Masaryk university of brno faculty of education

The role of dual male characters

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The role of dual male characters

One of the distinctive features involved in Shaffer’s plays is a pair of male characters somehow dependent on one another. In Amadeus, these are represented by the two rivals of Mozart and Salieri whose fates are mutually intertwined and bound to each other. Similar principle functions in the relationship between the conqueror Pizarro and the Inca chief Atahuallpa in The Royal Hunt of The Sun. This act of mutual interconnection introduces to the phenomenon of realizing one’s own life destiny through the character of the other. Salieri sees his mediocrity only through the glasses which Mozart lends him on. This has a harmful effect on Salieri, which drives him to the brink of madness and a denial of his own beliefs. Purposely, Salieri is willing to identify with Mozart’s inner processes in order to poison him mentally. As a result, he only realizes his vain plea to God for gifting geniality. “Had I in fact been simply taken by surprise that the filthy creature could write music at all? . . . Suddenly I felt immensely cheered! I would seek him out and welcome him myself to Vienna!” (Shaffer “Amadeus” 21). Pizarro experiences awakening under the King’s influence and feels enlightened by the Sun he was questing. Their different natural spirits and mutual rivalry, however, lead them to death.

The relationships identified in Shaffer’s plays are thus established on rivalry between two counterparts coming from different cultural or social backgrounds, which are explicitly revealed. Despite the fact, that these rivals possess different mentality and perception of life, they are in a certain mutual physical interdependence. For instance, the first time Salieri hears Mozart´s music, he becomes eager and later obsessed with the young Austrian to the extent of being present at every of Mozart´s performances, overwhelmed by the heavenly tones penetrating his ears. He realizes that the ladder of his life priorities has crumbled even though he still bears his post of adored Court Composer. Never more does he feel any satisfaction

The theory of two rival personalities has been elaborately analysed by a French-born, American literary critic and philosopher of social science René Girard in his fundamental concept ‘mimetic desire’ (“René Girard” IEP). And his theory has been applied on Shaffer’s establishing of pair-character model (Block 57). Girard’s theory is based on the mechanism of imitation other people’s desire, which may lead to conflicts and rivalry. The author further explains that imitating someone else’s desire may end up in desiring for the same thing and consequently, such individuals become rivals as they reach for identical objects. Therefore, by ‘mimesis’ or ‘mimetic’, Girard implies negative imitative aspects of rivalry (“René Girard” IEP). His concept of an instinctive response (mimetic desire) is an applicable parallel to both Salieri and Mozart in Amadeus and Pizarro and Atahuallpa in The Royal Hunt of the Sun. In the latter, the analysis of young Martin supply evidence that he tries to behave in the manner of his idol Pizarro who desires to capture the Sun-God Atahuallpa. The King of Incas, whom Pizarro envies, acts contradictory - as his rival but also as his son. Pizarro earlier in the play before he meets the Inca chief confides his unfulfilled desire of having a son to De Soto: PIZARRO: “Time cheats us all the way. Children, yes – having children goes some steps of defeating it. Nothing else. It would have been good to have a son.” (Shaffer “The Royal Hunt” 31) Atahuallpa, aged thirty three, seems to be the compensation. Simultaneously, Pizarro, although a rebel, envies young Martin’s chivalric virtues and his sense of binding to ‘sacred objects’ like the soldier’s sward (Block 63). Pizarro feels isolated and desire-free admitting that “if I could find the place where it [the sun] sinks to rest for the night, I’d find the source of life, like the beginning of a river.” (Shaffer “The Royal Hunt” 32)

The ‘mimetic desire’ is explicit when he eventually captures Atahuallpa, including his dignity and natural grace – virtues that are the subjects of imitation and desire. The Inca chief represents the goal Pizarro has promised himself to achieve. As the play proceeds to its climax, Pizarro, aged over sixty, sees in Atahuallpa a hope to transcend time, a force that he cannot master and that becomes the source of envy (Block 64).

Pizarro. You will die soon and you do not believe in your God. That is way you tremble and keep no word. Believe in me. I will give you a word and fill you with joy. For you I will do a great thing. I will swallow death and spit it out of me. (Shaffer 76)

In Amadeus, the self-destructive effects are even more explicit from the early pages of the play, owing to the flashback narrative structure, similarly employed in The Royal Hunt of the Sun. Girard’s ‘mimetic desire’ is framed in Salieri’s confession of envy to young Mozart, which becomes timeless and limitless obsession supplying the effects of deadly rivalry. Listening to the Adagio from the Serenade for Thirteen Wind Instruments, Salieri begins to experience pain (Block 66):

. . . What is this pain? What is this need in the sound? Forever unfulfillable yet fulfilling him who hears it, utterly. Is it Your need? Can it be Yours? . . . I was suddenly frightened. It seemed to me I had heard a voice of God—and that it issued from a creature whose own voice I had also heard—and it was the voice of an obscene child! (Shaffer “Amadeus” 19-20)

The role of rivalry and desire takes on absolute terms, which is apparent later on when the play unfolds. Even at Mozart’s death, Salieri still does not stop chasing his rival and experiences feelings that blend both desire and fear (Block 67):

God does not love you, Amadeus. God does not love! He can only use! . . . He cares nothing for who He uses: nothing for who He denies! . . . You are no use to Him any more. You’re too weak, too sick! He has finished with you! All you can do now is die! He’ll find another instrument! He won’t even remember you! . . . Die, Amadeus! Die, I beg you, die! . . . Leave me alone, ti imploro! Leave me alone at last! Leave me alone! (Shaffer “Amadeus” 93)

The depth of Salieri’s desire, sense of inadequacy and guilt, however, is not fully realized until the moments after Mozart’s death. His soliloquy when he recalls the past years of punishment, in terms of unsatisfied desire, reminds of Pizarro’s quest for a lasting fame. Salieri triggers the rumour that he was responsible for Mozart’s death “I did it deliberately!” . . . (Shaffer “Amadeus” 100) because “Mozart’s music would sound everywhere—and mine in no place on the earth.” (Shaffer “Amadeus” 99) According to the scheme of Girard’s theory, Salieri’s call for a scandal reveals the nature of his envy. As a result he is becoming self-destructive because he cannot measure neither to Mozart nor God (Block 67).

. . . And slowly I understood the nature of God’s punishment. (Directly, to the audience) What had I asked for in that Church as a boy? Was it not Fame? Well, now I had it! I was to become quite simply the most famous musician in Europe! . . . I was to be bricked up in Fame! Buried in Fame! . . . Embalmed in Fame - but for work I knew to be absolutely worthless! . . . (Shaffer “Amadeus” 98)


Regarding the prospect of rivalry, Salieri makes an enormous effort to be better than his opponent realizing, that only the ruin of Mozart can satisfy his needs. SALIERI: “And now – Gracious Ladies! Obliging Gentlemen! I present to you – for one performance only – my last composition, entitled The Death of Mozart, or Did I do it? . . . dedicated to Posterity on this – the last night of my life!” (Shaffer “Amadeus” 9)

It is said that in case our neighbour comes into possession of some property, people usually choose from two options. Either they make any effort to prevent the neighbour from presenting it in public as a result of envy, or they supply fs of this thesis, themselves with more expensive or more powerful property of the same kind. Initially, Salieri choses the second option according to which he decides to compose “an opera that will amaze the world” (Shaffer ‘Amadeus” 28). He finds out, however, that it is of no effect at all, since whenever exposed to Mozart’s arias, he is humbly confirmed of his mediocrity. Consequently, Salieri ends up in choosing the former option that becomes fatal to him. On the contrary, Mozart feels self-confident about his musical compositions and stands obstinately in his defence. He does not tolerate the slightest criticism of his work, and should such one ever come he rejects with uncompromising retort. ROSENBERG. “Write it over” . . . MOZART. “Not when the music is perfect! Not when it’s absolutely perfect as it is!”. . . (Shaffer “Amadeus” 64) From his audience he expects to be praised since only such a feedback is admissible.

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