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13 Seiten, Note: 3 minus
Concerning the communication two different kinds of drama are distinguished: absolute drama and epic drama. Epic drama makes use of epic elements whereas absolute drama does not. Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus (1979) makes use of epic elements with Salieri as a narrator figure and so it is an epic drama. To figure out the differences between these kinds of plays one has to look at the different communication levels.
“The level of fictional action is the level on which the characters communicate with each other” (Jahn 1999: D 2.1) - excluding the narrator figure in his function as narrator). In Amadeus the action of this level takes place between 1781 and 1791. These are the most important years in Salieri’s live and the last years of Mozart’s. The action of this level consists of dialogues and the used tense is the present.
Salieri as the narrator figure of the play’s action is not on this level, but on the ‘level of fictional mediation’. This level “is activated in epic drama only” (Jahn 1999: D 2.1). The ‘level of fictional action’ (a recall of Salieri) is imbedded in the ‘level of fictional mediation’. The narratees of this level are also fictional as the narrator himself. When nar- rating Salieri uses the past tense. The present tense is of course used in the dialogues of the narrated action.
The only level that involves real persons is the ‘level of nonfictional communication’. The audience or the reader of a play are the recipients only of this level and therefor the narrator cannot communicate with the audience directly. Shaffer reduces this distinction to a minimum which will be focused on in chapter 2.
Now, after the dramatic communication is settled, this essay deals explicitly with the level of fictional mediation. This is the level of the narrator and the epic elements.
“The plot of Amadeus is enclosed in an outer narrative frame” (Kurowska 1998:3.3), in which Salieri is the narrator. In order to focus on Salieri as a narrator and the narra- tive situation the terminology of the narratology is used, although Salieri is a narrator in a drama. It is obvious that this can be compared with a narration written in a novel. Despite this and to emphasize that it is dealt with a drama the recipient is indicated as ‘the audi- ence’.
Salieri is an overt first-person narrator. This is made clear in the second scene of the play, right after the “fast and dreadful Overture” (author’s notes).
SALIERI: [...] I can almost see you in your ranks - waiting for your turn to live.
Ghosts of the future! Be visible. I beg you. Be visible. Come to this dusty old room
- this time, the smallest hours of dark November, eighteen hundred and twentythree - and be my Confessors. Will you not enter this place and stay with me till dawn? Just till dawn - till six o’ clock! (Act I, scene 2)
Salieri is a character in the action of the embedded story. He confesses his own sins to the audience (and, of course, is a character in the recall). That’s why he is a first-person narrator. Furthermore it is clear that he must be at least one of the protagonists what makes him an I-as-protagonist narrator.
Being an overt narrator he names the audience -“Ghosts of the future” - and soon after the lights in the theatre reaches its maximum. This shows not only that he is interested in contacting the audience, but also that the separation between the ‘level of nonfictional communication’ and the ‘level of fictional mediation’ is reduced to a minimum. This is what is meant by ‘direct’ communication between Salieri and the audience in the sequel of this essay.
“Von Beginn an wird das Publikum in “Amadeus” durch den intensiven Adressatanbezug, um den sich Salieri bemüht, in die Kommunikationsstruktur des Stücks miteinbezogen.” (Nünning 1996: 154)
In order to inform the audience the technique of “asides ad spectatores” is used.
This is an alienation effect as well as the light effects in order to undermine the illusion potential of the realistic stage.
Salieri is not only the narrator, but also the focalizer, i.e. the person through which the narrator experiences. This seems to be hardly worth mentioning because this is rather normal that the first-person narrator is also the focalizer. But it is very important especially with the theme of music in this play. That’s why it is dealt with the focalizer in 3.3: The presentation of music.
In addition to this Salieri also shows the narrative situation in this passage. By nam- ing the date and the place when/where the story is told, the audience knows from the be- ginning the frame of the imbedded story. It is rather more important to know the time gap between the story and the confession. One can see that there has been enough time for Sa- lieri in between to clear his mind. It can be assumed that this story is told as objective as possible for three reasons: the story told is a confession, it is told just before Salieri (tries to) commit suicide (and has nothing to gain by lying) and there has been enough time in between the confession and the ‘sins’.
Knowing the ‘narrating I’ the audience is now tensed to see the ‘experiencing I’. He is much younger (31 to 41) than the 73-year-old ‘narrating I’. This is a problem for the actor because the change of the two ‘I’s is fluent. They cannot be played by two different actors. Therefor Peter Shaffer claims from the actor to use two different voices: an old one for the ‘narrating I’ and a young man’s voice for the ‘experiencing I’.
Sometimes, but not always when the narrator speaks there is a narrative pause. This is when all characters except Salieri freeze on stage.
[All on stage, save Salieri, suddenly freeze. He speaks very directly to the audi- ence.]
SALIERI: You, when you come, will be told that ...
In this narrative pause Salieri speaks ‘directly’ to the audience (although shown that they do not belong to the same communication level). The audience concentrates especially on what is narrated to them. This also is an alienation effect.
Having shown that Salieri has made clear his point of view to the embedded story, this essay now focuses on the function of the epic elements for the imbedded story taking place in the decade 1781-1791. The functions are widespread and are grouped to expositional functions, functions for the two major themes ‘God’ and ‘music’.
“Normally, an epic play’s narrative level forms a mediating and expositional-orientated frame in which the more realist elements (such as the play’s proper action) are embedded.” (Jahn 1999: D 6.4.3).
Salieri also has expositional function for the embedded story, i.e. to introduce “time, place, characters and the background of the play’s action” (Jahn 1999: D 7.7). Al- though he narrates about 35 years later he expositions the narrated story which is his recall of this time.
Shaffer says in the author’s notes that the “changes of time and place are indicated throughout by changes of light”. Despite this, Salieri names the date or year when the ac- tion takes place. He mentions the “New Year’s Eve”(I, 9) and several other information of time like “next afternoon” (I, 10) or “barely one month later” (I, 8). Narrating about a pe- riod of ten years this information is necessary so that the audience can date the action.
Time can also be used as background information. Narrating about a period of ten years it seems important that Salieri uses speed-ups, i.e. he sometimes sums up a period of time. It is clear that he must concentrate on important parts and sum up the less important times. The audience should be aware of that so that it does not get confused.
SALIERI: [...] [to audience] I, by contrast, prospered. [...] - in eighty-four and eighty-five I came to be regarded as the infinitely the superior composer. And this despite the fact that these were the two years in which Mozart wrote his best keyboard concerti and his string quartets. (II.3)
This is a summary of what happened in two years. Now the audience know everything worth knowing about this period and does not lose track of things.
Expositional function of time can have the function to point out important scenes and to keep the audience in suspense. This is done with a preview of what is to happen somewhere in the near future: “So to the Baroness Waldstädten’s I went. That night changed my life.” (I, 4) The point of time of the next scene is given to the audience. Of course this serves as an exposition to this scene, too. But it’s main feature is to produce suspense.
In the author’s notes Peter Shaffer also says that “Amadeus can and should be played in a variety of settings”. This means that the action’s place changes often and this must be illustrated to the audience.
Salieri often informs about the place. It is obvious that it is not always enough just to change the light (see 3.1.1). But Salieri does not inform about every place explicitly. Some places seem to be not worth mentioning. The palace, for example, is place of the action several times, but is never explicitly mentioned by Salieri. Also is the theatre and the opera. All these places can easily be portrayed by the stage setting and seem to be func- tional, i.e. not very important for the plot except for the normal use of them ( theatre is a place of a performance, ...).
But on the other hand Salieri mentions three times the place when the action takes place in the library, a place that can also be easily portrayed.
SALIERI [ to audience ]: We were yet again in the library of the Baroness Waldstäd-ten: that room fated to be the scene of ghastly encounters between us. (II, 8)
This place is where Salieri saw Mozart for the first time, here he starts to flirt with Con- stanze and, finally, here he starts to concentrate on destroying the man himself. It seems that there is more behind this place for the whole action: in this room the key-scenes of the Mozart’s destruction take place. This is what is important of this place and therefore it must be pointed out explicitly.
The Prater is also mentioned. The function of this place, where Salieri meets Mozart accidentally, is to show that they do no longer have business dealings with each other. They can no longer meet somewhere except by accident. This shows that Salieri is on the best way to destroy Mozart, as he has already destroyed his career.
As Amadeus is a historical background, the background is historical, too. The func- tion is that the audience gets an insight of the background of the characters’ situation.
Salieri presents the background of the conflict with Mozart by telling them about his situation before Mozart appears. In order to understand Salieri the audience must know his situation before he meets Mozart and the situation of the musicians in these days. As musicians were “the willing slaves of the well-to-do, we no the rating of Salieri’s and Mo- zart’s profession. But Salieri “was the most successful young musician in the city of musi- cians” (I, 3), the audience knows his situation as well as the importance of Vienna in those days. This turns out into a conflict because Salieri is afraid that Mozart gets a higher posi- tion in the city of music.
The audience gets historical backgrounds about first nights of Mozart’s famous pieces of art as well. “The first performance of The Abduction from the Seraglio” (I, 7) is as well shown -and especially pointed out by Salieri- as “Figaro was produced in spite of all my [Salieri’s] efforts.” (II, 7) The circumstances of The Magic Flutes ’ performance are especially pointed out:
SALIERI: We sat as he wished us to, among ordinary Germans! The smell of sweat and sausages was almost annihilating!
SALIERI: [...] This is exactly the audience we should be writing for!
The writing of Mozart’s Requiem Mess “-for himself”- (II, 15) is the final of Mozart’s art. Mozart does not even see its first night.
The function of these background information about Mozart’s music is to adore him even more: he wrote perfect music in horrible circumstances. This can be one reason for getting interested in Mozart and his music -a part of introduction to Mozart and his music.
Salieri introduces all characters on stage. Sometimes he does this before their first appearance, sometimes with their first appearance.
Mozart is introduced to the audience before his first appearance. As well the Venticelli as Salieri characterize him: “I’d known him for years, of course. Tales of his prowess were told all over Europe.” (I, 3). This wakens the interest of the audience in Mozart and points out that he is a very important character.
In contrast to him, Von Strack, Rosenberg, Van Swieten (I, 4) and Joseph are introduced right after their first appearance on stage:
Joseph: Je suis follement impatient!
SALIERI [ to audience ]: The Emperor Joseph the Second of Austria, Son of Maria Theresa. Brother of Marie Antoinette. Adorer of music - provided that it made no demands upon the royal brain. (I, 6)
Salieri not only introduces the name and the position, but also the main feature of the specific character. In this case he tells that the Emperor is an adorer of music, but he does not want his brain to be demanded. Later in the play this is the most important fea- ture, because the Emperor cannot see that Mozart’s music is perfect, but he is bored be- cause Mozart “makes things far too long” (II, 7). This sort of characterization gives short and helpful information to the audience without interrupting the action. Like this the audi-ence do not get confused and do not lose the total survey.
Salieri is the only one who characterizes other characters explicitly. Apart from that the characters only characterize themselves implicitly by their speeches. But the audience needs to get to know the characters, especially Mozart, from Salieri’s point of view in order to be able to understand him:
Abgesehen von den Informationen im Nebentext und späteren Dialogäußerungen der übrigen Figuren, deren direkte Reden in Salieris Erzählvorgang eingebettet sind, bezieht der Rezepient alle Informationen über die Figuren und ihre Handlungen durch diese vermittelnde Instanz. (Nünning 1996: 153)
Not only the other characters on stage are characterized by Salieri, but also himself. It is important to know a character in order to understand his actions. As the audience sees the story through his eyes (see 3.3) it must know him. Because Salieri’s attitude changes in between the two acts, he must be characterized several times.
At the very first scene when Salieri appears on stage (I, 2). Salieri characterises his basic characteristic features. The audience gets to know where Salieri comes from (“north- ern Italy where I was born”), what his weak points are (“Italian gluttony!”) and what he desired in life (“I wanted Fame. [...] I wanted to blaze, like a comet, across the firmament of Europe.”
Er [Salieri] charakterisiert sich selbst, indem er einige seiner Schwächen vorstellt,[...], indem er Hinweise zu seinen Eltern und seiner Abstammung gibt ...” (Nünning 1996: 154)
All these characterisations are not only to introduce him, but they all have impor-tant functions for the plot. From his home the conflict with the German Mozart starts about which language should be used in music. His weak point is a cardinal sin although a little later he says he is virtuous. And he wanted to blaze across Europe - what is exactly what Mozart did in his youth. All important points of the character for the plot are given to the audience from the beginning. The audience ‘knows’ Salieri before the action starts and can feel with him.
But it is also important for the little action taking place in 1823 that the audience knows him. This is the end of the whole story and the audience must get interested why Salieri wants to commit suicide: “This is now the last hour of my life.” (I, 2) This is what Nünning means by saying:
“Zum anderen trägt Salieris Selbstcharakterisierung dazu bei, das Interesse des Rezipienten an seinem Schicksal und am Erzählgeschehen aufrechtzuerhalten.” (Nünning 1996: 155)
At the beginning of the second act Salieri illustrates to the audience how he has changed. The audience gets to know his inner feelings and his reasons for what is to come. Again the important features of Salieri for the plot are presented and the interest of his fate is roused: “This is now the very last hour of my life.” (II, 1). He is no longer virtuous, but fights God - and Mozart is the battleground.
In the expositional scene, Salieri also introduces the theme ‘God’. He tells the audience about the bargain with the God of the tradesman and even plays this scene by imitating God’s voice.
SALIERI: [...] Signore, let me be a composer! Grant me with sufficient fame to enjoy it. In return I will live with virtue. [...] [ As God ] ‘Bene, go forth Antonio. Serve me and mankind - and you will be blessed!’ (I, 2)
God is the only one whom one is not allowed to imitate. But God is the only one whom Salieri imitates. It is made clear that his attitude of God changes from this point of time to the narrating point of time. Now it interests how this attitude changes. This again is not shown in a dialogue, but it is narrated in form of Salieri’s inner feelings and thoughts.
The attitude starts to change when Salieri hears the music of Mozart. “It seemed to me [Salieri] that I had heard a voice of God”, but it “was the voice of an obscene child!” (I,4) Salieri cannot accept that God’s voice is not in him although he lives with virtue. This leads to the breakdown of the bargain with God.
At the beginning of Act II Salieri informs the audience that he is no longer Mr.
‘Virtue', but that he fights against God from now on. As “God needed Mozart to let himself into the world”, “Mozart [is] the battleground”. Wolfgang Amadeus (the ‘beloved of God’) Mozart has to be destroyed.
The very last words of Salieri in this play are: “Mediocrities everywhere - now and to come - I absolve you. Amen!” (II, 18) Salieri slips into the role of a priest and absolves the audience. This is quiet weird because as the audience is Salieri’s confessor it should absolve Salieri - and not vice versa. Here again Salieri speaks ‘directly’ to the audience. He involves it to the theme directly.
Salieri as a first-person narrator and especially as the focalizer is important for the theme of God. The audience gets every information about this theme from Salieri except when Mozart sees the job of the composers to “turn the audience into God!” (II, 4) - and Mozart’s exclamations “Oh God!” (II, 15), which are rather cries of despair.
As not everybody in the audience can honour the perfection of Mozart it is important that Salieri as a professional points this out. Even if one does not like the music one is aware that Mozart is a very special person But Salieri has another important function: he is the focalizer of the narrated story and so Mozart’s notes are transcribed through Salieri’s head, i.e. we hear the music that only takes place inside of his head.
[ ...Then suddenly he [Salieri] snatches at it [the portfolio] - tears the ribbon - opens the case and stares greedily at the manuscript within.
Music sounds instantly, faintly, in the theatre, as his eyes fall on the first page. ] (II,11)
The music was not played at this scene of which Salieri narrates, but as he heard the music, the audience can hear it, too. And at the very point when Salieri cannot hear the music any longer, the audience cannot either: [ He looks up from the manuscript at the audience: the music abruptly stops ] (II, 11).
The epic elements, consisting of Salieri as narrator and focalizer, are very important for the music - of course one of the major themes - in the play. And as Salieri is an expert in music even a layman can see the genius in Mozart.
The famous film adaptation of Amadeus by Milos Forman was a great success and Peter Shaffer even got an ‘Oscar’ for the best script. Of course there are differences espe- cially on the level of fictional mediation which point out the advantages and disadvantages of the theatre.
In the film there is an overt narratee of Salieri, a priest. This character takes over the function of the audience. As Salieri cannot speak ‘directly’ to the audience, the actor does not see his audience. The contact between actor and audience, reduced to a minimum in the play, does not exists. Salieri cannot use the audience to be his confessors, but there is need of another character. The story is told to the priest and not directly to the audience. In addition to this there is no use of light-effects in the audience, of course. As shown these are alienation effects. The film does not use alienation effects because it wants to seem realistic.
There is another point that makes the film more realistic than the play: the old Sa- lieri can be played by another actor than the young Salieri. First of all this is easier for the actors because they do not have to play two roles. But, of course, it is also easier for the producer because the different time is indicated by the different actors. In addition to this all the actors can be made up because the production lasts much longer than the two hours of a performance of the play.
When I watched the film after I read the play I was disappointed. What I really liked in the play was this reduction of the two communication levels. I imagined myself sitting in the audience and I thought I would take part in the play. But watching the film I was an outsider of the action and it was just a story presented to me.
After reading the play I really liked this play. I reread it a few days later and was even more pleased. But after I saw the film I was really disappointed for reasons men-tioned above. This is why I’m waiting to see this play on stage, based on the text I read and with the advantages of the theatre.
Although I do not like Mozart’s music - which is a very important part in the play - I’m tensed to see if Salieri can convince me on stage that Mozart’s music is the incarnation of God - he was not able to do it in the film adaptation.
Furthermore I want to see how far the audience is really involved in the play. Do I feel almost like a character - like the old Salieri sitting next to the action and watching it (although he watches it in his mind)? But there is more that I want to see: can I understand Salieri as he claims it from the audience, do I feel like a ‘ghost of the future’?
Of course I know that a lot depends on the stage manager and the actors. But this does not change my wish: I want to and I will see Amadeus by Peter Shaffer on stage one day.
Shaffer, Peter. Amadeus. Harmondsworth: Penguin 1981
Gianakaris, C. J. 1992. Peter Shaffer: A Casebook. MacMillan Press Ltd: London
Jahn, Manfred. 1999. Poems, Plays and Prose: A Guide to the Theory of Literary Genres.
English Department, University of Cologne.
Klein, Dennis A. 1993. Peter Shaffer: Revised edition. Twayne Publishers: New York
Kurowska, Malgorzata. 1998. Diplomarbeit: Peter Shaffer’s play Amadeus and its film ad- aptation by Milos Forman. Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz.
Nünning, Ansgar. 1996 .Englische Literaturwissenschaft: Grundstrukturen des Fachs und Methoden der Textanalyse. Stuttgart: Klett
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