Peter Shaffer, Author of the Plays Equus and Amadeus, Dies at 90

Shaffer’s plays also include ”Lettice and Lovage”.

Peter Shaffer has died at the age of 80.
Peter Shaffer has died at the age of 90.
(© Joseph Marzullo/WENN)

Peter Shaffer, the Tony and Oscar-winning writer of Equus and Amadeus, has died at the age of 90.

Born May 15, 1926, gained a scholarship to study history at Trinity College, Cambridge, after being educated at the Hall School in Hampstead and St. Paul's School in London. A coal miner during World War II, he worked as a bookstore clerk and as an assistant at the New York Public Library prior to becoming a playwright.

Shaffer's first play, The Salt Land, was presented on the BBC after its 1954 premiere. In 1958, he received the first production of his work Five Finger Exercise, which won London's Evening Standard Award. He was also awarded the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Foreign Play when it moved stateside the next year.

Perhaps his best known plays are Equus, Amadeus, and Lettice and Lovage. Equus, the story of a young man who stabbed the eyes of six horses, ran for more than 1,000 performances on Broadway and won the 1975 Tony Award for Best Play. It was famously revived in London in 2007 and on Broadway in 2008, with Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe taking on the central role.

Amadeus followed in 1979, winning the Evening Standard Drama Award and the Theatre Critics' Award for its London production. The story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his rivalry with Antonio Salieri also won the 1981 Tony Award for Best Play and the 1985 Academy Award for Best Picture. Shaffer received the 1984 Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for his work.

Lettice and Lovage was written for Dame Maggie Smith in 1986, and the actress would go on to win a Tony Award for her performance in 1990. His later plays include Whom Do I Have the Honour of Addressing? (1990) and The Gift of the Gorgon (1992).

Shaffer was named a CBE in 1987 and was knighted in 2001. He was visiting friends and family in Ireland at the time of his death, on June 6. He is survived by his brother Brian, nephews Milo and Mark, and nieces Cressida and Claudia.