Biography of Peter Shaffer

Peter Shaffer, a renowned English playwright, was born in Liverpool, England on May 15th, 1926. He studied history on a scholarship at Trinity College, University of Cambridge. Before beginning his playwriting career, Shaffer was a coal miner during World War II; afterwards, he held various odd jobs, such as bookstore clerk and assistant at the New York Public Library. During the early years of his career he also worked as a literary critic.

Soon after his graduation in 1950, Shaffer collaborated with his twin, Anthony Shaffer, to publish three mystery novels under the pseudonym "Peter Anthony." Following this, his first radio play, The Prodigal Father, saw success on BBC, as did a number of other TV and radio works of his. Shaffer's first great theatrical success was Five Finger Exercise, which opened in London for a two-year run. Once Great Britain's National Theatre was established in 1963, Shaffer did all of his subsequent work in its service. 

One of Shaffer's most famous plays, Equus, was published in 1973 and won him numerous awards, including a 1975 Tony Award for best play, and the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award. Equus ran on Broadway for more than 1,000 performances, and was revived in 2008 in a run starring Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame. Amadeus, another successful play, followed in 1979, winning the Evening Standard Drama Award and the Theatre Critics' Award in London; it later won the 1981 Tony Award for best play on Broadway. 

Many of Shaffer's plays have been adapted into successful films -- most notably Amadeus in 1984, which won eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture. 

Shaffer's works vary between drama and comedy, typically concerning deep philosophical and intellectual questions that have challenged thinkers for centuries. 

Study Guides on Works by Peter Shaffer

Equus,written in 1973, is one of Peter Shaffer's most celebrated plays. It tells the story of a boy who has a strange, religious fascination with horses. He is treated by a psychiatrist who, in turn, realizes some things about himself during these...