Peter Shaffer: A Man Who Greatly Impacted Theatre

936 words - 4 pages

“The conflict between virtuous mediocrity and feckless genius took hold of my imagination” (“Shaffer, Peter 1926”). The quote by Shaffer himself, helps to explain the reasoning for his plays; both the good and the bad. Throughout the past few decades, Sir Peter Shaffer has brought numerous plays to the stage, with each challenging society to be open minded to change. Sir Peter Shaffer has forever impacted the theatre world by bringing topics such as sexual choices, religion, and family values to the stage that challenged the ideals set by society through his use of plays as a means to help him answer many of his own questions about life.
Shaffer used his own family structure in his stage debut play to challenge what society thought was the family ideal. Shaffer felt he had to show society the flaw in a common family structure. In his play Finger Exercise he depicted a typical British family and its conflicts to help make more real his feelings. He felt it was his way of “expressing [his] social protest” (“Peter Shaffer 1926-“). He was able to show his childhood as broken since his parents divorced which he thought was not acceptable. Through this he “invokes [a] tortured past” (Seigel) which helps him to emphasis his discontent. Overall he showed the theatre world how wrong family values had become when people were allowing themselves to believe verbal abuse and divorces were common and acceptable in families today.
Shaffer used his experience growing up during WW2 and the challenge to his faith that it brought as a base for many of his plays. Throughout his childhood, Peter Shaffer was forced to move numerous times during WW2 as a result of living in Nazi, Germany, and at one point was even caught by the Nazi army and abused. As a Jew, his religion was criticized, causing him to question it. This questioning continued into his adulthood when he felt it was time to change that question into acting through his plays. This was the basis for his first play, The Salt Land, about the creation of Israel and how it challenged the remaining Jewish people. He felt that he could show God as “simplistic, primitive” (“Peter Shaffer 1926-“) and this would allow others to help him answer many questions he had about faith, a radical thought for the time period when religion was never questioned and people felt that religion was more a private matter. Shaffer changed this view and opened the way for many other playwrights to also write about the questions they felt religion left unanswered on the stage.
Shaffer used his most recognized play Equus to bring adult topics to the stage and study conflicts, mainly of the sexual nature, not normally discussed. This play was overall well-received despite being scandalous for its time...

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