Shaffer, Sir Peter

Shaffer, Sir Peter shăfˈər [key], 1926–2016, English playwright, b. Liverpool, grad. Cambridge, 1950. Before turning to the stage he wrote for radio and television and was the author of several mystery novels. He penned both historical and contemporary dramas, work ranging from the tautly dramatic to the farcically comic. His first successful play, Five Finger Exercise (1958), is a study of the tensions in an upper-middle-class family. The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1964), is an epic of Pizarro's destruction of Incan civilization. His best-known dramas, both Tony Award winners, are Equus (1973), a dialogue between a psychoanalyst and a deranged, horse-obsessed youth, and Amadeus (1979), which relates the rivalry between the composers Mozart and Salieri. Shaffer's other plays include The Private Ear and The Public Eye (1962), Black Comedy (1965), Lettice and Lovage (1987), and The Gift of the Gorgon (1993). Several of his plays were made into films, and he won an Academy Award for his motion-picture adaptation of Amadeus (1984). Shaffer was knighted in 2001.

See G. A. Plunka, Peter Shaffer: Roles, Rites and Rituals in the Theater (1988); C. J. Gianakaras, ed., Peter Shaffer: A Casebook (1991); M. K. MacMurraugh-Kavanagh, Peter Shaffer: Theater and Drama (1998).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: English Literature, 20th cent. to the Present: Biographies