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Peter Shaffer

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Title: Peter Shaffer  
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Subject: Tony Award for Best Play, Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, Amadeus (film), Equus (film), Gielgud Theatre
Collection: 1926 Births, Alumni of Trinity College, Cambridge, American Theater Hall of Fame Inductees, Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Award Winners, Best Screenplay Golden Globe Winners, Bevin Boys, English Dramatists and Playwrights, English Jews, English Male Dramatists and Playwrights, English Screenwriters, Fellows of St Catherine's College, Oxford, Fellows of the Royal Society of Literature, Identical Twins, Jewish Dramatists and Playwrights, Knights Bachelor, Living People, Male Screenwriters, New York Drama Critics' Circle Award Winners, People Educated at St Paul's School, London, Shakespeare Prize Recipients, Tony Award Winners, Twin People from England, Writers from Liverpool
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Peter Shaffer

Sir Peter Shaffer
Born Peter Levin Shaffer
(1926-05-15) 15 May 1926
Liverpool, Lancashire, England, UK
Alma mater University of Cambridge
Occupation Playwright, screenwriter

Sir Peter Levin Shaffer, CBE (born 15 May 1926),[1] is an English playwright and screenwriter of numerous award-winning plays, several of which have been filmed.


  • Early life 1
  • Theatrical career 2
  • Screen adaptations 3
  • Awards 4
  • Honours 5
  • Selected works 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early life

Shaffer was born to a Jewish family in Liverpool, the son of Reka (née Fredman) and Jack Shaffer, an estate agent.[2][3] He is the twin brother of fellow playwright, Anthony Shaffer.

He was educated at the Hall School, Hampstead and St Paul's School, London and subsequently he gained a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, to study history. Shaffer was a Bevin Boy coal miner during World War II, and took a number of jobs including bookstore clerk, and assistant at the New York Public Library, before discovering his dramatic talents.

Theatrical career

Shaffer's first play, The Salt Land (1954), was presented on the BBC. Encouraged by this success, Shaffer continued to write and established his reputation as a playwright in 1958, with the production of Five Finger Exercise,[4] which opened in London under the direction of John Gielgud and won the Evening Standard Drama Award. When Five Finger Exercise moved to New York in 1959, it was equally well received and landed Shaffer the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Foreign Play.

Shaffer's next piece was a double bill, The Private Ear/The Public Eye, two plays each containing three characters and concerning aspects of love. They were presented in May 1962 at the Globe Theatre, and both starred Maggie Smith and Kenneth Williams.

In 1963, the National Theatre was established, and virtually all of Shaffer's subsequent work was done in its service.

Shaffer's canon contains a unique mix of philosophical dramas and satirical comedies. The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1964) presents the tragic conquest of Peru by the Spanish, while Black Comedy (1965) takes a humorous look at the antics of a group of characters feeling their way around a pitch black room — although the stage is actually flooded with light.

Equus (1973) won Shaffer the 1975 Tony Award for Best Play as well as the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award. A journey into the mind of a 17-year-old stableboy who had plunged a spike into the eyes of six horses, Equus ran for over 1,000 performances on Broadway. It was revived by Massachusetts' Berkshire Theatre Festival in the summers of 2005 and 2007, by director Thea Sharrock at London's Gielgud Theatre in February 2007, and on Broadway (in the Sharrock staging) in September 2008. The latter production, which ran in New York until February 2009, required the stableboy to appear naked; its star, Daniel Radcliffe, was still associated with the Harry Potter films intended for general audiences, and this led to mild controversy.[5]

Shaffer followed this success with Amadeus (1979) which won the Evening Standard Drama Award and the Theatre Critics' Award for the London production. This tells the story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and court composer Antonio Salieri who, overcome with jealousy at hearing the "voice of God" coming from an "obscene child", sets out to destroy his rival. When the show moved to Broadway it won the 1981 Tony Award for Best Play and, like Equus, ran for more than 1,000 performances.

Screen adaptations

Several of Shaffer's plays have been adapted to film, including Five Finger Exercise (1962), The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1969), The Public Eye (1962), from which he adapted the 1972 film Follow Me! (1972), Equus (1977), and Amadeus (1984), which won eight Academy Awards including Best Picture.

Shaffer received two Academy Award–nominations for adapting his plays Equus and Amadeus for the big screen. For writing the screenplay for Equus, he was nominated for the 1977 Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar but the award went to Alvin Sargent, who wrote the screenplay for Julia. For writing the screenplay for Amadeus, Shaffer received both the 1984 Best Screenplay Golden Globe and the 1984 Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar.


Shaffer received the William Inge Award for Distinguished Achievement in the American Theatre in 1992. Two years later he was appointed Cameron Mackintosh Visiting Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Oxford University.

In 1993, he was awarded an Honorary Degree (Doctor of Letters) by the University of Bath.[6]


Shaffer was awarded the CBE in 1987 and named Knight Bachelor in the 2001 New Year's Honours. In 2007, he was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.[7]

Selected works

  • Whom Do I Have the Honour of Addressing? (1990)
  • The Gift of the Gorgon (1992)


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External links

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