Dr. Claudia Cascione on “Law and Theater”

Dear all,the crucible

for the first time since 2008 the “Law and the Humanities” course will include a week devoted to “Law and Theater” also from the point of view of performance. As usual, you can find below some infos related to the next 3 classes.


Lesson 1: Law in theatrical plays

The first lesson will be focused on the interferences between law and theatre, intended as a literary genre. In this perspective, will be considered some texts by which is possible to get information about the legal dimension (and that could be considered a-technical sources of the law) and also plays in which law is the object of the tale.

The goal will be to ascertain how legal issues are faced in theatrical literary texts. The starting point will be ancient tragedy and comedy and the research will be conducted by the analysis of some plays (Seven Against Thebe, Antigone, Eumeneides, The Wasps)

Lesson 2: Law as theatrical performance

The second lesson will be focused on theatre intended as ‘performance’, analysing the similarities between legal performances and theatrical performances.

Considering theatrical plays as the object of a staging, the main goal is to understand how law can be effectively performed, how legal issues can be played, how law is transformed when it is represented in scene. In these perspective, it will be useful to analyse those plays which are based and inspired by trials, distinguishing between documentary theatre (in which there is a faithful representation of the legal dimension) and plays in which (legal) reality is mixed up with fiction.

The lecture will mainly focus on the analysis of two plays, The Crucible by A. Miller and Inherit the Wind by J. Lawrence – R. E. Lee.

Lesson 3: Law of theatre

Lastly, in analysing the interactions between Law & Theatre, the lesson will be centred on theatre’s legislation and its evolution, comparing different models of discipline. Theatres are subject, in every country, to a particular regulation that tries to combine the fundamental freedom of expression with other interests that needed to be protected, such as the public decency. Moreover, giving some basic and related acknowledgments about copyright law, we will analyse some cases and how theatrical performances entered into law courts.



N. Rogers, The Play of Law: Comparing Performances in Law and Theater, in QUTLJJ, n. 82 (2008), pp. 429-443.


Dr. Cascione’s CV: 

Dr. Claudia Morgana Cascione is a Ph.D graduated at the Law Faculty of the University of Bari, where she currently teachs Legal English.

She graduated in Law at the University of Bari in 2002, Summa cum Laude; she was awarded as the best graduated of the University of Bari, Law Faculty – 2002/2003.

Since 2002 she cooperates with the scientific and didactic activity of the Department of Private Law, University of Bari.

In 2003-2004 she followed the Post-Graduated Course in ‘European Private Law’, University of Bari.

Since 2005 she has been admitted to the Italian Bar.

In 2006 she graduated Ph.D., ‘Enviromental Law and Economy’ , University of Bari.

Since 2008 to 2010 she had a contract for research,  University of Bari (“Security interests on intangibles: comparative aspects”).

Since 2011 to 2012 she had a contract for research, University of Roma Tre (“The bounds of history and restorative justice”).

She spent several period abroad (Institute of European and Comparative Law, Oxford University; UC, Hastings College of the Law, San Francisco; ZERP, Bremen).

She has been lecture in conferences, seminars and masters.

She participated to several research projects with national relevance.

She is member of the scientific committee of the Rivista di diritto Privato (Cacucci, Bari).

She is the author of several publications, in private and comparative law, among which a monography, chapters in books, articles, essays, notes.

17 thoughts on “Dr. Claudia Cascione on “Law and Theater”

  1. Martina Diglio says:

    I would like to try to answer the question that professor Conte raised today when he asked what could have been the purposes for introducing so many legal issues in tragedies which were attended by all the citizens. In my opinion, first of all, should be taken into consideration that these representation were great events in which all the people could feel part of the polis, as we have seen today, they were used to build a citizenship, as well as law is used to build it, because law binds everyone in the same way. Besides, it may have been a way of legitimating the law of the polis, because if we think about it, as we have seen today, these tragedies were set in a mythological dimension, so maybe if the citizens understood that the laws were binding from the origins of the polis, the actual citizens should be forced to obey to the law. These could be seen in Antigone for example, because the tragedy showed them what happens when the laws are not obeyed. In that case could be as well an advice to the legislator to make good laws, considering what happened to Creon’s family in the end.
    I would like also to say something more about the Antigone. The contrast between the natural law and the positive law is a conflict which is not solved yet. In fact, there are two opposite side in legal philosophy which are called jus naturalism and legal positivism. From the jus naturalistic point of view, which dominated especially after the second world war, there are rights which have always been existing, before and apart from the creation of the State. In this perspective, a law that deny certain rights is an “unjust” law, and an “unjust” law could not even be considered as a law, otherwise, for example all the orders of nazi officials which were observed by subordinated and that leaded to one of the most terrible crime of the history, should have been considered legitimate. What was denied was the normativity of the law: an unjust law hasn’t the capacity to bind people. Consequently there can’t be any violation of the law. I think that Antigone can well represent this position, because she doesn’t care about the consequences of what she’s going to do, she is following the only law that she considers valid and by which she feels to be bound by. In her mind the prohibition to bury her brother has no binding force ( 15:“Creon is not enough to stand in my way”… “I’m doing only what I must” 360:“Your edict, King, was strong, but all your strength is weakness itself against the immortal unrecorded laws of God. They are not merely now: they were, and shall be, operative for ever, beyond man utterly.). On the other hand, from the legal positivistic point of view, which claims the possibility of considering law as a product of the State, as a scientific phenomenon, liable to be empirically observed and described, the moral, religious and absolutely individual certainties are outside and autonomous from the State’s law and could as well lead someone to break the law only because they think that that law is unjust from their point of view, but the difference is that the law has still binding force, its normativity is not denied: that is in my opinion Ismene’s point of view. She agrees with her sister that the Creon’s law is profoundly unjust, she shares the same values of her sister, but she also knows that violating Creon’s law will have terrible consequences, which she doesn’t want to go through and neither want her sister to do so. If we had a more simplistic view of the confrontation between the two sisters we should say that Antigone is the strong and the brave one and Ismene the weak and the coward one. But in fact, the issue is more complicated than that, so complicated that still today we don’t have a certain an answer to the question if is more important obeying the natural law or the positive law, everyone has her own opinion.
    To conclude I would like to share with you a part of the film “Terraferma”, by Taviani brothers, to demonstrate how current these issues are.


  2. Federica Celli says:

    In today’s lesson when we were talking about the tragedy of Antigone, someone asked to Dr. Claudia Cascione if there was a specific right which can be embodied by the character of Antigone and I thought that maybe it can be the right to be treated equally, because at the end what Antigone really wants is that both her brothers may have a respectful burial.
    This vision of the tragedy actually can be linked whit one of the critics of Antigone that has been made in past, which underlines how the plot is going to represent the struggle between family and politics. The family is embodied by Antigone, who fights to bury her brother Polyneices, but the struggle between family and politics is mostly represented by the figure of Creon, who decides to follow the politics and condemns Antigone for the burial of her brother. For this decision Creon’s son, who has a crush for the woman, commits suicide and then also Creon’s wife commits it too. For his politics decisions Creon lose his family.
    P.S: unfortunately I can’t remember the name of the one who made the critic.


  3. Federica Rossi says:

    I’m attacching a painting which portarys a trial for witchcraft felonies in Salem. A generalized courtroom scene showing an “afflicted” girl fallen on the floor in front of the judges bench. An accused woman stands in front of the judges holding her right hand over her heart and gesturing upwards, as if in the act of declaring her innocence before God. This scene remind me of the third trial act we’ve discussed in the last class. One woman is pretending to be the victim of an enchantment lying on the floor probably in order to accuse the other woman who is swearing her innocence in front of the judges. In the same way Abigail and the other girls simulate to be hit by an evil cold wind provoked by Mary Warren, attempting to demonstrate her supernatural powers.
    Caption: “Witchcraft at Salem Village.”


  4. Andrea Zoppo says:

    As I said in class, Night of January 16th is a theatrical play, inspired by the death of the “Match King”, Ivar Kreuger, written by Ayn Rand. It takes place entirely in a courtroom during a murder trial. An unusual feature of the play is that members of the audience are chosen to play the roles of jury members. The court is hearing the case of Karen Andre, a former secretary and lover of businessman Bjorn Faulkner, of whose murder Andre is accused. The play does not directly portray the events leading to Faulkner’s death; instead the jury must rely on character testimony and decide whether Andre is guilty. The play’s ending depends on the verdict. Why this play is, in my opinion, very interesting is because it shows how we can’t really trust the court system: In fact the script of the play is the same every time, but the verdict not.
    So what influence most the choice are not the proofs, but the singles ideas of the spectators (jury members), the way the actors play that day and so on..


  5. Diana Martellini says:

    what we talked about in class reminded me of what we said with our other speaker monica lopez about law and cinema reguarding violence and the effects on the pubblic. Dr. Cascione told us about censorship and the contents of plays, that theatres are pubblic places and that fact is used to justify cencorship…..we faced the same issues in cinema, because some people think that the violence on screen might influence our behaviour, and make us act like we were in a movie, like the kids that started shootings in USA schools. In the lecture we’ve been given the author said that if we think like that we risck to depict the pubblic as weak and easily influenced, almost like made of puppets , like if it wasn’t not able to tell apart truth, fiction, right and wrong. i’m inclined to agree: i think that the only kind of censorship acceptable is the one that prevent discrimination, prejudice, and guarantee the everyone is free to express their ideas within the respect of other people. Of course, there are subjects who are more “sensible” to some scenary, like minors, and i think that the right way to proceed is to check identity documents outside theatres and cinemas before selling tickets to performance/film with a “strong” or explicit content , to lift up the numbers of show forbidden to the youngest so we can guarantee both an health growth to them and the freedom to express themselves to the adults. Censorship is not the way to limit the tragedies caused by lunatics or maniacs, because there will always a way for them to do something horrible, even if doesn’t looks like a movie or a play they saw.


  6. Antonio Belviso says:

    LEOPOLDO ZURLO & FASCIST CENSORSHIP IN THEATRE (examples from archivio centrale dello Stato)


    In the early years of fascism, theatrical censorship was a responsability of prefectures. To unify the discipline, some criteria were introduced.
    Prohibition for any representation that:

    a) Makes apology of a vice, or a crime or inciting aversion between social classes;
    b) Offends the King, the Pope, the Chief of Government, the Ministers or foreign authorities;
    c) Excites the masses in scorn of laws;
    d) Is contrary to the national and religious sentiment or upsets international relations;
    e) Offends police and military authorities or constitutive principles of the family;
    f) Refers to acts considered vile for public opinion;
    g) Is considered dangerous for public order

    The first representations were usually reserved to press that sent immediatly a report to the Minister. However, the Ministry tried not to stop the representations. In the next replica, among the audience there were always fascist officials, to ascertain that actors would not have diverged from licensed screenplay. F.e. in 1937 during licensed recital of “Chi non cerca trova”, it was introduced an unexpected scene about Napoleon, considered misbecoming.
    The practice was to send a circular to directors of dramatic societes, indicating forbidden authors. This is an example, a letter by Starace: “Dear comrade, I announce you that it is absolutely forbidden representation of works by Roberto Bracco. Replace immedialty if they are alredy included in your program. Fascist greetings.”

    Law 599/1931, attributed to unchallangeable decision of central State administration, the censorship judgement, in the person of Leopoldo Zurlo. He wrote: “we have to leave that authors believe to be free, allow them to say all that is not bad or dangerous for audience’s souls. Brutal prohibitions would cause only murmurings against the government.”
    Foreign works were not intensely censored: F.e. in Faison un reve!, were shown tho lovers embraced in the bed. Zurlo asked to Mussolini what he thought: he allowed the recital but not showing too often the two embraced lovers and, expecially, the lady’s nightshirt…

    Concernig St. Helena by Sheriff and Casalis, Zurlo allowed representation, but Mussolini disliked how Napoleon was shown, in shirtsleeves and shaving his face and forbade it.
    About the drama “The island”: Zurlo wrote in 1934: the work concerns the integrity of a diplomat, I need the placet from above. And then “I conferred with Ciano. Work is not good, although artistic advisor had said: it is not worse than other ones”.
    To Antonio Lazzarino, Ciano wrote: “the drama is not appropriate to fascist times. The aim of the theatre is to give current comprehension of the modern world; it is characterized by anachronistic verism not more liked by the audience. You have fallen into the error of naturalists: trying to imitate the truth, the just copy the ugliest aspects. Transpose the action to the beginning of the century, and I will be kind to you. My unpleasant role requires me to do this”

    “As well in real life rot succumbs to the forces of good, even in theatre negative characters could exist only if they were described in prospect of condemnation”: Musolino was prohibited, because it lingered on extanuating circumstances instead on condemning brigands.
    Authors themselves resigned and accepted censorship. They start to ask to the Censor, some advices in advantage. In the first years the contact with authors was mediated by the prefectures. But after, communications and relationships became direct and personal: authors tried to curry favour with the “lovable Censor”, addressing him as a friend-confidant to correct their works and asking him advices to avoid the veto. Zurlo said: “every author can call me or come to see me in person: an informal relationship like a teacher with his students”. Often, authors and actors, resorted to recommendations, hoping in its help to obtain Zurlo’s placet. But he had a very good memory: he remembered if a piece or even a single scene was proposed twice to his attention.

    Certain actors protested fiercely against him, accusing him of steal bread to the poor comedians, cancelling some shows. The author of “Islanda” sued Zurlo publicly in front of the tribunal of consciusness
    Zurlo tried to convince censored authors, about good intentions of his censorships. He wrote: “authors wrote what they, in good faith, consider harmless; censorship, that know what is unknow to them, forbides or modifies”.

    Very important was the case of Sem Benelli and its drama “The elephant”: Zurlo defended the author, describing him as a follower of Pirandello, but Mussolini and Alfieri (ministry of MinCulPop), forbade the representation. Zurlo tried to make them think that censorship of a famous author would has been counterproductive. Also “L’Orchidea” was deeply censored, but censorship modifications were not published in time, and so in the screenplay remained dangerous sentences as “ marriage has become the obsession of modern society”. At Eliseo theatre in Rome, there were scuffles among the public (indeed caused by a fascist squadron), and the representation was stopped. Other important author censored by Zurlo was R. Bracco. 20 years later, Bracco sent provokingly to Zurlo the screenplay of his censored drama “I pazzi” with his homages and pride of artist. Zurlo repented and rehabilitated Bracco, but it was too late: Bracco was ill and poor.

    In 13 years in service, Zurlo inspected 17.330 screenplays: 15.700 licensed or modified; 1.000 rejected; 630 interrupted.


    1) Artistic value and moral decency,
    but not technical validity, even if Zurlo often expressed the poor quality of the screenplays. For example censoring “La scalata del cielo” by Boisio, Zurlo took notes for his memories: The truth is only that the work is really horrible”
    Concerning the drama “Giustizia” Zurlo wrote: Ministry does not express artistic judgement, but it can’t encourage production of so bad works”.
    Or in other case: “your characters are silly and improbable and act in illogical way”.

    2) Offense to the moral and decency
    Expecially for youth theatre, whose aim was education of young people
    F.e. comedy “Gli onesti” told about honesty only ironically, representing degradation and crime and gambling and youth alcoholism, but without a precise moral condemnation.
    Foul language was not allowed: the adjective “fetentone” was censored. “Fregarsene” turned into “impiparsene”. “panties” changed in “bra”.
    “He found her wife in bed with someone” changed simply in “He found her wife with someone”.

    3) Setting the plot in a precise political or geographical reality was not allowed.
    F.e. “La bicocca dei Titani” was licensed but the names of two characters were changed: Lenin was changed in Roscof, and Woodrow Wilson, was changed in Harding. For the same reason “L’imperatore Francesco Giuseppe” by F. Steno, did not like, because there was the risk of arousing passions still not sleeping.

    4) Elimination of all words related to institutional offices (King, Pope, Minister, Chief of Government)

    5) Replacing of formal third person “lei” with the second plural “voi”. F.e. in “Copernico” by Giacomo Leopardi

    6) Prohibition of authors hostile to fascism

    7) Insult to the prestige of the army and police forces.
    “Ed era un giorno di tregua” was forbidden, because there was a strange explanation about the courage of the soldiers, without underline nationalism and hatred for the enemies.
    For example in 1931, police exponents, asked the censorship for a drama that deal with adultery of the wife of a policeman. But the office did not forbid it, because every adultery story would however insult a policeman betrayed by his wife.

    8) Family protection:
    abolition of all comedies against marriage or dealing with homosexuality.
    To Maria Bazzi, Zurlo said: “The main character is a woman who commits adultery. Change sex of the main character and I will give you authorization: italian men know how to make amends”.

    9) Some sacred topics are untouchable:
    italianism, Romanism, autarky, motherhood, the figure of Dux. When the performances dealt with Dux, Dux himself decides. F.e. in “La leggenda di Eid” even if Dux was represented like a redeemer, he preferred that the name of the main character “Ben-Hit” was changed in “Ze-Bit”, and the action set in pirate scenery of XVI century.
    In radio representation “L’uomo nuovo”, an actor imitated Mussolini’s voice. He commented on this with a laconic “nothing to say”.

    10) Topics prohibited:
    suicide, orphanhood. Suicide and violence could be dealt only in detective stories. In other dramas they were not tolerated.

    11) Racial topics
    were not allowed expecially if they dealt with black and jew characters.
    “La saetta negra”: prohibited because all characters were black people.
    “La figlia del ricco usuraio”: in addition to the error of presenting a jew that gave her daughter in spouse to a penniless man, it would believe possible wedding between a jew and an Aryan.

    12) Prohibition of every Russian dramas
    or dramas set in Russia or with russian characters.

    Ettore Petrolini wrote in that years this strong verses: “La censura è quella cosa/ che t’imbianca un pezzo scritto/ e che abusa d’un diritto/ senza mai capire un corno”.


  7. Elena Francis says:

    Is there a difference between law represented in cinema and law represented in theater? After the lessons about law and cinema and law and theater we can make a comparison between the two ways of representing law in our society. We have analysed, indeed, that cinema and theater are fields in which law represents an important subject. We can think, for cinema, about the big quantity of movies about trials and legal stories, like the stories taken from the books of John Grisham, or about violence in all its shades. For theater, we can think about a lot of performances which refer to legal issues (representations of trials, historical legal sequences). Both cinema and theater are performances. But, I think that there are differences within these two types of recitation. For sure, there are similarities and differences.
    Cinema and theater are performed by actors, but can we say that there is the same kind of communication? Is there the same function in the representation of law? I think that, in comparison with literature, theater and cinema are more expressive and more direct to the audience, in the sense that in literature is required more imagination, instead in theater and cinema is the author that decides the characters ( depending on the fact whether the story is based on a text of an another author or not), the places and all the details, so the scene is given complete to the audience. Furthermore, in cinema and theater there is the supplement of sounds and music that contribute to excite and to involve the spectator in a deeper way. Even if theater and cinema are close to the spectator I think that the result is reached in different ways. Cinema and theater develop different emotions inside the spectator and create different involvement. Cinema is more dynamic, there is a continuous flow of scenes. There is more mobility. On the contrary,theater provides a scene that is more fix, so I think that this fact weigh on the emotions created in the audience. Maybe with movies we have the impression that we are on the scene with the characters more than in theater ( it could seem a paradox because in theater we divide the same space with those who performed the show). This result can be reached through cinematic technique, like the framing, the angle of view etc. We have analysed that through particular techniques we are able to feel ourselves closer to the character or we can have the impression to see everything on the scene or to be in a weak position. In theater this is not possible, because we watch in general only from one point and in one way, to the stage. Maybe in theater it is possible to use lights and shadows to create similar feelings. Theater is a singular wall, instead in cinema we can see the whole world around us. In cinema we see the world through the camera, which we can consider as a big, quick and movable eye. We have the possibility to see the world through the eyes of the protagonist or through the interior point of view of the other characters. In theater the situation is different: we directly watch what is happening on the stage, from our point of view.
    Also the type of recitation is different: in theater is used a particular rhetoric, or it should be in this way. Actors act as images of characters, as masks. In cinema the speech is more colloquial and familiar, and tend to represent the natural behavior of a person, so we have the impression to see live persons. Although the presence of several distinction between theater an cinema, I think that both are powerful weapons through which the author is able to communicate with the audience and to denounce social problems and political ideas.
    So they are comparable under this point of view but the communication is different. The goals are more or less the same, but the tools are different. In conclusion i would say that the diffusion is different, because cinema is made for everybody and the circulation is easier
    ( it is much more common that someone is interested in films than in theater), and theater is created for a little circle of spectators, composed by persons who are able to grasp the real meaning and the art behind theater ( at least it seems that today theater is perceived in this way). It is for this reason that cinema is more direct than theater. So cinema is a means of communication more effective on the mass in comparison with theater. But, within the circle of theater addicted ( we can jokingly call them in this way!) a theatrical performance might have a stronger influence on the spectator.


  8. Antonio Belviso says:

    Some cases of censorship in theatre.

    • Molière had a lot of problem with censorship: First of all “The school for Wives”, that generated a scandal, because of the double meanings. And then, the famous “Tartuffe”, not so much for having made fun of religion, but rather for having mocked the devotees. He struggled long to gain the favour of public, and he risked being burned at the stake.

    • Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumerchais author of Le Barbier de Séville ou la précaution inutile, and, La folle journée ou le mariage de Figaro. These comedies were censored in France, dealing with servant that got the better of noblesse. But they inspired Sterbini and Da Ponte in writing two of the most famous opera librettos, putted into music by Rossini, the first, and Mozart, the second.

    • Nazis were very careful about representations. Theatre associations were prohibited. For this reason, artists and intellectuals took part in underground theaters. One of this was Karol Wojtyla who was a fine actor and playwright, before becoming a priest, during German occupation of Poland.

    • Censorship office ordered to change a verse in the famous and celebrated aria from Tosca “E lucevan le stelle”, before it premiered at Rome Opera House in January 1900. It is one of the most sensual romance. Original (and nowadays performed) verse says: “Le belle forme disciogliea dai veli”. Censorship ordered to replace “forme” with “chiome”.

    • Wozzeck, dodecaphonic opera by Alban Berg, on libretto by G. Buchner, was censored in Germany. Hitler personally phoned Mussolini to avoid the work was represented at Rome Opera House. Dodecaphony was considered degenerate and subversive music.

    • A very effective pamphlet-comedy against censorship is “The Art of Comedy”, by the famous italian playwright Eduardo De Filippo. He was more than once victim of Zurlo’s terrible censorship.

    • Stalin censored a lot of dramas by Bulgakov. But in 1941, in his speech during German advance, he said “I call on you, my friends”, the same words used by Bulgakov in “The days of Turbins”. Also in theatre’s loogbooks, emerged that Stalin attended all performances of works by Bulgakov: aversion and admiration at the same time Moreover Stalin monitored the composer D. Sostakovic. Censoring his ballet “The brook”, he noted that the story was full of superficiality and sugary farmers extracted from a prerevolutionary box of chocolates.


  9. Flavia Guglielmi says:

    Talking about the question that Professor Conte proposed us friday after the lesson about the differences between theater and cinema in communicating the meaning of justice I spend some time thinking about them.
    I was thinking how is expressed the concept of justice in cinema and theater (that are both performances). Have them the same function in the representation of the law? Sure, instead of literature, these two performances are more expressive, in effect the characters have more possibilities to explain their feelings and their emotions. I think that the principal difference between theater and cinema is how they reach the audience. I can say that with the theater the author of the drama can reach the spectators mainly with the words and the dialogues. In theater is used a particular rhetoric instead cinema is more colloquial and often is more simple to understand.
    Another difference between them is that with the movies we have the impression that we are on the scene with the characters more than in theater because the director can use a lot of cinematic technique, like the angle of view that can feel the spectators a part of the scene. In theater this is different, because the spectators in general watch the stage only from one point.
    Moreover I can talk about the supplementary instrument of sounds and music that in both cinema and theater that are made for involve the emotions of the audience.
    Also their diffusion is different, because cinema is made for everybody and it is easier to find people interested about it than in theater.
    Even if there are some differences between them , theater and cinema are both able to communicate with the audience and to denounce social problems. In conclusion I can say that they are a perfect vehicle to put on the scene legal cases really occurred.


  10. Elena Francis says:

    I found an interesting example of trials in theater in the play of Diego Fabbri “The trial of Jesus”. Everybody knows that this fact, the trial of Jesus, is an issue frequently treated in literature, cinema and theater ( from this play a Spanish director remade a movie ). This play is very interesting, on one hand, because of the story, on the other hand, for its meaning in the period of its composition, and its influence on the audience and the Italian Catholic press. The story of the play revolves around a company of Jew actors that everyday put on a show about the trial of Jesus, traveling the world and the different theaters. The company is formed by a Jew family composed by the father Elia, who will interpret always the role of the judge, his wife Rebecca, and their daughter Sara. Other characters are Davide and, before his death for hand of the Nazis, Daniele, Sara’s husband. The characters, except for Elia, will embody the defense of Caifa, Pilato, or Jesus. When Sara refuses to defend Pilato, an improvised judge intervenes from the spectators, and Sara propose to listen other witnesses, like Mary Magdalene, the Madonna, Joseph, and Judas. This is an interesting example of theater in theater, or ‘metateatro’. In the second act we find the participation of the audience, always embodied by actors, that on the stage gives voice to considerations about Jesus. There is a priest, a prostitute, a blind etc. Here, the play moves from a more strict legal point of view to a more personal, moral and sensitive one.
    Fabbri wrote this play between 1952 and 1954, in an historical period that is located between the immediate end of the Second World War and the Second Vatican Council, where Catholics admitted guilt for the Shoah. At that time the catholic world had not yet matured criticism and ideas about his anti-semitic tradition. The play and the comments of the Italian press demonstrated how the circulation of anti-semitic prejudices was reflected through the mise en scene of the death of Jesus, provoked, according to the theological catholic stereotype, by the Jews.
    The whole play is, indeed, permeated by the central question: Was Jesus Christ guilt according to the judaic laws? Or was he innocent? And, consequently, was his execution just? The actors wonder if the crucifixion was only human cruelty or a heavier fault, and if the suffered persecutions were the result of their guilty.
    (here the text of the play: at pag.2 there is the central question, made by Elia, of the whole play):

    Click to access Processo_a_Gesu.pdf

    This is an important point to understand the consideration of Jews in the 50’s in Italy. The characters put up the show properly to investigate into the story of Jesus trial. The idea to create this play came to Fabbri when he heard about a group of anglo-saxon jurists that, since 1929, traveled to Jerusalem to scene and react publicly the trial of Jesus.
    In the first act of the play the sequence of events is more juridical and legal than the second act, where the actors-spectators make considerations about Jesus. There are interrogations, testimonies, the presence of the judges, of the accuse and of the defense.
    This play of Diego Fabbri reminds me to the “Merchant of Venice”, for their considerations about Jews. In both the plays we can perceive feelings of anti-semitism. In this perspective, we can understand the great power of theater, and how theater succeeds to express and to represent the common feeling about something ore someone in a determinate period of time. In other words, the play of Fabbri was influenced surely by the consideration of Jews in that time. But the simultaneous power of theater, or literature, is also the fact that we can rearrange the story to our time, like it happens in the “Merchant of Venice”, and become aware of the main social and political issues of each society ( according to the author’s point of view – but it gives us the chance to reflect and discuss about the entire theme).


  11. Chiara Casuccio says:

    I wanted to try to answer to Professor Conte’s question about the differences between Theatre and Cinema : in my opion, we first have to look to what ” to performance” means for each discipline. In Cinema, in fact, contrary to the Theatre, the performance is somehow previous and crystallized before its real representation. All the scenes are recited and mounted at an earlier moment, so that what is being shown on the big screen is something that can no longer be changed. It is somehow “universal” no matter the time or the place it is represented . Of course it may have different impact depending on WHO is watching the film, and every generation will focus on different aspects of it on the basis of what they have in common with its main topics, and find different ideas for reflection from it. But, if we consider what we said about the use of cameras to to transmit a precise point of view, which is not ours but the director’s one , we immediately notice that the performance stuck in the tape (and this is not a unique characteristic of cinema, to tell the truth) may suggest -although quite unconsciousl- a precise way of thinking, seeing, a specific meaning that we will appropriate or from which we distance but, in any case, that we cannot disregard. And this is quite the same for the Theatre in which our thoughts are mixed up with the director’s one that the play can transmit us. But to seize the difference between Cinema and Theatre we have to consider the changes of meaning of the performance in time and space from different points of view : in cinema, as I said, the changes depend on the audience because the performance is crystallized and cannot change anymore; in theatre the changes depend directly on who is the director (who is of course part of a specific society, in a specific place and a specific moment) and who can change ( in the limit of the contract!) the play and the performance whenever and as he pleases (an example is that in the 19th century almost all the representation of The Merchant of Venice stopped at the IV act cutting the V, because of directors’will). Cinema and Theatre, as well as law, are different and complementary to each other ways of expression of the society they ” live in”, so it is quite “natural” that they can assume different “lights” depending on different areas/times.
    I think that what differentiates Cinema and Theatre from Literature, instead, is their role and their impact on the audience’s imagination. Cinema and Theatre let our imagination grow up into “rail” they provide us ( once you’ve seen a scene you’ll hardly imagine the character, the setting, the location differently from what the director has thought for us). On the contrary, with Literature, our imagination is “left in the wild” , free to expand with no limit : even if the descriptions of a character, place ect. are so detailed to seem real, I’m quite sure that if we could draw what we have imagined, not even a single drawing will be the same of another because we would have imagined the scene differently.


  12. giulio says:

    I found an interesting example of trial in theater in very recent theatrical representation of a few days ago “Processo a Caravaggio”. It’s been represented and written by Benito Melchionna a judge and also a poet. It was the seventieth century and during his last stay in Rome, Caravaggio had several troubles with the law due to incidents and riots that saw him put on trial in absentia and sentenced. Attempting to Melchionna, prosecutor emeritus of the republic of Crema, with this reenactment is to, as he says:”To offer the viewer some food for thought, not only on our contemporary world, but in particular on the eternal difficulty to harmonize law enforcement and justice worthy of its name”. The whole story about the process in 1603, that saw the artist Giovanni Baglione denounce Caravaggio and his circle for defamation, was born from tha challenge between the two painters, at the Marquis Giustiniani, about a painting depicting the theme of Virgil on the Love vincit omnia. Baglione won the race and received the gift of the coveted necklace up for grabs, but Caravaggio will be the real winner, as his canvas, though less academic and honest, are since then preserved in the closet of private Marquis and shown only to visitors , as the finest example of great art. During testimony before the judge, Caravaggio explains who is a talented painter( this is one of the rare times in which the artist expresses himself on the art)Quella parola, valent’huomo, appresso di me vuol dire che sappi far bene, cioè sappi far bene dell’arte sua, così un pittore valent’huomo, che sappi depinger bene et imitar bene le cose naturali.


  13. giulio says:

    I wanted to point out another famous example of theater as a mean of challenge against censorship in France during the Ancien regime. The Marquis of Sade a French aristocrat, revolutionary politician, philosopher and writer, famous for his libertine sexuality on march 5, 1792, at the Theatre Italien, obtained the representation of Le Suboneur that was disturbed by a spectator and finally stopped after the fourth stage because of the uproar caused by these. The motivation of this gesture lies in the fact that the author was an aristocrat. Sade also wrote exquisite dialogues de la Philosophie dans le boudoir (initiation & a girl by two consumed libertines, Dolmance and Madame de SaintAnge). For these thatriacl representations the Marquis of sade was often persecuted by the public authority and incarcerated.


  14. Mattia says:

    Dott.ssa Cascione talked about the role and the importance of legal issues in classical theatre (especially Greek ancient tragedies), but also in modern theatre and in musical there are examples of such topics. One of this could be provided by the musical “Chicago”, which is focused on telling the story of young dancer (Roxie) who has one main wish: to become the brightest star in Broadway. In order to achieve it, she doesn’t hesitate to use for her advantage the commitment of a crime (she shot her lover because of the refusal he disclaimed to her, although she was a married woman). But the really particular thing, in my opinion, is that the entire musical is focused mainly on the legal aspect of the event: in fact Roxie needs a legal defense to avoid the death penalty for her murder and decides to do that by naming the most expensive and famous lawyer in Chicago who, by his point of view, suggests to take advantage of the medias’ attention due to the chronicles of newspaper about the crime of the dancer. This is of course a really brief summary of the plot, but the very interesting point is the representation of the trial as one of the most important scene of the play: it is the most important important one (as in the Merchant of Venice) and represents the exact structure of the trial in the north-american experience: there are the victims and the suspected and, of course, the jury which plays a central role in this scene in order to decide Roxie’s destiny. From this we can take not only a mere representation of the trial in its legal aspect, but also an opinion about its functionality and efficiency: in the majority of the case this scene is really comic, because it offers a satirized representation of the american-styled trial (especially for the jury, which is drawn as ignorant and even rude and, most of all, easily corruptible thanks to the charm and seduction exercised by the malicious dancer).
    So even one of the most famous Broadway musical offers us a new example of the linking between law and theatre.


  15. Laura Topuzidu says:

    Censorhip can be applied for various reasons; we can distinguish between moral, political or religious censorship, military and corporate censorship.
    Political censorship was widely applied in the Easter Block. Cultural products reflected the propaganda needs of the state. During the Stalinist period, everything was under control, sometimes even the weather forecast. This created a sense of a secondary reality. Every writer was under controll, every word they wrote down had to go through the censor, who divided the authors into three groups: forbidden, tolerated or supported. This last chategory was for the authors supporting the state with propaganda materials. The tolerated writers could write, but only carefully, and not every work they created could be published. The forbbidden authors were not allowed to publish, and it was almost impossible for them to live by. The breaking point came in the mid 1980’s, when samizdat, illegal self-published books and magazines, were stared to be distributed secretly. Not only literature, but theatric performances, films, music and visual arts were under censorship by the state.
    One of the banned writers under he late years of the Nicolae Ceauşescu regime is András Sütő, an ethnic Hungarian writer in Romania. One of his famous playwrites is the A lócsiszár virágvasárnapja (The horse-dealer’s Pentecost), which is an interpretation of Heinrich von Kleist’s Michael Kohlhaas. The original narrative is about the revenge of the horse-dealer, who, while seeking the compensation for his unjustly expropriated and mistreated horses, looses his wife and fortune. The drama written by Sütő ends with the unjust trial of Kohlhaas, and stresses that there’s no just and no mercy for the honest man, insisting on his rights: the only solution is to rebel.


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