Amadeus playwright and screenwriter Peter Shaffer dies, aged 90

Peter Shaffer

by James White |
Published on

A writing legend who masterfully wrangled words for the stage and screen has died. Playwright and screenwriter Peter Shaffer was 90.

Born in Liverpool in 1926, Shaffer's genes were clearly of a creative bent, as his twin brother Anthony also became a successful author and playwright. After studying history at Trinity College, Cambridge, he was employed as a coal miner during World War II and took on various jobs, including one at the New York Public Library before starting to write professionally.

Finding success with his first play, 1954's The Salt Land, which was shown as part of ITV Play Of The Week, he earned his stage reputation with 1958's Five Finger Exercise, which scored an Evening Standard Drama Award and moved to Broadway, where it took a trophy for Best Foreign Play.

Shaffer wrote many of his plays for the National Theatre (established in 1963) and became known for his ability to produce philosophical dramas and satirical comedies. Among his more famous works were Equus, which won the Tony Award in 1975 (and was famously revived more recently with Daniel Radcliffe taking the controversial lead role), and Amadeus, chronicling one of the music world's most famous rivalries.

Along with many of his work, both plays were adapted into films, with Shaffer landing an Oscar nomination for Equus and winning the award for Amadeus, which became a massive success and scooped eight Oscars in total.

He died peacefully in a hospice in County Cork, with his agent, Rupert Lord commenting, “He was simply at the end of his life but delighted to have been able to celebrate his 90th birthday with friends and then, I think, decided it was time.” Knighted in 2001, Sir Peter is survived his brother Brian, nephews Milo and Mark and nieces Cressida and Claudia.

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