"During the years of the so-called New Drama in Britain, critics became used, almost to the point of being blas'e, to dramatists making sensational debuts" (Taylor 313). These dramatists (or playwrights) included John Osborne, Harold Pinter, Arnold Weaker, John Arden, and Peter Shaffer. Peter Levin and his twin brother Anthony were born to Jake Re ka and Freeman Shaffer in Liverpool, England on May 15, 1926. Anthony is also a playwright, who's play Sleuth (1970), has had more performances than all of his brother's plays combined. Nevertheless, Anthony, who has pursued law, advertising, and television, has not yet embraced the stage as his chief vocation (Smith 452).
In 1936 the Shaffer's all moved to London. This is where Peter attended St. Paul's School till he graduated in 1944. From 1944 to 1947, Peter worked in the Chris let coalmine, having been enlisted as one of the "Bevin Boys," essential workers in service to the country, organized by Ernest Bevin, Churchill's Minister of Labor during the Second World War. Shaffer found coal mining an arduous occupation that he states, gave him a great sympathy for the way many people are forced to spend their lives (web). Shaffer then attended Trinity College in Cambridge, where he and Anthony co-edited the student magazine Granth a; he received a B.
A. in History in 1950. "He began writing at Cambridge or shortly after; accounts differ as to whether he was writing and tearing up plays at that point, or writing and tearing up detective novels" (Taylor 313). Under the pseudonym Peter Anthony, Shaffer was able to pen The Woman in the Wardrobe, the first of his three detective novels. He co-authored the second and third - How Doth the Little Crocodile? (1952) and Withered Murder (1955) - with his brother, Anthony (web). From 1951 to 1954, Shaffer lived in New York and worked a variety of jobs; at Doubleday's Book Shop, an airline terminal, Grand Central Station, Lord and Taylors department store, and the New York Public Library.
Shaffer states for years he labored under the impression that the passion he had developed for the theatre could only be used as a pastime and that his daily profession had to be something "respectable" (web). He found his job in the New York Public Library adequate but boring, but he continued to resist the urge to devote himself to playwriting until he returned to London. He was Bosse y & Hawkes's Music Publisher of Literary Critic of Truth for two years, and Music Critic of Time and Tide for another two years during the beginning of the 1960's. He began his public career with major success: Five Finger Exercise in 1985, one of the biggest critical and commercial successes of the New Drama in the early days. This "well-made" family drama, which ran for a year at the Comedy Theatre, won the Evening Standard Award for the best play. After this great success he warned those who praised his for bringing theater back to the realistic environment of the living room: "I want to do many different kinds of theater" (Smith 425).
"Shaffer has enjoyed a phenomenal success founded on his mastery of stagecraft and the fecundity of his ideas. He was appointed CBE in 1987" (Readers Guide 671). "It is a fact that only on of his plays was not a commercial success and all of them engendered vigorous often conflicting-critical response" (Smith 425-26). He was also and has remained one of the mysterious of his generation (Taylor 313). "More significant in any overall estimation is that he has so far managed to escape the categorizing of labels attached to his contemporaries" (Smith 425).