Shaffer, Peter (shăfˈər) [key], 1926–, English playwright, b. Liverpool, grad. Cambridge, 1950. Before turning to the stage he wrote for radio and television and was the author of several mystery novels. He has written both historical and contemporary dramas, work ranging from the tautly dramatic to the farcically comic. His first successful play, Five Finger Exercise (1958), is a study of the tensions in an upper-middle-class family. The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1964), is an epic of Pizarro's destruction of the Incan civilization. Equus (1973) is a dialogue between a psychoanalyst and a deranged, horse-obsessed youth; the Tony-winning Amadeus (1979) relates the rivalry between the composers Mozart and Salieri. Shaffer's other plays include The Private Ear and The Public Eye (1962), Black Comedy (1965), Lettice and Lovage (1987), and The Gift of the Gorgon (1993). Several of his plays have been made into films.
See G. A. Plunka, Peter Shaffer: Roles, Rites and Rituals in the Theater (1988); C. J. Gianakaras, ed., Peter Shaffer: A Casebook (1991); M. K. MacMurraugh-Kavanagh, Peter Shaffer: Theater and Drama (1998).