The Landscapes of Betrayal; Amadeus by Peter Shaffer

The most devastating loss a person can ever experience is betrayal. One must first have trust in the betrayer before betrayal since it is not possible for one to be betrayed if he or she did not trust the betrayer in the first place. Therefore, betrayal can be defined as violating someone’s trust in you (Bugental, and Bradford, P.1).  Instances of betrayal include; one of the married couple having an affair or when a child is abused by his or her parents who are expected to show support, love and protection to him or her.  Betrayal happens when someone you trust abuses you, lies to you, cheats on you or upsets you by placing their self-interest first (Bugental, and Bradford, P.3). It is a devastating loss because it is something that did not have to occur but it does because of another person’s deliberate and hurtful behavior, their personal weaknesses and their carelessness (Bugental, and Bradford, P.6). This act can lead to immediate impacts of betrayal which are distress, an emotional effect on the betrayed person anger being one of the most regular emotions (Bugental, and Bradford, P.8). It may lead to loss of trust since trust can instantly be lost because it is fragile. Intimate partner betrayal results in negligence of needs and core human desires as well as the death of the relationship (Bugental, and Bradford, P.10). It may also lead to PSTD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) which is associated with depression, guilt, suspiciousness, psychological numbing, nightmares, and withdrawal from others and continuous of both the negative and positive moments of the relationship.

In Amadeus play, playwright Peter Shaffer uses the element of psychoanalysis to show the audience that secrets, guilt, psychological conflicts, unconscious anxieties and harmful desires can lead to betrayal. Teresa is betrayed by Salieri who cheats on her with Katharina Cavalieri, one of his pupils (Bost, and Shaffer, p.521).  Salieri admits in the third scene of the first act that he was in deep love, “I was deeply in love with Cavalieri”, he said. In giving explanation for his relationship with Katharina, Salieri said, “for many years, Katharina remained behind the back of my good wife as a mistress”. Additionally, Mozart was not faithful to Constanze, his wife (Gianakaris, p.37). They argued about this issue and at the end of tenth scene of the first act, Constanze revealed that his husband, Mozart had been with several pupils such as The Rumbeck girl, The Aurnhammer girl as well as Katharina(Gianakaris, p.39). Moreover, the most significant betrayal in the story is the betrayal Salieri felt from God which led to the determination of his actions. He thought that he did not get attention from Sir not even judging the bad things he had done to Mozart. “I expected God to be angry with me but He did not”, Salieri said. Finally, Salieri accepted at the end of the story when he was old and near to death that the rejection from God was indifferent, “they will remember me! I will not be His joke for Eternity”.

Playwright Peter Shaffer uses the plot device of Salieri getting into music so as to get closer to God but he turns out to be jealous of Mozart to an extent that he renounced God and plotted to destroy Mozart (Gianakaris, p.42). Salieri longed to join the great composer in the process of pursing his holiness. He was dumbfounded when he first heard music of Mozart as a genius child. Salieri cannot come into terms with the vast genius of the man of his character when Mozart grew up and his character became irreverent and impudent.  Mozart has all the things that Salieri wants to be (Tillman, and Shaffer, p.406). He cannot believe how God chose a boorish man like Mozart. Salieri pretended to be on the side of Mozart while he frustrated and impeded his career.  On several occasions, Mozart is only permitted to carry on when the emperor himself comes in and the intervention is always opposed by Salieri and he is happier to take credit for the way events turn out when Mozart credits him for intervening.

Playwright Peter Shaffer uses psychoanalysis to show his audience about the element of madness which may lead to betrayal. All the characters are undone by their madness.  Salieri is undone with the obsession of making sure that Mozart does not get the credit he deserved. He vows to destroy him and he succeeds in the end. However, the result of his madness is betrayal and a life full of shame and guilt. Mozart is also undone by his madness for instance he was a compelling communicator at the beginning but exhaustion and frustration due to lack of status as a musician at the court caused him to lose the capability to communicate(Gianakaris, p.46).  Salieri ignored the weakened state of Mozart and commissioned him to write a requiem and forces him to complete it which further diminished the ability of Mozart to function well like a normal human being. Through his inability to respond to Constanze the way he did once, Mozart lost his wife who sought Salieri’s help but he betrayed her, humiliated her and smeared Mozart’s name.  Constanze’s element of madness is that she loves Mozart but despite her best efforts, his genius removes him from her.

Playwright Peter Shaffer also uses devotion to drive the story and show how it can lead to betrayal. Mozart was devoted to music in spite having a deteriorated well-being and health. We see him working on a piece in the play in his final hours. Salieri is also devoted to music and God up to a point where one of the devotions had to be left behind. He chose music over God since he could not tolerate God choosing Mozart over him thus betraying God. Devotion additionally leads to betrayal and conflict between Mozart’s father, Leopold and Constanze, Mozart’s wife due to their object of devotion and when their conflict proves too great, they leave Mozart (Gianakaris, p.49). At the end of the play, Salieri attempted to commit suicide using a razor. He confessed that he poisoned Mozart with arsenic (Gianakaris, p.53). Salieri slips into obscurity even though he survived the attempted suicide. He betrayed Mozart since he kept pretending he was a good friend yet he spent most of his time to prevent Mozart from being recognized fully for his genius. After Mozart is gone, his actions of betrayal haunt him and he begins his confession at the end of the story.


Amadeus by playwright Peter Shaffer proves the way we act in circumstances where we are controlled by ambition, jealousy and greed may consequently make us to change our personalities, actions and encourage others to do unimaginable things that make us to sin and hence we betray those that we love. One can avoid getting betrayed by others over and over again by examining themselves to see if they have any behavior that made the other person to betray them. They should also be able to control the level of emotion they invest in a relationship since being too close to someone may hurt us if they do not put the same level of emotion into the relationship.


Works Cited

Gianakaris, C. J. “A Playwright Looks At Mozart: Peter Shaffer’S Amadeus”. Comparative Drama, vol 15, no. 1, 1981, pp. 37-53. Johns Hopkins University Press, doi:10.1353/cdr.1981.0003.

Bost, James S., and Peter Shaffer. “Amadeus”. Theatre Journal, vol 32, no. 4, 1980, p. 521. JSTOR, doi:10.2307/3207415.

Tillman, Walter Neil, and Peter Shaffer. “Amadeus”. Theatre Journal, vol 33, no. 3, 1981, p. 406. JSTOR, doi:10.2307/3207049.

Bugental, James F.T., and G. Kenneth Bradford. “What Is Betrayal In Psychotherapy?”. The Psychotherapy Patient, vol 8, no. 3-4, 1993, pp. 1-9. The Haworth Press, doi:10.1300/j358v08n03_01.

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