Literary analysis of Amadeus

Literary analysis of Amadeus


Literary analysis of Amadeus – Amadeus is an imaginative play about some real life incidents around the famous music composer Mozart. His name was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and he was a child prodigy. At the same time was another popular music composer Antonio Salieri who became jealous of Mozart’s music. That Salieri stooped to kill Mozart is the fiction created by the playwright Peter Shaffer.

Peter Shaffer has based his play Amadeus on an earlier short play called ‘Mozart and Salieri’ by Alexander Pushkin (1830) and an opera by the same name created by Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov in 1897. This famous play by Peter Shaffer was first staged in 1979 and was later made into a film in 1984 and it received excellent reviews and the Academy Award.

Shift Between the Present and Past – Unique Scripting

The narration of the play is gripping as it flits from the present to the past. Salieri is an old man and he is accused of poisoning Mozart and the rest of the play forms his confession from the wheel chair to the audience. In between he comes back to the present to keep the audience in touch with reality. In short it is the story of how Mozart ruined the life of Salieri while the plot moves along Salieri trying to destroy Mozart. One wonders who succeeded – Salieri or Mozart.

Salieri gets to hear about Mozart and his music and is eager to meet him. But when he eventually meets him he is shocked that Mozart is a crude and childish man with no control over his emotions and words. He flirts with the women even if they are his students. The personality of Mozart shadows Mozart the genius in the eyes of Salieri. Salieri who is a devout Christian is upset that such divine music was placed in a lowly person like Mozart and not given to him. Each time he heard Mozart and his compositions Salieri would go into a trance, exhibited in many ways. From then on, as a revenge on god, he plans to destroy Mozart and it is a well-planned plot.

Revenge Plans of Salieri

Salieri at first plans to have sex with Constanze Weber, wife of Mozart to make a dent on Mozart’s morale but he does not succeed as his moral principles does not allow him; he was married to Teresa. Then he plans to hit out by having an affair with Katherina, his student, who was in love with Mozart but this happens only towards the latter half of the play. He then throws his moral values to the winds and brings Katherina to an opera. Whether Mozart was disturbed by this is not clear.

Literary analysis of Amadeus

All through the play Salieri acts as an ally of Mozart and Mozart completely believes him and takes his word on music and life. He does not suspect that Salieri is digging the grave for him. If Salieri desired he would have got Mozart a job in the palace with a handsome salary. He tries to get Constanze to bed with him for this favour. At first she is reluctant then she relents but Salieri refuses to help them. Even when the emperor offers the job of Chamber Composer, Salieri ensures that his pay is paltry by portraying Mozart as a womaniser, which was in a way true.

The Final Nailing

By now Salieri reduces Mozart to almost a beggar which was a part of the plan to destroy him. Then he realises that the Free Mason club was patronising Mozart and helping him in times of trouble. To break this Salieri asks Mozart to incorporate some rituals of the Mason club in his new opera ‘Brotherly Love’. Unwittingly he adds it in and with the show Van Swieten, his admirer from the Mason club disowns him completely. Free-Masons club was a secretive club and the members had to swear secrecy and it was this sacramental secrecy that was partially broken by Mozart.

With this his wife also leaves him and Mozart sees a gray clad figure in his dreams who he feels is his dead father. The figure in the dream also tells him to compose a requiem which he does. Finally Salieri goes to a half dead Mozart in a gray robe and kills him not so much so physically but with his vicious words. Mozart collapses into the hands of his wife, who returns. The play ends with Salieri trying to take his life but is not allowed to and the people are made to believe that he did not kill Mozart and the confession is only for the audience.

Ways of the Lord

The devout Christian is always wondering why god does not punish him for the revenge game as all through his black acts god does not intervene and spoil his plans. But after the death of Mozart god unveils his divine plan – Mozart’s music becomes world famous and the world hardly knows about Antonio Salieri. Salieri realises that finally god had his way and that Mozart was the chosen one by god for music.

The main characters are well etched and clear as Peter Shaffer has real life personalities to fall upon. All the incidents are true but they are given an extra flavour to add to the substance of the drama. Mozart was a divine musician, who had a weakness for women, who was highly emotional and childish. He did not make money while he lived, but made a lot of enemies. Salieri was also a man of that time who was employed in the palace but was not as good as Mozart. So when there is so much to bank on, all the characters and the plot gives a real life appearance on the stage.

Literary analysis of Amadeus

The play when staged cannot rest on its settings and actors alone. There are many music interludes, so music has to the best for the play to make its mark. The stage direction is not as easy as most plays and only a competent director can handle this well. The play crafted by Peter Shaffer is a brilliant one and its real life people protagonist makes it something very unique.