Lady Gregory and W.B. Yeats versus the Censor

Lady Gregory visited Bernard Shaw in Hertfordshire in the summer of 1909. He gave her a copy his unpublished play ‘The Shewing Up of Blanco Posnet’. The play is a court-room drama and prompted an off-stage drama too – one that would ultimately call into question, the future of the Abbey Theatre.

Shaw’s play was banned in England by Lord Chamberlain’s Office. Despite the Censor having no jurisdiction in Ireland, Dublin Castle tried to stop the production and withdraw the Patent (licence) because the play was deemed to be blasphemous.

Lady Gregory and W. B. Yeats passionately fought with officials at Dublin Castle and resolved to ‘go on with the performance and let the Patent be forfeited, and if we must die, die gloriously.’

After much debate, the production went ahead during Horse Week. In Our Irish Theatre, Lady Gregory recalled that “the play was received in perfect silence. Perhaps the audience were waiting for the wicked bits to begin. Then, at the end, there was a tremendous burst of cheering, and we knew we had won. Some stranger outside asked what was going on in the Theatre. “They are defying Lord Lieutenant” was the answer; and when the crowd heard the cheering, they took it up and it went far out through the streets.”

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