Dramatic works for the stage are banned too! Some of the most famous challenged and banned plays in history include Oedipus Rex, Oscar Wilde's Salome, George Bernard Shaw's Mrs. Warren's Profession, and Shakespeare's King Lear. Read more about banned classics in theater history. Discover why these plays have been so controversial.
This controversial play is by Aristophanes (c.448-c.380 BC). Written in 411 BC, Lysistrata
was banned by the Comstock Law of 1873. An anti-war drama, the play centers around Lysistrata, who speaks of those who died in the Peloponnesian War. The ban on Lysistrata
was not lifted until 1930.
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This controversial play is by Sophocles (496-406 BC). Written in 425 BC, Oedipus Rex
is about a man who is fated to murder his father and marry his mother. When Jocasta discovers that she married her son, she commits suicide. Oedipus blinds himself. This play is one of the most famous tragedies in world literature.
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is by Oscar Wilde (1854-1900). Written in 1892, Salome
was banned by the Lord Chamberlain for its depiction of Biblical characters, and it was later banned in Boston. The play has been called "vulgar." Wilde's play is based on the Biblical story of Princess Salome, who dances for King Herod and then demands the head of John the Baptist as her reward. In 1905, Richard Strauss composed an opera based on Wilde's work, which was also banned.
Mrs. Warren's Profession
is by George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950). Written in 1905, Mrs. Warren's Profession
is controversial on sexual grounds (for its portrayal of prostitution). The play was suppressed in London, but the attempt to suppress the play in the U.S. failed.
The Children's Hour
is by Lillian Hellman (1905-1984). Written in 1934, The Children's Hour
was banned in Boston, Chicago, and in London for its hint of homosexuality. The play was based on a law case, and Hellman said of the the work: "It's not about lesbians. It's about the power of a lie."
is one of the most controversial plays by Henrik Ibsen, a famous Norwegian dramatist, who is famous for Hedda Gabler
and A Doll's House
. The play was banned on religious grounds for references to incest and sexually transmitted diseases.
is a famous play by Arthur Miller (1915-). Written in 1953, The Crucible
was banned because it contains "sick words from the mouths of demon-possessed people." Centering around the Salem witch trials, Miller used the events of the play to shed light on current events.
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A Streetcar Named Desire
is a famous and controversial play by Tennessee Williams (1911-1983). Written in 1951, A Streetcar Named Desire
features rape and the descent of a woman into insanity. Blanche Dubois relies on "the kindness of strangers," only to find herself taken away at the end. She's no longer a young girl; and she has no hope. She represents some bit of the Old South fading away. The magic is gone. All that's left is brutal, ugly reality.
The Barber of Seville
was written by Pierre Augustin Caron De Beaumarchais (1732-1799). Written in 1775, the play was suppressed by Louis XVI. Beaumarchais was imprisoned, with charges of treason. The Marriage of Figaro
is the sequel. Both works were made into operas by Rossini and Mozart.