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 1825 the attendants of Salieri said that they had never heard Salieri saying that he had killed Mozart.
Furthermore, if Salieri had indeed said those things, it wouldn t have meant that he indeed poisoned him, it could be related to his weak mind. On the other hand, Constanze supported the idea that Salieri killed Mozart and she believed that Salieri planned against Mozart during his life. But the medical observations of Mozart can nowadays be diagnosed as several causes, from typhus to rheumatic fever, streptococcal infection to cyclothymic disorder, but none related to poisoning. Shaffer probably decided to write this play because of this rumor of a murder between two great composers.
This idea, which at that time was indeed plausible, fed Shaffer with inspirations to write Amadeus. Even not being true, Salieri poisoning Mozart was a demand for Shaffer s play. Again, a play here is a piece of art, not a biography. What seems to be the most important topic of the play is the relation between Salieri and Mozart. As it is seen throughout the play, Salieri s envy is not demonstrated to others, he treated Mozart with respect and had friendly manners. However, he boycotted Mozart inside the court.