[Quick Summary: In an insane asylum, Antonio Salieri recalls how he manipulated everything in his power so that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart cannot succeed - but fails.]
Salieri is a damned man.
He's a vindictive guy, consumed by jealousy, powerful, rich, & ...oh yeah, he's the protagonist.
How did the writer, Peter Shaffer, make the bad guy someone the audience actually sympathizes with?
One reason is that it is easy to relate to Salieri:
- He shows (NOT TELLS) his jealousy.
- He wants to be the best composer (his goal), but Mozart is better.
- He is prideful (a universal flaw) which he struggles with.
Another reason is that Mozart is a tough antagonist.
Watch how the script uses music as an extension of Mozart...Mozart is pushing Salieri even though Mozart isn't in the room.
ex. "[Salieri] walks around and around his salon, reading the pages [Mozart's work] and dropping them on the floor when he is done with them. [This is the action we see on screen.]
We see his agonized and wondering face: he shudders as if in a rough and tumbling sea; he experiences the point where beauty and great pain coalesce.... [This is the reaction shot to the music, i.e., his enemy Mozart.]
Finally we hear the tremendous Qui Tollis from the Mass in C Minor. It seems to break over him like a wave and, unable to bear any more of it, he slams the portfolio shut. [Salieri & Mozart have battled.]
Instantly the music breaks off, reverberating in his head. [The stakes have risen. Salieri knows he's lost to Mozart & is shaken.]
He stands shaking, staring wildly. Constanze [Mozart's wife] gets up, perplexed.
CONSTANZE: Is it no good?
SALIERI: It is miraculous."
WHAT I'VE LEARNED: A bad guy is sympathetic if he's flawed & human.
by Peter Shaffer