Victor Hugo’s play, “Le Roi S’Amuse,” or “The King’s Fool” was performed just once before it was banned in 1832 France. Though the play was set several centuries earlier, the portrayal of King Francois I, who died in 1547, was interpreted as an attack on the reigning monarch, King Louis-Philippe. After the curtain fell, a riot reportedly broke out in response to the play.
Offending the monarchy was a criminal offense in France at the time, and though Mr. Hugo took his case to court, he lost. The play was revived 50 years later, in 1882, and was met by a much more politically forgiving audience. “Le Roi S’Amuse” was not the only work by Hugo to face censorship, though, as historical themes often served as artistic entrees to government criticism. “Napoleon le Petit,” or “Napoleon the Little,” was banned from the stage in the 1820s as well. (Editors note: The original version misstated the year in which the play was revived.)