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The Ibsen play that most often led to problems with the theatre censor was Ghosts. This play, partly as a result of censorship, also became closely associated with the European independent theatre movement. The most famous censorship episode occurred when the newly formed Independent Theatre in London wanted to produce the play in March 1891 and realized that this could not be done without forming a private club. The result was a succès de scandale, fierce criticism and abuse from conservative critics. The play was not licensed in Britain until 1914, and, due to the longevity of the British censorship institution, new stage translations of Ibsen’s plays had to be assessed by the censor’s readers all the way until the abolition of the theatre censorship in 1969. From the beginning, Ibsen may have benefited from a somewhat laxer and less centralized censorship system in Scandinavia. When he started writing his most controversial plays, he was also an established author at home, enjoying considerable status. In addition to this, his plays appeared first as books, thus putting a certain pressure on the censorship simply by being available. This chapter also considers the censorship laws and practices in America, Germany, France and Russia. It shows how opponents of censorship all over Europe associated themselves with Ibsen.
This chapter focuses on the early British reception of Ibsen. It begins with Edmund Gosse’s early initiatives and Ibsen’s introduction to the English-speaking world. The next phase involves a group of socialists and feminists who in the 1880s made Ibsen their own, including Eleanor Marx, Olive Schreiner and George Bernard Shaw. Towards the end of that decade Ibsen experienced surprising success in book form, not least through William Archer’s translations. His breakthrough on the British stage came in 1889 and was followed by a number of intense years with many productions and publications. One notable feature of Ibsen’s stage success was the strong involvement of a number of actresses, who even took on the stage-management of his plays, not least Janet Achurch, Elizabeth Robins and Marion Lea. The most notorious event involved the 1891 performance of Ghosts at the Independent Theatre and involved brushes with the censor, while the production of Hedda Gabler was celebrated as a critical success. After the fierce cultural battles over Ibsen in the early 1890s, a swift canonization followed. The last part of the chapter briefly charts Ibsen’s association with the independent theatre sector, his place within the commercial London theatre and key publishing ventures.
Henrik Ibsen, the 'Father of Modern Drama', came from a seemingly inauspicious background. What are the key contexts for understanding his appearance on the world stage? This collection provides thirty contributions from leading scholars in theatre studies, literary studies, book history, philosophy, music, and history, offering a rich interdisciplinary understanding of Ibsen's work, with chapters ranging across cultural and aesthetic contexts including feminism, scientific discovery, genre, publishing, music, and the visual arts. The book ends by charting Ibsen's ongoing globalization and gives valuable overviews of major trends within Ibsen studies. Accessibly written, while drawing on the most recent scholarship, Ibsen in Context provides unique access to Ibsen the man, his works, and their afterlives across the world.