shaffer was not written in order to be a biography of the great composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, much more than this, Peter Shaffer wrote it as a story, rather than a history. In his story he was free to insert fiction to make the play more interesting to a wide audience, as well as to fulfill his purposes. However, musicologists and historians have written several articles claiming that Peter Shaffer “trashed this immortal”. What none of them can see is that in “Amadeus” there are situations that are plausible while others are “fictional ornament”. In this paper I will make an attempt to point what is fiction or untruth.
The center of the play lies on the character of Antonio Salieri and his obsessive jealously of Mozart. To convey this plot, it was necessary that Salieri had motives enough dislike Mozart. So it was necessary to build a character that was extremely competent but with no talent at all to contrast with a genius who behaved badly. With this, Salieri would have reasons to be jealous.
As his first attempt to convey his plot, Salieri is shown as a musical hack as we can see in this extract:
“Bewildered, MOZART does so (halts and listens), becoming aware of SALIERI playing his March of Welcome. It is an extremely banal piece, vaguely – but only vaguely - reminiscent of another march to become very famous later one.”
The truth is that Salieri was recognized as a great composer and that is the reason he was appointed as the court composer and imperial Kappelmeister. He had several students, including Beethoven, Liszt and Schubert. His operas were performed and acclaimed in Italy and France during 1778 to 1790. Unfortunately, his style lost worth and his works were no longer popular at the end of the XVIII century. However, showing Salieri as only a competent musician was intentional in order to convey the plot, which is the rivalry against Mozart’s artistic creativity and Salieri’s intellectual capacity.
Salieri held his posts in the court from 1774 until 1824. He died one year later in 1825 and in his last years he suffered from senility. During 1824 there was indeed the rumor in Vienna that someone had heard Salieri saying that he had poisoned Mozart. However, many biographies of Mozart don’t even mention the probability of poisoning and in 182...
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...d, at least in the expositional first act. It has been made so deliberately by crowding together into an hour’s time instances of Wolfgang’s most unattractive behavior, so as to provide ever-increasing fuel for Salieri’s equally mounting sense of outrage. This is dramatically essential, because at the end of the act, Salieri has to explode in a furious, pain-racked, violently aggrieved address to his God, upbraiding him for choosing a patently unworthy man to be his divine instrument.”
But what is documented is that Mozart was “extremely irritable. A sort of child. All his sentiments had more violence than depths.” – 1804. So Mozart personality was exaggerated in order to convey the plot. Being like this, we would give a minimal reason for Salieri being jealous. It was intentional to make Mozart as a silly person so that Salieri’s rage would have a motif.
With these discussed elements of the play, it seems noticeable that a playwright or any writer is free to use any ornament needed to convey what he wants to transmit to the readers. Shaffer, although being a Mozart scholar, used some fictional elements to write his story about the relation between the two composers.
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