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The Frightful Stage

The Frightful Stage: Political Censorship of the Theater in Nineteenth-Century Europe

Edited by Robert Justin Goldstein
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 322
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  • Book Info
    The Frightful Stage
    Book Description:

    In nineteenth-century Europe the ruling elites viewed the theater as a form of communication which had enormous importance. The theater provided the most significant form of mass entertainment and was the only arena aside from the church in which regular mass gatherings were possible. Therefore, drama censorship occupied a great deal of the ruling class's time and energy, with a particularly focus on proposed scripts that potentially threatened the existing political, legal, and social order. This volume provides the first comprehensive examination of nineteenth-century political theater censorship at a time, in the aftermath of the French Revolution, when the European population was becoming increasingly politically active.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-899-7
    Subjects: History, Political Science, Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-21)
    Robert Justin Goldstein

    In studying political theater censorship in nineteenth-century Europe, what is especially striking is how similar were the concerns and practices of authorities across the continent, as well as the responses of those who suffered from the censorship. Throughout Europe the theater was viewed by ruling elites as a form of communication that had enormous importance, and therefore drama censorship occupied a great deal of their time and energy, with a particular focus on proposed scripts that were viewed as potentially threatening to the existing political, legal, and social order. Moreover, given the especial fear of the poor and illiterate throughout...

  5. Germany
    (pp. 22-69)
    Gary D. Stark

    Theater stood at the center of nineteenth-century German cultural life: according to one scholar, it was the “focal point of public culture, princely representation, and civic communication.”¹ In the baroque courts of the kings, dukes, princes, and counts who governed the many petty principalities that made up the eighteenth-century Holy Roman Empire, princely authority and ostentatious theatrics went hand in hand. Several of these sovereigns established royal or court theaters (Hoftheaters) for the amusement of their aristocratic courtiers, but also to display their wealth and status and to impress their subjects and rivals with the pomp and grandeur of their...

  6. France
    (pp. 70-129)
    Robert Justin Goldstein

    During an 1880 French parliamentary debate, deputy Robert Mitchell, in discussing censorship of caricature, noted that “drawings which displease the government are always forbidden,” while those which “gained official favor are displayed in the windows of all the bookstores,” thus providing knowledge of “exactly what the government fears and what it encourages” and a “clear revelation of its intimate thoughts,” including important information for the “attentive observer, curious for precise information on the tastes, preferences, sentiments, hates and intentions of those who have control and care over our destinies.” The same point could be—and, in fact, has been—made...

  7. Russia
    (pp. 130-161)
    Anthony Swift

    The heavy hand of the Russian censorship fits easily into the popular stereotype of repressive tsarist Russia, “the prison of peoples,” to use Lenin’s phrase. The stereotype does not differ greatly from the opinions expressed by those Russian artists who had to live with the restrictions imposed by the censors. “In Russia,” according to avant-garde theater director Vsevolod Meyerhold, “they always begin by saying it’s forbidden.” Anton Chekhov remarked that writing with the censorship in mind was like “writing with a bone in your throat.” At the onset of the 1905 Russian revolution, Moscow Art Theater director Konstantin Stanislavsky complained...

  8. Spain
    (pp. 162-189)
    David T. Gies

    Spain experienced a startling series of political and social upheavals during the nineteenth century, some of which were imported and some of which resulted from internal forces. Between the War of Independence (1808–14, called the “Peninsular War” by the British) and the embarrassment of the Spanish-American War of 1898 (which resulted in the loss of Spain’s last colonies in the New World—Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines), the country dealt with at least seven internal uprisings (at the Aranjuez Palace in March 1808; Rafael de Riego’s successful overthrow of Fernando VII in 1820; the aborted coup attempts of...

  9. Italy
    (pp. 190-227)
    John A. Davis

    In Italy, as elsewhere in Europe, the history of nineteenth-century theater censorship closely tracks general political developments, but also more specifically the changing nature and powers of the state, which in these years were undergoing profound and unprecedented change. It is also obviously inseparable from the history of the theater, which was simultaneously experiencing changes that in many parts of Europe, and not least Italy, made it a central focus of social and cultural life. All of these changes were closely related to broader developments that transformed the entire social, economic, political, and cultural fabric of the European Ancien regime....

  10. The Habsburg Monarchy
    (pp. 228-264)
    Norbert Bachleitner

    The Austrian (Habsburg) monarchy developed from the Habsburg hereditary lands (mostly modern Austria and Slovenia) accumulated by the dynasty since 1278. By the nineteenth century, the monarchy also included the Bohemian crownlands, initially consisting of the provinces of Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia, and the Kingdom of Hungary. Over the course of history, other lands also came under Habsburg rule. The most important among them in the nineteenth century were Galicia, Bukowina, Venetia, Lombardy, Dalmatia, and Bosnia. The monarchy was therefore a multinational and multilingual state, with about a dozen different languages spoken within its borders, including German, Italian, Hungarian, Czech,...

  11. Summary
    (pp. 265-299)
    Robert Justin Goldstein

    The eighteenth century and early nineteenth century witnessed in many European countries attempts to tighten and centralize regulation of the theater (reflecting a general trend toward expansion and centralization of state powers), as in the directives of eighteenth-century French king Louis XIV and Hapsburg emperor Joseph II and in the formal imposition of theater censorship in Russia in 1804. In Britain this trend was manifested in the Licensing Act of 1737, largely a response by Prime Minister Robert Walpole to a series of political satires directed against him by Henry Fielding and other dramatists. The Licensing Act contained two major...

  12. List of Contributors
    (pp. 300-301)
  13. Index
    (pp. 302-310)