Peter Levin Shaffer (born May 15, 1926) is an English dramatist, author of numerous award-winning plays, several of which have been filmed. He was born to a Jewish family in Liverpool, and is the twin brother of another playwright, Anthony Shaffer. He gained a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge University to read History.
Shaffer also studied history on a scholarship from Cambridge University, and worked a number of odd jobs including coal miner, bookstore clerk, and assistant at the New York Public Library, before discovering his dramatic talents. 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 which opened in London under the direction of John Gielgud and won the Evening Standard Drama Award. When Five Finger Exercises moved to New York in 1959, it was equally well-received and landed Shaffer the Drama Critics Award.
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 hilarious look at the antics of a group of characters feeling their way around a pitch black room--although the stage is, of course, 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. An electrifying journey into the mind of a 17-year-old stableboy who has plunged a spike into the eyes of six horses, Equus ran for over 1000 performances on Broadway. Shaffer followed this success with Amadeus (1979) which won the Evening Standard Drama Award and the Theatre Critics Award for the London production. Amadeus 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 over 1000 performances.
Several of Shaffer's plays have been adapted to film including The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1969), Equus (1977), Amadeus (1984) which won eight Academy Awards including "Best Picture".
Peter Shaffer's works include: