The low critical opinion of dramatic adaptations of prose works makes clear that the dramatic text is widely seen as unable to compete with the narrative text that it adapts. Privileging the text of a play as the site of meaning is inadequate, however, given the social nature of theatre; rather, the socio-historical context of a production must be investigated to flesh out the meaning of the text in dramatic production. In this study, four theatrical adaptations of Franz Kafka’s novel
The Trial (1925) from different decades and countries, and in three different languages, illustrate a history not only of Kafka reception, but also of society, politics and theatrical practice in western Europe and Canada. The diversity of these visions of Kafka’s work pleads for the acceptance of dramatic adaptation as a creative form of interpretation, rather than as an ill-advised misappropriation, of its source.