Cain and Herostratus: Pushkin's and Shaffer's Reappropriations of the Mozart Myth
Sabbag, Kerry, Pushkin Review
Where the event of a great action is left doubtful, there the Poet is left Master.
Dryden, preface to Don Sebastian
The rumors surrounding the role of Antonio Salieri in the death of Mozart have transformed these artists into the subjects of art. In 1830 and 1981 respectively, Alexander Pushkin and Peter Shaffer brought this story of envy and murder to life in distinctively different dramas. Setting aside any issues of direct influence, the question remains--how did these two artists engage the Mozart/Salieri myth in very different social and intellectual contexts? The aspects of this rumor turned myth that take center stage in each work represent diverse interpretations not only of the historical figures and the rumors surrounding Mozart's death but also of the dominant themes--envy, art, genius, man's relationship to God, and fame. Both Pushkin and Shaffer chose Salieri as their primary vehicle for the exploration of these themes; thus, it is the two Salieris and their views of Mozart and the world that reveal a larger myth of envy, fame, and recognition that is both timeless in nature and shaped by each author's time and implied audience. Moreover, by comparing the divergences in the medium, characterization, and thematic focus employed by each author we can see how the artistic interpretation of the Mozart/Salieri rumor engages the core legends of envy represented by the mythical figures of Cain and Herostratus. (1)
The differences between Pushkin's "fifth act" Little Tragedy and Shaffer's stage play are most immediately evident in the scope and length of each work. Shaffer's text is replete with stage directions and includes instruction on scenery, costume, and tempo, while, in contrast, Pushkin's minimal inclusion of secondary text has led directors, critics, actors, and readers/viewers to question its theatricality. (2) While Pushkin's drama features only the title characters and a blind fiddler, whose contribution is musical rather than verbal, Shaffer's play includes Mozart's wife, extensive mention of his father, the emperor, various representatives of the court, and venticelli, or little winds, who are defined as purveyors of information, gossip, and rumor. Shaffer expands on the biography of Mozart while Pushkin limits biographical information to mention of the artist's wife, his insomnia, and an incident just preceding the events of the play. Finally, the titles are worthy of note. Shaffer's single-character title, Amadeus, may be read as reflecting his audience's greater familiarity with Mozart and a sense of artistic irony in the contrast between the title and Salieri's domination of the audience's attention. While Shaffer's title may not indicate the same degree of connection and equanimity between the characters as Pushkin's, through Salieri's exclamation, "For the rest of time whenever men say Mozart with love, they will say Salieri with loathing!... I am going to be immortal after all!" Shaffer expresses the same reinforcement of the myth that unites the two composers. (3)
The presentation of time differs in the plays as a result of the medium within which each author works. I would compare Pushkin's vision of time in Motsart i Salieri to a panoramic snapshot in which the before and after are understood via the audience's historical knowledge. As S. Bondi reminds us, "And then Mozart enters--and all the many emotional and historical associations with this name immediately surface in the viewer's mind. The same is true for the name Salieri, which was just as familiar as Mozart's name to Pushkin's contemporaries." (4) Although Mozart's future is not explicitly depicted, it is conveyed to the audience on the historical level through their familiarity with the composer and fictively through Salieri's monologues. Shaffer jumps between the historical past, historical present (Salieri after Mozart's death), and even the future through Salieri's invocation of mediocrities now and to come and implication of the audience; the comparatively expansive treatment of time may be attributed to the overall broader scope of his drama and to the audience's relative distance from the characters' lives and the rumors that surrounded them.
The implied audience must, by definition, play a significant role in the way a myth is appropriated. Both Pushkin and Shaffer address an audience for whom the name Mozart may be easily associated with the concepts of genius or prodigy, yet each author wants to make the concepts come alive within the drama and apply to his Mozart. Therefore, each turns to Salieri, a contemporary of Mozart's in whom the respective audience can recognize the qualities, both positive and negative, associated with an ordinary mortal (in comparison to Mozart); the fact that both texts refer to Mozart as a vessel of God supports this contrast between the characters. In addition, both authors use Salieri as a means of identifying Mozart's genius. Shaffer's Salieri first recognizes Mozart's genius from the pain he feels in hearing what he thinks must be God's voice in Mozart's music. His initial denial is later shattered upon finding Mozart's brilliant, original scores without marks of correction or suffering for art. While Mozart's status as a child prodigy is reported by other characters from the very beginning of the play, it is Salieri's feelings that most powerfully convey the sense of genius to the audience. Pushkin's Salieri recognizes Mozart's genius from the play's first monologue, in which he bemoans the unequal distribution of the sacred gift (sviashchennyi dar) and immortal genius (bessmertnyi genii); indeed, when taken in context, even the first lines of the play reflect Salieri's dissatisfaction with his allotment of genius : "Men say, there is no justice here on earth. / I say, there's none on high as well" (Vse govoriat: net pravdy na zemle. No pravdy net i vyshe VII: 123]). (5) In both cases Salieri and his powerful reactions to Mozart provide the artistic vehicle for the authors' explorations of the theme of genius.
One function of Salieri is to present Mozart's genius to the audience, but he is also essential in setting the scene, especially as regards time. Shaffer's play includes several other historical characters as well as location and time cues, but in Pushkin's more minimalist drama Salieri is even more indispensable. His ability to recognize Mozart's genius and the absence of others to testify to it return Mozart to a time when he was a man rather than an icon. An interesting exception is provided by the appearance of the blind fiddler who immediately complies with the request to play something by Mozart, suggesting the composer's future immortality. Salieri's role as a barometer for Mozart's genius resonates clearly in both texts: Pushkin's Salieri declares, "You, Mozart, are a god and know it not. / But I, I know" (Ty, Motsart, bog i sam togo ne znaesh'/ Ia znaiu, ia" [VII: 127]) while Shaffer's Salieri angrily proclaims to God, "And my only reward--my sublime privilege--is to be the sole man alive in this time who shall clearly recognize Your Incarnation!" (47). In each of these quotes, Salieri identifies himself as the true judge of Mozart's gift; while these lines are primarily a commentary on Salieri's own artistic sensibility, their dramatic effect is enhanced by the fact that Mozart's genius is recognized by a historical contemporary. Thus, one function of Salieri and his testimony to Mozart's talent is to transport the audience to a time when Mozart was not a universally known figure. As the passage of time made this a more daunting task for Shaffer, it is perhaps not surprising that his play includes a significant number of figures and details that serve to reinforce the eighteenth-century environment. (6)
Salieri's significance is most clearly demonstrated through his long soliloquies and direct access to the audience. When the plays thematize the relationship between God and man, more specifically the artist's position within it, Salieri takes center stage. Both Salieris see themselves as God's musical servants and are plunged into envy and confusion when they realize that, despite their long hours of labor and self-denial, it is Mozart's music that reflects God's voice. The resulting conflict represents a war between Salieri and God over the caprice with which talent is granted and in which Mozart is only a vessel or a battleground. Shaffer's Salieri perceives Mozart as a weapon through which God is striking out against him and responds in kind, proclaiming, "The Creature's dreadful giggle was the laughter of God" and "My quarrel now wasn't with Mozart, it was through him! Through him to God who loved him so" (70, 51). Pushkin's Salieri demonstrates the same reasoning when he laments "there's no justice on high as well" (pravdy net i vyshe) and refers to Mozart as an angel (nekii kheruvim) while including himself among the creatures of the dust (chado prakha). In both Pushkin's and Shaffer's plays Mozart is a vessel through which Salieri interacts with God, while also representing God's rejection of his own musical offerings. Although this may be more explicitly stated by Shaffer, Pushkin's Salieri goes further in that he intends to deny Mozart both life and immortality while Shaffer's Salieri only hopes to deny Mozart his livelihood and fame, while ensuring his own immortality. In both cases, as Martin Bidney notes, "An undeserving recipient of God's grace, Mozart symbolically embodies the capriciousness of that grace, which can only be effectively denied if he, its symbol, is annihilated." (7) Although their actions differ to some degree, the Salieris share similar reactions and motivation--envy, a desire to serve and be served by music, and a battle with God over their fate and Mozart's.
In each play, Salieri reacts both to Mozart's music and to the man himself and his perception of art and the artist. If Pushkin's Mozart is, like Shaffer's, childlike, his apparent immaturity is a product of Salieri's perspective and the behavioral contrast he provides. Unwilling or unable to see the humor in Mozart's "joke," Pushkin's Salieri is astounded by Mozart's ability to laugh at the blind fiddler's rendition of the aria from Don Juan and declares the composer unworthy of himself (nedostoin sam sebia). Salieri's protests against Mozart's character are connected to his conception of and identity as an artist. His response to Mozart's joke--"I cannot laugh--when some benighted hack / Besmirches Raphael and his Madonna; / I cannot laugh--when some repellent clown / With parody dishonors Alighieri" (Mne ne smeshno, kogda maliar negodnii / Mne pachkaet Madonnu Rafaelia / Mne ne smeshno, kogda figliar prezrennyi / parodiei beschestit Alig'eri [VII: 126])--reflects his view of how an artist should conduct himself and refers the audience to his opening monologue, in which he describes his life of asceticism and artistic labor. Furthermore, Mozart's references to the cares of everyday life--hunger and the need to tell his wife he will not be home for lunch--stand in stark contrast to Salieri's days spent composing in his silent cell (bezmolvnaia kel'ia) without food or sleep and reinforce Salieri's perception of Mozart's unworthiness. Stepping back from Salieri's persuasive and dramatic monologues, one can see that Mozart's "unworthiness" is not evidenced by his words or actions. When the man in black comes to call, Mozart is playing on the floor with his son but then immediately sets to work on the Requium. It is Mozart who concludes that the world could not function if everyone were an artist engaged in feeling the strength of Harmony and includes Salieri among the chosen few. It is he who philosophizes that "villainy and genius sit ill together" (genii i zlodeistvo--dve veshchi nesovmestnye [VII: 133-34]), an idea that is not a part of Salieri's concept of the artist and which will surely haunt him. Thus, the contrast in effort and worthiness that Salieri seeks in order to rationalize disparity in talent and Grace fails, and the audience, understanding that Salieri's characterization of Mozart is prejudiced, is not swayed. Despite Salieri's greater access to the audience, the balanced title of Motsart i Salieri proves to be valid, and both voices ring true in this drama of art and life.
Shaffer's Mozart is much more of a pronounced character and, unlike Pushkin's, appears in scenes without Salieri. Salieri's description of Mozart as an obscene child is not purely his clouded perception but is echoed in Mozart's playfulness, inability to navigate the bureaucracy in which he must function, and vulgar language. (8) In fact, the language of Shaffer's Mozart reinforces both aspects of Salieri's description of him as an obscene child. Significantly, this characterization of Mozart through his language is echoed in his behavior, a technique that is far less prevalent in Pushkin's play.
The root of the difference in characterization lies in the types of drama employed by each author. As Vladimir Golstein notes, one of the recurrent devices in Motsart i Salieri is dramatic irony. Pushkin's play does not contain surprises, and he plays upon the fact that the audience knows more than the protagonists: "The play's action gradually turns into a procession towards Mozart's anticipated death." (9) Golstein concludes that the purpose of dramatic irony here is to illuminate for the reader Providence's plan and its fulfillment. I would add that it allows the reader/audience to focus not on the action or potential outcome but rather on the more philosophical issues of genius and art. Pushkin's more muted version of Mozart supports the metaphysical questions of the text regarding the existence of justice, the power of envy, and the nature of genius.
In contrast, Shaffer's Mozart is anything but muted in word and action. One impetus for this difference in characterization between the two Mozarts, despite some obviously common traits, is the medium of Shaffer's play, which, in contrast to Pushkin's, contains extensive stage direction and a variety of settings. As Felicia Hardison Londre notes, "the scenes in which the bumptiously boorish Mozart appears are dramatically the play's most effective" (emphasis mine).10 They represent the most active scenes; the sight of Mozart crawling around on the floor imitating animals with his wife stands in stark contrast to Salieri's soliloquies. In response to criticism of the contrast between the idealized image of Mozart and his depiction in Amadeus, Shaffer has explained that his intent was not to demean Mozart. (11) Rather, he wanted audiences "to know Mozart better and more totally--to know a genius of far greater complexity than granted by standard portraits." (12) Shaffer's use of the word "portrait" to describe traditional depictions of Mozart reflects the time period in which the play was written. While Shaffer's audience may be less familiar with the figure of Salieri than Pushkin's, they are also further removed from Mozart's life and historical time period and therefore more deeply mired in his legend. (13) Consequently, Shaffer had to go to greater lengths than Pushkin to depict the contrast between artistic types, particularly as the non-standard behavior of the artist became a more and more acceptable image in society. While the "joke" of Pushkin's Mozart was enough for Salieri to contrast their artistic philosophies, Shaffer's Mozart has to engage in more vulgar and irresponsible behavior.
Thus, we find that two very different artists have appropriated the same myth to address similar themes and have depicted it using a shared genre but producing works of different styles. The character of Salieri, as interpreted by the author and his society, represents a key to this divergence. While Pushkin's and Shaffer's Salieris have much in common, they reflect different interpretations of the theme of envy.
In Pushkin's play, despite Salieri's efforts to dress Mozart in the trappings of the Romantic artist, we have found that this impression is created by Salieri's perceptions. Conversely, one must be leery of identifying Salieri with Classicism, despite his predilection for dissecting music like a corpse. In fact, his cry "O nebo!" evokes the image of the ultimate Romantic rebel, Byron's Cain. (14)
[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] [VII:124-25] O Heaven! Where is justice to be found?! When genius, that immortal sacred gift Is granted not to love and self-denial, To labor and to striving and to prayer - But casts its light upon a madman's head, A foolish idler's brow?
Salieri rails against inequality and perceived injustice in a way fully in keeping with the values of the Napoleonic age. He challenges God in word (no pravdy net i vyshe) and deed (by deeming Mozart an angel but one of no use to this world, effectively reversing God's decision). As a result, one can sense Salieri's loss, for, although he confesses to having no love for life, his impassioned opening monologue can leave no doubt as to his love for music, just as his closing lines suggest that he has lost as much as Mozart--"But could he be right ... / Am I no genius?" (No uzhel'on prav, / I ia ne genii? [VII: 133]). One can see Pushkin's Salieri in Ricardo Quinones's analysis of Cain: "The anger of the sibling [Cain--here Salieri] is a displaced anger that is really directed against God, against the figure that bestows favor so arbitrarily. What this means is that envy exists in protest against God's grace, against God's favor.... The quarrel of envy is ultimately a quarrel with God--its arena, or its facade, is a hatred of those whom God favors." (15)
The concept of a quarrel with God through another is also reminiscent of Shaffer's Salieri. After years of believing that God has accepted his agreement of labor and virtue in return for music and fame, Salieri vents his rage:
Grazie, Signore! You gave me the desire to serve You--which most men do not have--then saw to it the service was shameful in the ears of the server.... You put into me perception of the Incomparable--which most men never know!--then ensured that I would know myself forever mediocre.... I have worked and worked the talent You allowed me. (Calling up) You know how hard I've worked! Solely that in the end, in the practice of the art which alone makes the world comprehensible to me, I might hear Your Voice! And now I do hear it--and it says only one name: Mozart! [...] They say the spirit bloweth where it listeth: I tell you NO! It must list to virtue or not blow at all! [...] You are the Enemy! And this I swear: To my last breath I shall block You on earth as far as I am able! (He glares up at God. To audience) What use, after all, is man, if not to teach God His lessons?" (46)
Here and elsewhere throughout the play, Salieri is reminiscent of Quinones's description of Cain in the drama of envy:
Cain is not confronted with a hopelessly divided world but rather with difference and with the arbitrariness of preference. [...] Reprobate Cain does not seek difference, rather he is victimized by it. He adheres to community and to continuity, or at least to a kind of historical succession and predictability. By attempting to remove risk and the unpredictable, he tries to bargain not only with God but also with history--and this defines the nature of his poor offering. (16)
The image of Cain, the rebel and outcast (as a result of God's breach of their agreement), resounds clearly in both Salieris. They are outraged to find that their sacrifices/offerings are not acceptable, and that, although they have done no wrong--and stress their toil and virtue--they are punished by the curse of unbearable awareness and knowledge. Cain's cry of, "Cursed be He who invented Life that leads to Death!" echoes in one Salieri's cry for justice and the other's outrage at what God has shown him and then denied him. However, despite the backdrop of Cain both in the characterizations of Salieri and in the drama of envy in general, the paths are not the same. Pushkin's Salieri seeks to protect future "priests and servants of music" like himself, declaring Mozart useless for this world because he will leave no heir. His words are reminiscent of Cain's sorrow at the thought of his son having to bear his pain and passing it on to future generations--a sorrow that leads him to consider murder so as to leave no heir to his questions and suffering. His course of action decided, Salieri sheds tears upon hearing Mozart's music and feels the pain cut out of him. The play ends with Salieri pondering Mozart's proposal that genius and evil cannot coexist. Thus, Pushkin's Salieri, like Byron's Cain, has been plagued by questions of knowledge and justice, has struck out at the source of his pain through another, and has still found only questions but no relief. In a sense he becomes an outcast as well--cut off from the joy in music that his first monologue attests to and forever separated from the glorious music that prompted his tears. Pushkin's Salieri, like Byron's Cain, is cursed with the burden of a metaphysical quest, the nature of which is underscored by considering the play as part of the larger cycle of Little Tragedies focusing on the all-too-universal issues of greed, envy, obsession, and death.
In Shaffer's Salieri we find the same sense of rebellion against God's caprice and seeming rejection of his offerings. However, there are some differences in Salieri's reactions which suggest that his journey deviates from the Cainesque path of Pushkin's. In Shaffer's play the concept of fame is strongly emphasized. In his bargains with God, Salieri entreats, "Let me be a composer! Grant me sufficient fame to enjoy it" (8). In the end he offers a false confession of murder as a last grasp at immortality, declaring, "I will be remembered--if not in fame, then in infamy" (94). Perhaps as a result of his focus on fame and reputation, this Salieri seeks to deprive Mozart not of his life (ability to produce art) but of his livelihood (ability to profit from his art). Ultimately we see how in Shaffer's play this Cain-like figure is led less to metaphysical questions than to banal actions, for example his intention to "starve the God out" of Mozart--a concept that sharply contrasts with his own former ascetic lifestyle as well as the "monastic" existence of Pushkin's Salieri. (17)
Salieri's vindictive destructiveness combined with his emphasis on fame suggests that in him the Cain myth has become contaminated and bears closer resemblance to that of Herostratus, whose destruction of the temple of Epheseus coincided with the birth of Alexander the Great. While no further details of the event are known, Gregory Ulmer suggests a plausible scenario in which "[t]he thought of this child, born into all the advantages of life and predestined for glory, made Herostratus reflect despairingly on his own frustrated ambitions, made him rage against his anonymity, mortality, and mediocrity." (18) All three of these terms relate to Salieri in his battle with God--although he is far from anonymous within the Vienna court, he perceives himself as a misfit in the realm of artistry to which he wants to belong and as a result challenges the ultimate authority figure, God. He begins to see the empty fame he has received, for work he now knows to be worthless, as a punishment and feels bricked in by it, embalmed (93). Salieri's last move in his war against God is the rejection of fame for infamy by falsely confessing to murder before attempting suicide (self-destruction), accompanied by a battle cry of "I am going to be immortal after all! And He [God] is powerless to prevent it" (94). Another key element of the Herostratus myth is that of bearing witness. Herostratus achieved the immortality he sought because there were witnesses to his act who preserved his name, despite the fact that it was made illegal to speak it. Unlike Pushkin's play, which presents the title characters in near isolation (like the desert of Cain), Shaffer's abounds with witnesses; Salieri calls upon the audience to witness his final act of rebellion and offers them his comfort and forgiveness in the face of "taunting unachievable, uncaring God" (95). (19) Like Herostratus, he claims infamy for destruction, with the twist that the names of the creators of the temple have been forgotten in favor of its destroyer, while Mozart's name lives on, and, as Salieri himself predicted, is an essential part of the latter's "immortality." Ironically, his final grasp at infamy, claiming to have poisoned Mozart, is dismissed by the venticelli, truly relegating his "fame" to the future and limiting it to the status of rumor. Addressing the Herostratus myth more directly in the twentieth century, Miguel de Unamuno observes, "Tremendous passion, this, that our memory survives in spite of the forgetfulness of others if it is possible. From it arises envy.... And this herostratism, what is it, at base, but desire for immortality, even if not of substance and bulk, at least of name and shadow?" (20) This is precisely what Shaffer's Salieri declares prior to attempting suicide before the audience--his shadowy witness to their pain and his identity as the 'Patron Saint of Mediocrities.'
Ultimately this division in these two appropriations of the Mozart/Salieri myth returns us to the subject of genre. Quinones reminds us that "[a]t the center of the theme [Cain-Abel] is a vortex of emotional fury that is compelling because it is so graphic (as indeed the theme's appeal to visual artists has demonstrated)." (21) If the subject lends itself to the genre, then it indeed evokes variations--one, a metaphysical drama and the other, a type of performance art. These different types of drama reflect two timeless myths of envy--Cain (specifically Byron's), whose dramatic quest showcased philosophical questions and the burden of knowledge, and Herostratus, whose infamous act was, in and of itself, performance. (22) In order to consider why the Mozart/Salieri rumor was
(19) As Erika Fischer-Lichte notes in The Show and the Gaze of Theatre: A European Perspective (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1997), "The stratagems developed by the theatre of the avant-garde in the first third of this century, to transform the spectator into one who acts, function in postmodern theatre in the opposite way as the condition of the possibility of recognizing the spectator as spectator and returning the rights of spectatorship. In the theatre, the fact of looking on is an action" (59). appropriated via these two different myths, we must look to the authors' time, society, and immediate audience. Pushkin's play bears traces of his earlier Byronic influence (thematic, not stylistic) as well as of Romanticism and its interest in the questions of genius and the artist. It is marked by a sense of ambiguity, underscored by the questioning nature of the final lines (compare to Amadeus, in which the play ends with Salieri's failed suicide). In this play we can even see the image of Pushkin himself, the combination of inspired creator and dedicated craftsman, possessing an "inner Mozart and inner Salieri." Finally, the larger context of the Little Tragedies serves to draw the audience's attention to the metaphysical questions of Pushkin's play.
In contrast, for Shaffer, whose audience exists in a time that grants everyone the potential for "15 minutes of fame," the concept of genius is superceded by that of fame or celebrity and how art is presented rather than how it is produced. Shaffer can rely on a modern audience's association of Mozart's behavior (vulgar language and the inability to manage the financial aspects of art) with the concept of genius and focus instead on fame and the dramatic action of the play, while in Pushkin's time genius and the artist were central subjects of art itself. Shaffer has stressed his desire to show the complexity of his title character rather than the standard portrait; the dramatic result, in comparison to Pushkin's version, may in part be due to the fact that the legend of Mozart had had an additional 150 years to solidify between the two works, and Salieri as an artist had faded into history. Shaffer turns to the extensive set direction, scenery, and action of the stage play in order to "recreate" Mozart for people long familiar with him and to reach an audience exposed to more forms of media than Pushkin's was. (23)
Two key moments in these texts may shed light on the way in which time/culture, philosophy, and drama (theatricality) are connected within these plays. Pushkin's Mozart questions the compatibility of genius and evil, including himself and Salieri in the category of genius and, therefore, good. The play ends with an ailing Mozart's departure (the result of the poisoning is not shown) and Salieri's questioning of the incompatibility of the concepts and therefore his own genius. Compare a scene in Amadeus concerning the value of "goodness"--Salieri addresses the audience--"This is now the very last hour of my life. You must understand me. Not forgive. I do not seek forgiveness. I was a good man, as the world calls good. What use was it to me? Goodness could not make me a good composer! [...] Was Mozart good? Goodness is nothing in the furnace of art" (49). The curtain closes on Pushkin's Salieri pondering Mozart's question, while Shaffer's Salieri, after cutting his own throat, dramatically absolves "mediocrities everywhere--now and to come" (96). These scenes highlight the split between Cain and Herostratus in the interpretation of Salieri. Pushkin's Salieri is still searching, despite having committed the irreversible act of murder, while Shaffer's shouts out his own mediocrity and absolution in a dramatic gesture after claiming fame for destruction that was not truly his to claim. The former questions the coexistence of genius and evil in an artist, that is, the value of goodness to art, while the latter contests the value of goodness in general and suggests that it cannot coexist with art. Pushkin's nineteenth-century Mozart is deemed of no use to the world because he offers the painful knowledge of what may be without the ability to leave an heir or spare the future the pain of awareness. The goodness of Shaffer's twentieth-century Mozart is not important because in this world art consumes goodness, and, as both Salieris discover, good behavior cannot create art. Here and throughout the plays both Pushkin and Shaffer utilize drama to address a seemingly timeless myth and universal themes, but the conduct of their heroes and the presentation of these themes reflect the authors' own times.
While "spiritual affinities" between the plays abound, they diverge in their treatment of many of the themes associated with the drama of envy. (24) Given Shaffer's assertion that he was unfamiliar with Pushkin's play, we may conclude that the Mozart/Salieri rumor itself suggests interpretation as a drama of envy. Changes in the culture and period of the audience result in the transition of the primary thematic force in each play, Salieri, from Cain to Herostratus and may also contribute to the author's choice of medium. For Pushkin, the anguished cry of Salieri/Cain inspired a terse but powerful play within a larger cycle replete with moral and philosophical questions; Salieri/Herostratus generated Shaffer's large-scale dramatic production, reflecting the fame culture within which it was written. When seen through the lens of the Cain/Herostratus dichotomy, the enduring nature of the Mozart/Salieri myth and all the themes it encompasses shines clearly, and we can look forward to its next appropriation.
(1) I reference the Cain and Herostratus myths in order to locate Pushkin's and Shaffer's dramas of envy within a larger continuum. Pushkin could not help but be aware of the relevance of Byron's Cain to his exploration of the concepts of envy and rebellion. I have found no evidence that Shaffer knowingly drew on the legend of Herostratus, but believe that the legend highlights the ways in which the image of Cain has been developed and modified. The fact that Shaffer has not directly addressed the herostratic aspect of his play does not detract from the insight that knowledge of the legend may offer the reader of Amadeus.
(2) See, for example, S. N. Durylin, Pushkin na stsene (Moscow: Izdatel'stvo Akademii nauk SSSR, 1951), esp. pp. 91-122 and Nancy Anderson's introduction to her translation of The Little Tragedies (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000).
(3) Peter Shaffer, Amadeus (New York: Harper & Row, 1981), 94. All citations from Amadeus refer to the first U.S. edition rather than the earlier version, as the former seems to reflect the author's final intentions.
(4) S. Bondi, O Pushkine (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1983), 264: "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]" (translation mine).
(5) All Pushkin quotations are from Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, 17 vols. Leningrad: AN SSSR, 1937-59), vol. 7. All translations are from James Falen's translation of the Little Tragedies, in Svetlana Evdokimova, ed., Alexander Pushkin's Little Tragedies: The Poetics of Brevity (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2003), 321-29.
(6) For example, the emperor and his court.
(7) Martin Bidney, "Thinking about God and Mozart: The Salieris of Puskin and Peter Shaffer," Slavic and East European Journal 30: 2 (Summer 1986): 189.
(8) C. J. Gianakaris documents that, according to Mozart's private letters and incidents recorded by his biographers, Shaffer's interpretation is entirely plausible (G. J. Gianakaris, "Fair Play? Peter Shaffer's Treatment of Mozart in Amadeus," in G. J. Gianakaris, ed., Peter Shaffer: A Casebook (New York: Garland Publishing Inc., 1991), 127-31).
(9) Vladimir Golstein, "Pu skin's Mozart and Salieri as a Parable of Salvation," Russian Literature 29 (1991): 168.
(10) Felicia Hardison Londre, "Straddling a Dual Poetics in Amadeus: Salieri as Tragic Hero and Joker," in Peter Shaffer: A Casebook, 119.
(11) See Gianakaris, Peter Shaffer (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992) for a description of critical reactions to Shaffer's portrayal of Mozart.
(12) Gianakaris, "Fair Play?" 128.
(13) Hardison Londre notes "a modern audience's predisposition to sympathize with that kind of social misfit who deflates authority figures," in reference to Shaffer's Mozart ("Straddling a Dual Poetics," 119-25).
(14) See Golstein for a discussion of Pushkin's Salieri and the Cain/Abel myth.
(15) Ricardo Quinones, The Changes of Cain: Violence and the Lost Brother in Cain and Abel Literature (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), 16.
(16) Ibid., 156.
(17) One has to wonder whether the idea of "starving the God" out of an artist would be possible in the Russian literary tradition, given the religious and cultural heritage of asceticism and monasticism.
(18) Gregory Ulmer, The Legend of Herostratus: Existential Envy in Rousseau and Unamuno (Gainesville: The University Presses of Florida, 1977), 18.
(20) As quoted in Ulmer, The Legend of Herostratus, 24.
(21) Quinones, The Changes of Cain, 14.
(22) In Bidney's discussion of the differences in mood and theatrical means between the two plays, he notes the dignity of Pushkin's verse versus the histrionics and black humor of Shaffer's prose. Our conclusions do not contradict each other but rather differ in focus. The laconically dramatic verse of Pushkin's text allows the metaphysical questions to rise to the forefront of the audience's attention, while the "grotesque exaggeration and self-parodying histrionics" indeed emphasize Shaffer's play as performance.
(23) Fischer-Lichte attributes the contribution of new media forms to the theatricalization of everyday life in contemporary Western society (The Show and the Gaze, 218-19).
(24) A phrase applied to the relationship between the plays by Bidney ("Thinking about God and Mozart," 181).…
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Publication information: Article title: Cain and Herostratus: Pushkin's and Shaffer's Reappropriations of the Mozart Myth. Contributors: Sabbag, Kerry - Author. Journal title: Pushkin Review. Volume: 6-7. Publication date: Annual 2004. Page number: 25+. © 2004 Slavica Publishers, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group.
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