Since its beginning, theater has faced censorship at the hands of governments, the clergy, and powerful individuals. The communal nature of theater—the fact that plays are typically performed before masses of people, who need not be literate to understand their messages—has raised special concerns about the power of theater to instill potentially dangerous ideas and incite action in its audiences. A case from the life of Great Britain’s premier playwright, William Shakespeare, provides an example. In 1601, on the eve of an attempt by the Earl of Essex to depose...
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