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Shakespeare in Canada

Shakespeare in Canada: A World Elsewhere?

Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 448
  • Book Info
    Shakespeare in Canada
    Book Description:

    The first work to engage Shakespeare with distinctly Canadian debates addressing nationalism, separatism, cultural appropriation, cultural nationalism, feminism, and postcolonialism.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7987-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction: Shakespeare in Canada: ʻa world elsewhereʼ?
    (pp. 3-42)

    In a play not often produced on the Canadian stage, the patrician Roman warrior and would-be consul Caius Martius, surnamed Coriolanus, is banished as much for his pride and insolence as for his refusal to perform. In a wonderfully vituperative passage, Coriolanus stands at the city gates and snarls at the Romans who have banished him. Turning the tables, he banishesthemwith these words: ‘Despising, / For you, the city, thus I turn my back; / There is a world elsewhere’ (3.3.133-5).

    Is Canada/Corioles such a ‘world elsewhere’ - a haven for the immigrant? Or, is it, as Coriolanus...

  6. Part One: Beginnings:: Institutionalizing Shakespeare

    • 1 Pioneer Shakespeare Culture: Reverend Henry Scadding and His Shakespeare Display at the 1892 Toronto Industrial Exhibition
      (pp. 47-65)

      The title of this piece - ‘Pioneer Shakespeare Culture’ - refers in several directions. It is the part-title of a pamphlet by the polymathic cleric, local historian, and bibliophile the Reverend Dr Henry Scadding, a busy and benevolent omnipresence of Victorian Toronto. This monograph was the printed catalogue of a collection of Shakespeareana assembled by Reverend Scadding and displayed during the Toronto Industrial Exhibition (the precursor of today’s Canadian National Exhibition) during the 1892 fair. The display was the seventh in a series of (what would become) thirteen annual instalments of the ‘Log Shanty Book- Shelf,’ in which Scadding -...

    • 2 The Imperial Theme: The Shakespeare Society of Toronto, 1928-1969
      (pp. 66-91)

      A copy of the newspaper article quoted above appears in a scrapbook donated to the Archives of Ontario by Mrs Raymond Card.² Beside it is a clipping from theTelegram, in which reporter Rose Macdonald enthusiastically describes the event announced by theStar: ‘It was a proud night for the Shakespeare Society of Toronto. Their patron, the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Hon. J. Keiller MacKay, addressed them on The Bard. The Lieutenant Governor is an authority on Shakespeare - Burns too, but this was Shakespeare’s night. Even those in the audience aware of their patron’s enormous knowledge of Shakespeare’s writing...

    • 3 ‘A Stage for the Word’: Shakespeare on CBC Radio, 1947-1955
      (pp. 92-107)

      The year 1953, when the Stratford Shakespeare Festival held its opening season, is a well-known milestone in the history of Canadian professional theatre, said to mark the advent of Shakespeare in Canada. As with most such points of origin, however, a prior history has been obscured by the rhetoric of arrivals, inaugurations, and beginnings surrounding the Stratford Festival. That history consists of broadcasts of professional productions of Shakespeare’s plays on the trans-Canada radio network of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), a performance tradition extending back to the late 1920s when Jack Gillmore’s CNRV Players produced the first radio versions of...

    • 4 Stratford and the Aspirations for a Canadian National Theatre
      (pp. 108-136)

      Canada, 2002. Shakespeare is ubiquitous - or at least Shakespeare in the form of that venerable Canadian institution, summer Shakespeare. Nearly a dozen such enterprises now struggle each summer against the vagaries of rough weather and mosquito swarms to bring the Bard to the nation.² The directors generally define their work either as in the ‘tradition’ of Canada’s Stratford Festival or as something specifically distinct from that tradition. Fifty years after its founding, Canada’s Stratford Festival still stands at the ideological centre for those who ‘do’ Shakespeare in Canada.³ To analyse how Shakespeare and the Stratford Festival came to be...

  7. Part Two: Shakespeare on Stage

    • 5 Shakespeare Canadiens at the Stratford Festival
      (pp. 141-158)
      C.E. McGEE

      In the aftermath of the opening season of the Stratford Festival in 1953, Tyrone Guthrie was still justifying the Stratford project, still trying to secure its future, by arguing that productions of Shakespeare’s plays were indispensable for the development of Canadian theatre as such. ‘Any distinctive national style,’ he asserted, ‘whether of acting, producing, writing or criticising plays will be founded on the study of the classics. It will only be, in my view, by evolving a distinctively Canadian comment on the classics that any satisfactory native dramatic style will be achieved. Such comment will occur not only in criticism...

    • 6 A National Hamlet? Stratfordʼs Legacy of Twentieth-Century Productions
      (pp. 159-173)

      Considered by most critics and actors to be a masterpiece - if notthemasterpiece - of English drama,Hamletremains the most prominent inheritance of cultural and political colonialism for theatre companies in many nations, and, as theatre historians and Shakespearean scholars alike have frequently documented, it has helped to define their cultural and political identity (see, for example, Kennedy,Foreign; and Kishi, Pringle, and Wells). In English-speaking North America, however,Hamletis rarely political; instead, many of the political scenes (especially the Fortinbras plot) are often omitted from the playtext in order to maintain a focus on the...

    • 7 ʻLe Re-makingʼ of le grand Will: Shakespeare in Francophone Quebec
      (pp. 174-191)

      It has been claimed that the appropriation of Shakespeare in Quebec has been one means of articulating the nature of the Québécois theatrical institution.² However, the definition of the theatrical institution in Quebec continues to be challenged by subsequent appropriations of Shakespeare. Although it is usual to look at a Shakespearean appropriation in terms of its distance from a source text, I suggest that theatrical appropriations, because they are destined for performance, also need to be looked at in relation to their distance from the many con-texts - including other productions and adaptations - that are part of their creation....

    • 8 Learning to Curse in Accurate Iambics: Shakespeare in Newfoundland
      (pp. 192-211)

      The history of Shakespeare in Newfoundland is defined by a variety of paradoxes, most of them associated with the island’s colonial and postcolonial history. Chris Brookes, writing from the perspective of his own alternative to ‘that non-Canadian playwright’ (12), namely, the documentary agitprop of the Mummers Troupe, offers an ironic demonization of the cultural imperialism represented by the funding of the Stratford Festival. It is one that opens a variety of useful perspectives for considering the topic, of which the most obvious is the cultural-materialist/ new historicist preoccupation with the hegemonic status bestowed upon the Bard.

      It is a context...

    • 9 Liberal Shakespeare and Illiberal Critiques: Necessary Angelʼs King Lear
      (pp. 212-230)

      Necessary Angel Theatre, one of Toronto’s more prominent and longlived small theatre companies, producedThe Tragedie of King Learat the Canadian Stage Company’s Berkeley Street Theatre Upstairs in Toronto in the spring of 1995. The most conspicuous feature of Necessary Angel’sKing Learwas that it was partially cross-cast. Director Richard Rose cast Janet Wright as Lear; the roles of Kent, Edmund, and Albany were also performed by women; and Goneril was played by a man.¹ There have been other cross-castKing Lears, including Mabou Mines’s well-known New York City production in 1990 and Canadian performance artist Beau Coleman’s...

  8. Part Three: Critical Debates and Traditions

    • 10 Continuity and Contradiction: University Actors Meet the Universal Bard
      (pp. 235-254)

      In 1991 the University of British Columbia (UBC) theatre department mounted two productions of Shakespeare on its main stage. In many ways, the two shows stood in vivid contrast with each other. The first,Hamlet, was a highly conceptual production, designed as a futuristic, postmodern exposé of the utter inescapability of naked power. The set was an electronic fortress dotted with TV screens and linked with cellular phones, the characters were flattened into dolls and pawns, and the text was pasted together in unprecedented ways - spliced to bits ofRosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Deadand sections from the movie...

    • 11 Canadian Bacon
      (pp. 255-273)

      In his authoritative discussion of the Shakespeare authorship controversy from its inception in 1856 to 1991, the American scholar Samuel Schoenbaum touches on the activities of anti-Stratfordians in the United States, England, France, Germany, Italy, Holland, and India; he mentions not a single Canadian (385-451). We have found many of them, on both - or all three sides - of the question: adherents of Francis Bacon, Shakespeare, and, more recently, Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. The controversy in Canada is well over a hundred years old and is still going strong today.¹ We will discuss two turn-of-the-century Baconians, Richard...

    • 12 Canada, Negative Capability, and Cymbeline
      (pp. 274-291)

      Since no one now lives in Elizabethan England, Shakespeare is always read through foreign eyes. No single culture can claim a privileged understanding overall, but readers from a variety of places can find aspects of Shakespeare to which their cultures give them special access. Thus, Camille Paglia is unshocked by Cleopatra’s verbal and physical violence, since ‘as an Italian, I have little problem reconciling violence with culture’ and Cleopatra’s ‘sadistic images’ remind her of the way her ‘immigrant relatives’ used to talk: ‘May you be eaten by a cat!’; ‘May your eyes be torn out’; ‘May they sew up your...

    • 13 Fryeʼs Shakespeare, Fryeʼs Canada
      (pp. 292-308)
      L.M. FINDLAY

      As the reconditioned engines of millennial federalism kick into life, some familiar Canadian questions take on a special urgency. What is Canada on the threshold of the new millennium? Whatwillit become after crossing this threshold? What role will culture, particularly literary culture, have in fashioning a fresh national and international identity or set of identities for this country? Where, one might ask, is Northrop Frye when we need him? Well, his example as a public intellectual using his influence to direct public policy and debate is still with us, and we can look to events like the Toronto...

  9. Part Four: Reimagining Shakespeare

    • 14 Nation and/as Adaptation: Shakespeare, Canada, and Authenticity
      (pp. 313-338)

      This chapter examines how Shakespearean theatrical adaptations reinforce, consolidate, and trouble polyphonic, and sometimes extremely dissonant, notions of Canadian national identity. Its thesis is that Canadian adaptations of Shakespeare (from a range of writing positions) puncture the reductive notion of an imagined community, to borrow Benedict Anderson’s controversial term, based on the illusion of shared values that authenticate that community’s identity. Imagined communities, as elaborated in over a century of Shakespearean adaptation in Canada, are highly variable and elusive: different imaginings produce different communities as mediated through the relationship to Shakespeare. Shakespeare serves multiple identity formations, with differing consequences for...

    • 15 Undead and Unsafe: Adapting Shakespeare (in Canada)
      (pp. 339-352)

      In this chapter, I want to explore certain aspects, theoretical/situational and ethical/political, of adapting Shakespeare in light of a specific set of Canadian adaptations that are part of a larger theoretical and political pattern. In undertaking this exploration, I have been spurred on by my fellow Canadian academic and Shakespeare scholar Denis Salter, specifically by two passages in his writings on contemporary dealings with Shakespeare.

      The first passage is from his essay ‘Acting Shakespeare in Postcolonial Space,’ in James Bulman’sShakespeare, Theory, and Performance. Speaking of ‘tradaptations,’ translation-adaptations of Shakespeare, Salter writes:

      I would argue that tradaptations, like postcolonial acting,...

    • 16 Normand Chauretteʼs Les Reines: Shakespeare and the Modern in the Alchemical Oven
      (pp. 353-370)

      Normand Chaurette’sLes Reines(1991) is a verse play derived primarily from Shakespeare’sRichard III. Its characters are six royal women who, in 1483, are awaiting the death of King Edward IV, the assassination of George, Duke of Clarence, and the accession of Richard to the throne. To the four women, Elizabeth, Margaret, Anne Warwick, and the Duchess of York, appropriated from Shakespeare’s play, Chaurette has added two more Plantagenet women, Isabelle Warwick, sister of Anne and wife of Clarence, and Anne Dexter (named for the historical Countess of Exeter), daughter of the Duchess of York and sister of George,...

    • 17 Othello in Three Times
      (pp. 371-394)

      Among Shakespeare’s best-known plays,Othellohas been of relatively little interest to Canadian theatres in the last half of the twentieth century, and, when it has been staged, it has not been notably successful.² This may be so because, as Edward Pechter says, the play is ‘unpleasant’ (Address),³ perhaps because of its treatment of gender, race, and class in ways that cannot comfortably be subsumed under the general wash of universalist humanism that still dominates the discourses of most Canadian theatre companies and reviewers. Its central role, moreover, has proven difficult to cast, a difficulty that uncomfortably exposes systemic racism...

  10. Afterword: Relocating Shakespeare, Redefining Canada
    (pp. 395-409)

    How does one read a culturally different text? The question implicitly raised by Gayatri Spivak in her article ‘How to Teach a “Culturally Different” Book’ resonates in different ways within the fields of Canadian, postcolonial, and Renaissance studies, as the individual chapters that form this book suggest. In this afterward, I am deliberately turning Spivak’s venture into exploring the dynamics of ‘international cultural exchange’ (239) away from her attempt to explain a text that seems obviously culturally unfamiliar to a North American audience back towards two texts (‘Shakespeare’ and ‘Canada’) that are too often deemed readily familiar to Canadians. Part...

  11. Appendix: Research Opportunities in Canadian Shakespeare
    (pp. 410-416)
  12. References
    (pp. 417-454)
  13. List of Contributors
    (pp. 455-460)
  14. Index
    (pp. 461-490)