Second World War

As far as the Second-World-War period is concerned, due to Portugal’s neutral position in the war, anti-Nazi propaganda along with anti-British and anti-American propaganda literature was strictly prohibited in the country. In view of this piece of information, I wanted to examine whether the overall ban had had any impact on theatre translations in Portugal or not.

The chart on theatre translations originally written by German authors certainly provides some indication as to the Portuguese theatre world’s general attitude towards neutrality and the war (See figure 3). From 1939 until 1944, no German play was put on stage, nor was any play planned to be staged in Portugal, with the exception of Ludwig Fulda’s comedy, Das Wundermittel (1920), which was staged in the provinces in 1940. Paradoxically, only at the end of the war, from 1944, when the Allies’ victory became more and more imminent, did three German plays appear on the Portuguese stage: a light comedy by Ernst Bock (1880-1961), The Assumption of Hannele (1893) by Gerhart Hauptmann (1862-1946), and an operetta by Jean Gilbert alias Max Winterfeld (1879-1942), a German Jewish expatriate.

Figure 3: German plays for stage in Portugal between 1929 and 1945

The next line graph shows the British plays staged in Portugal (See figure 4). Despite the silence between 1939 and 1940, from the year 1941 onwards, there is a constant increase in the number of British plays. With reference to American plays staged in Portugal, similarly to the British and German plays, there is also a conspicuous absence from the beginning of the war.

Figure 4: British and American plays for stage in Portugal between 1929 and 1945

The fact that the absence of the German, British and American plays coincides - in 1939, no play was put on stage or planned to be staged - is certainly suspicious, but at this initial stage of research I would refrain from drawing any hasty conclusions, as I have not found any fundamental evidence to prove that it would be a conscious choice of any theatre company to entirely exclude German, British or American dramatic works from their new repertoires.

In contrast to the Nazi theatres whose functioning greatly depended on government subsidies, Portuguese theatres operated basically without governmental support, which - despite all the enormous obstacles this might have imposed on the Portuguese theatrical world - offered them relatively more freedom with regard to their artistic choice inasmuch as of course they did not offend the Portuguese government’s political interest and public morality. In this respect, the Portuguese theatrical system bears more resemblance to the Italian Fascist model. The primary political constraint that both of the regimes exercised with regard to the theatre, and they did, quite effectively, was censorship.

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