Theatre play before the courts

Title page: Reigen, 1896/97
Arthur Schnitzler’s Reigen, title page of the private edition from 1896/97
Deutsches Buch- und Schriftmuseum der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek Leipzig

Theatre play before the courts

Scandal surrounding Arthur Schnitzler’s Reigen

Can plays be banned? – No, not even when they’re poorly written and poorly performed. But this is a wonderful work, – and it is tolerably performed.

Alfred Kerr, critique from 24 Dezember 1920

Viennese writer Arthur Schnitzler originally had the play Reigen printed in a private edition of 200 copies in 1900. His German publisher S. Fischer having decided that the play was too risky to have on its roster, the first public edition was issued by an Austrian publisher in 1903.

After performances in theatres in Vienna and Berlin led to (partly staged) scandals, Schnitzler withdrew the rights to the play. It was an act of self-censorship. The play even led to a 1921 trial in Berlin, which Emil Orlik captured in illustrations. The performance ban imposed by Schnitzler was circumvented by film adaptations and phonograph recordings. Reigen was declassified on 1 January 1982, and performed that very evening in Basel.