Wilhelm Tell

From Censorpedia

Date: 1804 1941 1989

Region: Europe

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Theatre


Artist: Friedrich von Schiller (1759 - 1805)

Confronting Bodies: Various German political leaders for the past 200 years

Dates of Action: 1804, 1941, 1989

Location: Germany

Description of Artwork: Wilhelm Tell is a play about the legend of Wilhelm Tell, an expert marksman who eventually kills a tyrannical emperor for treating him unjustly.

The Incident: While there is no one specific incident of the play's banning that stands out, it has been cut and pulled many times for bringing up the issue of tyrannicide. Even in the play's first performance, the entire fifth act needed to be cut because the tsar's daughter was in the audience and could not witness an emperors assassination. The King of Prussia had the play banned because the hero was "unsympathetic." The Nazis later praised the play as a symbol of German national identity, but had it banned in 1941, when Hitler became more paranoid.

Results of Incident: The play continued to be banned by politicians or governments that found it dangerous. In 1989 it was banned in East Germany, but was reinstated when the regime fell.

Source: Censorship: A World Encyclopedia. Ed. Derek Jones. Chicago; London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2001.