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Shakespeare revived in contemporary canadian drama

Shakespeare à l’honneur dans le théâtre canadien contemporain
Rüdiger Ahrens
p. 42-63


L’une des preuves de l’universalité « de tous les temps » (Ben Jonson) de Shakespeare est que ses pièces ont aussi été adaptées dans presque tous les pays de ce monde, que ce soit sous leur forme quasi-historique ou au cours d’un échange intertextuel libre de versions hybrides. L’émergence d’une conscience post-coloniale dans de nombreux points du monde a produit une ré-interprétation critique de ses œuvres dans le sens d’une réévaluation émancipatrice qui transforme les prétextes shakespeariens de façon le plus souvent créatrice en tentant d’attirer l’attention du public.
La variété des interprétations possibles peut être illustrée par le cas du Canada, qui n’est pas tant un pays post-colonial mais plutôt un pays de colons, au moyen de trois exemples de pièces contemporaines : Ken Mitchell, Cruel Tears (1977), Anne-Marie MacDonald, Goodnight Desdemona (Good Night Juliet) (1990), et Ken Grass, Claudius (1993). Ces pièces illustrent la variété de l’influence shakespearienne sur la scène canadienne qui peut se vanter d’autres pièces remarquables comme Fortune and Men’s Eyes de John Herbert (1967), qui reprend le sujet des relations hommes-femmes avec ses références aux Sonnets et à The Taming of the Shrew, la comédie de John Murrel Gertrude and Ophelia (1987), qui est fondée sur les répercussions psychologiques et sociales du féminisme et du racisme, comme c’est le cas dans Harlem Duet de Jane Sears (1997). Toutes ces adaptations rendent compte aussi des innombrables possibilités de références intertextuelles fournies par les pièces originales de Shakespeare.

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1The Rise of Canadian Drama Within the context of Canadian nation-building and of establishing an identity of its own, Canadian drama has always played a distinctive role. Ric Knowles, the most outstanding national and international expert in the field of the Canadian theatre, describes its in-betweenness and its rigorous struggle for independence in the following words:

  • 1 Ric KNOWLES, “Drama,” in Eva-Marie KRÖLLER (Ed.), Canadian Literature, The Cambridge Companion, Cam (...)

Canadian drama in English has always mixed forms. From the late sixteenth to the mid twentieth century this hybridity has most often involved the use of European dramaturgical structures to appropriate and contain Canadian—what was then thought of as ‘native’ content. More recently, previously marginalized groups have re-appropriated the dramaturgical tools of the master to dismantle, or at least effect major renovations on, the master’s theatrical house.11

2This summary convincingly enumerates the various roots of Canadian drama: besides the European tradition with the English and French colonizing powers, the native peoples such as the Indians and the Inuits shaped the foundations of the theatre in Canada. In our times, more than in many other countries, marginalized social groups such as the gay population made use of the theatre to voice their personal opinions and to attract the attention of a broader audience. What is so special about drama in Canada is that the ancient ritual ceremonies of the native peoples contributed to the origins and the present state of Canadian drama. This can be seen in spirit dances and other shamanist ceremonial performances of Canadian Indians on Vancouver Island as well as in the masking ceremonies of religious and social dramatic performances among the West Coast Indian and the Iroquoian people of South-eastern Canada. Also Inuit myths are still alive in modern theatre productions across the country and add to the colourful mixture of theatrical performances visible in these days, as Ric Knowles rightfully acknowledges.

  • 2 For further details cf. William H. NEW (Ed.), Literary History of Canadian Literature in English, T (...)
  • 3 Ric KNOWLES, Shakespeare and Canada: Essays on Production, Translation, andAdaptation, Brussels: La (...)

3This essay, however, does not intend to discuss all the details of the 400 year-long history with all its variations and names, but will rather focus on the presence of Shakespeare’s plays in Canadian play-houses and their impact on the shaping of the Canadian identity.2 As Ric Knowles tells his reader in his book on Shakespeare and Canada, Shakespeare has to be considered from a Canadian perspective as “a representative of British high culture, an agent of either cultural improvement or imperialist nationalism and class dominance, depending on your point of view.”3

4It comes quite as a surprise that, as Knowles states, Shakespeare’s plays arrived in Canada only in the middle of the 20th century, after Canadian drama had already shown quite an impressive production in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In the 19th century, dramas were little more than a pastiche of Elizabethan tragedy filled with heroic themes of love and revenge, empty rhetorical verse and one-dimensional characters.

5At the turn of the century several minor plays in the conventional heroic-poetic style appeared, but often educational masques, melodramas or farces appeared with stereotyped characters and situations. This agenda was completed with experimental theatre in the first half of the 20th century. From its establishment in 1932, the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) began broadcasting radio plays for which it actually paid writers, producers, directors, actors, musicians and technicians. In 1957, the Canada Council was formed on the model of the Arts Council in Great Britain, with the specific mandate to encourage the growth of professional theatre as well as other artistic endeavours by providing appropriate subsidies.

  • 4 Ibid., 13.

6By his arrival, then, Shakespeare helped, perhaps belatedly, as Ric Knowles confirms, “to constitute Canada as a Nation state, while Canada in turn constituted Shakespeare as its national Bard, its sign of high cultural maturity and value, and its great Canadian Playwright.”4 Such a belated recognition of the Bard comes as a surprise because Shakespeare’s reputation as a world dramatist originated in the early 19th century, when such Romantic poets as S. t. Coleridge acknowledged his linguistic powers as outstanding in world literature. This view was strongly supported by German literary writers and poets such as G. E. Lessing and J. W. von Goethe, who praised Shakespeare as the poet of nature in opposition to the French classical dramatists like Racine and Corneille.

Shakespeare and Stratford

7When the Massey Commission Report in 1951 laid the groundwork for arts funding in Canada, it took only two more years before the Stratford Festival was founded in Ontario and it became clear that Shakespeare as Bard and Canada as Nation complemented each other in the attempt to definitely liberate the nation from the colonial twilight which had dominated the cultural scene. The clearest crystallization of this nationalist self-awareness came with the first issue of the Canadian Theatre Review in 1974 which launched an attack on the Stratford Festival and its appointment of yet another British Theatre Director, Robin Phillips, after the founding father Tyrone Guthrie, of the by then called ‘Stratford National Theatre of Canada.’ Phillips was strongly attacked by his rival John Juliani for not being Canadian.

  • 5 Cf. Margaret GROOME, “Stratford and the Aspirations for a Canadian National Theatre”, in Diana BRYD (...)

8Since the founding of the Stratford Festival, Canadian theatre has become more diverse and the discourses of Canadian theatre criticism have to some extent displaced the dominant positivism of the culturally authoritative settler/invader critic of either British or American descent. The establishment of the Stratford Festival initiated a sprawl of nearly a dozen such enterprises around the country and their directors generally define their work either as in the ‘tradition’ of Canada’s Stratford Festival or as something specifically distinct from that tradition. Even today it stands as the ideological centre of the Shakespeare reception in Canada. Margaret Groome gives us a detailed report of the setting-up of this centre to help understand the place of Shakespeare in Canada’s postwar national culture.5 To summarize this fine analysis here would exceed the scope of this essay, but it is most interesting to see how quickly Canada developed an internationally recognized national culture after its cultural liberation from the colonizing powers and that, with this movement, any Canadian cultural institution receiving international acclaim would immediately be recognized as a national icon. So it does not come as a surprise that the Stratford Festival very quickly turned into a ‘national theatre,’ which would introduce the classical texts of drama, particularly Shakespeare, to Canadians and to international audiences. It became a ‘first class’ cultural institution as the longed-for national icon in both directions, as a cultural commodity and as a cultural authority.

9The debate about the need for a national theatre began much earlier and can be traced back to the 1890s as a response to the predominance of touring productions imported from Great Britain and the United States. The question of gaining cultural independence became a subject from the earliest days of national theatre discussions. Theatre was regarded as a form of high culture, as the critic Bernard R. Sandwell stated already in the early 20th century. In the 1920s and 1930s, the English model continued to predominate, which meant that the necessity of government support for an actual edifice became more and more obvious in favour of a centralized national theatre.

10In postwar Canada the so-called ‘Ottawa Briefs,’ which fostered the construction of community centres all over the country, can also be considered as the starting-point for the discourse on theatre. There was general agreement that the concept of a professional theatre should meet the highest standards of production. A major influence on the exceptional production standards was exercised by the Hart House Theatre at the University of Toronto which had been fruitful to a professional quality of production in the past. Furthermore, in Ontario, the New Play Society, formed in 1946, attained the highest profile in the postwar period for its work as a professional theatre. Above all, its founder-director Dora Mavor Moore, one of the country’s foremost actors and directors, had the most direct input into initial planning for the Stratford Festival. She was to act as liaison between Tyrone Guthrie and Tom Patterson, the founders of the festival, and also between Guthrie and the Canadian audience at large. Another very influential figure was Robertson Davies, the well-known novelist and dramatist, who elaborated in a ‘Special Study’ at the request of the Massey Commission on the necessity of a national theatre in Canada and laid particular emphasis on Shakespeare. His study, which was written in the form of a satirical dialogue between two fictional characters and which was granted the status of a companion to the Massey Report, discussed the necessity of producing classical authors for Canada in order to overcome the ‘illiteracy’ of Canadians. Davies emphasized the works of Shakespeare above all others which should be experienced in performance, not simply read. Davies’s dialogue also attributed great weight to the idea that theatrical experience relies on the living tradition of great authors and that the Canadians should look to Shakespearean productions as the major tradition in which to root their work. Davies’s Platonic dialogue laid the groundwork for Tom Patterson and Tyrone Guthrie to focus on Shakespeare as the basis for the Canadian National Theatre. Since there was a city named Stratford, on a river named Avon, in Ontario, it came as a natural event that the theatre should be opened there in 1953.

11In its first three seasons the Festival was hailed as an enterprise of national significance which proved that Canada had come of age in cultural terms. The triumph of the first season was proudly repeated, establishing the Shakespeare Festival as the answer to the quest for cultural respectability. With each subsequent Festival season, the critical discourse articulated the same aesthetic of spectacle and effect, which was conveyed to the entire Canadian nation. However, the nation learned from the productions that it knew little about Shakespeare and it needed to be educated concerning his significance and to be shown the pleasant effects of the plays. So the classical Horatian formula of docere et delectare came to life again.

12Opinions about the first years were not common and unified. Ric Knowles underscores the mixed feelings which the Canadians had on their National Theatre:

  • 6 Ric KNOWLES, op. cit., 2004 (b), 35.

The founding of Stratford, then, was discursively constructed as the founding of a Shakespearean National Theatre in Canada after the British (imperialist) model, in which Shakespeare was used to serve the interests ofcultural colonization by the dominant—and on occasion explicitly capitalist or anti-communist—elite. Canadians provided the capital, and the labor, but the lead roles both onstage and off were played by the British.6

13The important second phase of the National Theatre begins after 1967, i.e. a century after the foundation of Canada as a state, when Stratford announced the appointment of its first Canadian artistic directorates. The company was henceforth called ‘The Stratford National Theatre of Canada’ indicating a nationalist turn in the spirit of the 1960s ‘counter-culture’ movement and American resistance to Vietnam. This turn was caused by the hiring of an English artistic director, Robin Phillips, in 1974, culminating in the repetition of the process in 1980 when Britain’s John Dexter was proposed to replace Phillips. It extended through the Trudeau era of strong centralist federalism which eventuallyended in official multiculturalism as we know it today. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act to suppress a different kind of nationalist uprising in the francophone province of Quebec, the separatist movement which was ignited by de Gaulle’s visit to the province and his advocacy of a ‘Québec libre’ in 1963.

14Canada’s centennial year of 1967 is often seen as the watershed year in the history of drama in Canada, the year in which George Ryga’s The Ecstasy of Rita Joe was performed at the Vancouver Playhouse. This set free a whole wave of theatrical events which served as the focal points for nationalist sentiments in the Canadian theatre community. At this period Stratford and Shakespeare raised a lot of frustration and disenchantment that would come to the surface in 1974 with the appointment of Phillips as artistic director. In these years Shakespeare became a symbol of international high culture as opposed to a more local nationalist culture which developed in the provinces with a populist and alternative touch.

15Up to 1993, the year which saw the departure of the British-born David William from his post as artistic director in Stratford and the waning power of Brian Mulroney as Prime Minister of his Progressive Conservative federal government, Shakespeare dwindled in importance at Stratford because of various appropriations and adaptations such as the ‘Caribbean’ A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1983), a native-Canadian Tempest (1987, 1990) or a clownesque Twelfth Night (1990) in various theatre-houses in Toronto and elsewhere. Free adaptations of Romeo and Juliet (1993), staged under a bridge in post-industrial Toronto, and King Lear (1994) blurred the image of Shakespeare so that Stratford lost its status as the only representative theatre for his plays. Even more reappropriations of Shakespeare could be enumerated here, among them Peter E. Weiss’s Haunted House Hamlet (1986), Margaret Clarke’s Gertrude and Ophelia (1993), Anne-Marie MacDonald’s Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) (1988, 1990). All these adaptations and reappropriations in their different ways were unavailable to the directors in Stratford. Even such famous stage directors as Michael Bogdanov (Measure for Measure, 1985) or Joe Dowling (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1993) ran up against the constraints of their stage and the pre-suppositions of their actors. Moreover, the theatre critics sometimes misunderstood the resulting productions and contributed to their failures because of a conservative attitude towards the original texts.

  • 7 Cf. Harold BLOOM, Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, New York: Riverhead, 1998, XVIII. Rüdige (...)

16Out of these heterogeneous discourses concerning the dramatic reception of Shakespeare’s plays arose a postcolonial interculturalism which tried to resist the impact of economic globalization, but could not avoid being one of the sites of contestation between conflicting views of interculturalism. Given these developments in the 1990s, the subsequent Shakespeare Festivals attempted to represent his plays as universalist, essentialist and literary. Shakespeare became, as Harold Bloom put it, ”the inventor of the human.”7 Corresponding to this all embracing interpretation of the plays, Stratford became an attractive centre of the ‘Shakespeare industry’ which not only attracted large audiences, but also a great number of patrons and donors who supported the national icon of Canada’s cultural awakening by material investment.

17Two outstanding productions in 1993 deserve mentioning: Richard Monette’s Antony and Cleopatra and Joe Dowling’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, both of which concerned themselves more or less directly with power relations and power structures between men and women. In addition, the history play King John directed by Robin Phillips stirred up quite some interest because he used it to create an internally coherent, historically precise, and theoretically stylized world of the Europe leading up to and engaged in the First World War. These three productions, which opened the phase still valid up to the present day, reveal the institutional context which has been at work in Stratford ever since. The Shakespeare Theatre at Stratford still functions with remarkable directness as an ideological state institution, funded by government and corporate grants and catering for an audience which has become more and more international also in terms of cultural tourism. In that sense it is a monolithic entity which is confronted with a complex and shifting, but nevertheless conservative, affirmative, high-culture image of the Bard of Avon.

Shakespeare in Other Places

  • 8 Ric KNOWLES, op. cit., 2004 (b), 80ff.

18As already mentioned above, Shakespeare is not exclusively tied to Stratford, but is present all over Canada. This of course implies the Province of Quebec, which being francophone, evokes the problem of translation into French. We cannot go into a detailed discussion, but it is a fact that the theatre-houses in Montreal adopted Shakespeare in a French version. Ric Knowles extensively discusses the critical reception and the reconstruction of The Taming of the Shrew performed in Montreal in March-April 1995, in a French rendering with the title La Mégère apprivoisée by Martine Beaulne. The use of translation, of course, already displaces the Shakespearean “original, it invokes translation theories and provides the director with a freedom that is less easily achieved for English-language productions.” As Ric Knowles demonstrates in his survey of the problems and distortions encountered by the translator and the producer, a translation can be consciously subversive.8 By analyzing adequate examples of the text, he can prove that the translation as commissioned does not in this configuration become the masculine playtext to which the production is then ‘faithful’ in traditional ways. Rather the translation functions as one of the many and multiple strategies deployed by the director, and set in productive tension with other strategies and techniques in a collaborative process, so that it becomes part of a post-structuralist critique which shifts the centre of meaning at least to the margin or completely destroys it.

  • 9 Cf. Leonore LIEBLEIN, “ ‘Le Re-making’ of the grand Will: Shakespeare in Francophone Quebec”, in Di (...)

19From a theatrical point of view, Shakespeare’s plays share a special history with other productions and adaptations. In her overview of Shakespeare in francophone Quebec, Leonore Lieblein argues that Shakespearean appropriation participates not only in a dialogue on the high-culture icon, but also in a conversation with its theatrical milieu and that over time its function in francophone Quebec has changed. What may once have been a response to Shakespeare, the dramatist and the cultural hero of anglophone culture, has become as well a response to the Québécois Shakespeares.9

20The overriding question here, however, is what constitutes a Québécois Shakespeare and whose Shakespeare is it anyway. If Shakespeare’s plays are believed to embody a universal human nature, a Shakespearean Other, whether in a translated or in an authentic form, can just as well speak to any individual from Quebec. But, by the 1970s, Shakespearean productions became heterogeneous and diverse and had begun to deform and repudiate the Shakespearean Other. The dichotomy between a universal and a local voice had become very stringent and obvious. In this context Shakespeare was made to speak also in a Québécois voice, which apparently represented a Québécois nation with a shared language, history and culture. He was part of the anglophone oppression.

21With the emergence of a Québécois voice after the Second World War and with the proliferation of professional theatre companies all over Canada the professional performance of Shakespeare in French became relatively commonplace in Quebec. After a tentative beginning with eleven francophone productions after 1945 came a strong upswing of thirty-eight in the next quarter century after 1970. Shakespeare has become a more and more visible part on the agenda of francophone theatre-houses. At first, his plays were integrated into the inclusion of the classics of world literature as a symbol of the opening-up of Canadian culture and an alternative to touring productions from Europe and the prevalence of burlesque, vaudeville, and melodrama. The first notable productions after 1945 emphasized the romantic and comic plays like A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Le Songe d’une nuit d’été, 1945), Twelfth Night (La Nuit des rois, 1946 and 1956) and Romeo and Juliet (Roméo et Juliette, 1950). The two dominant theatre companies of the postwar era that have survived to now were a bit more tardy but the Théatre du NouveauMonde (TNM) presented Richard II in 1962 and the Théatre du Rideau Vert presented Le Songe d’une nuit d’été in 1965. Because of their successes, these productions became more and more frequent in the following years.

22The models for these activities came, of course, from abroad, from France in the area of education and culture and from England in the area of economy and government. But the audiences who received the French production in Quebec with great acclaim considered them to be proof of the maturity of the Québécois theatrical institution, not only its ability to compete with other theatrical institutions but also to engage the classics of world literature in an appropriate way.

23Up to 1968 and certainly even more so after, all French productions tended to participate in the universalizing discourse of le grand Will. This label was first created in a 1953 review of The Taming of the Shrew (La Mégère apprivoisée) and continues to be used, especially by journalists and critics, to this day. The appellation presupposes Shakespeare’s greatness, but it also suggests familiarity, even intimacy, by presuming acquaintance with Shakespeare on a first-name-basis. The intimacy is with a universal Shakespeare who is capacious enough to accommodate and survive local allusions and even erotic implications as his first name did in Elizabethan times.

24By 1967, the centenary year of the Canadian Confederation, the authority which had been accorded to British and French cultural values was challenged. There was much reason to resist the cultural authority of a Shakespeare in a colonial British disguise or of made-in-France translations of his plays. Up to the first referendum on Quebec sovereignty in 1980, an emerging national dramaturgy was directly linked to the question of nationhood. The implicit assumption was that there was a distinct Québécois voice, embodied in its language, culture and even nation. Shakespeare occupied an ambiguous place in the cultural dispute of this period. In Robert Gurik’s Hamlet, prince du Québec (1968), Hamlet became a sign of Quebec itself and symbolized its hesitations and uncertainties with a drive towards action and liberation. The usurper Claudius represented ‘l’Anglophonie,’ which implied no only the economic force of English-speaking Canada and the English-speaking world in general, but also the power of the federal government over Quebec. The Queen stood for the church and its unholy alliance with Ottawa. The ghost of Hamlet’s father, ‘le spectre paternel,’ was French President Charles de Gaulle, whose exhortation “Vive le Québec libre!” from the Montreal City Hall has electrified some and outraged others up to this very day. So Gurik’s Hamlet set free a subversive energy by taking the form of a political allegory. The play simultaneously displaced Shakespeare’s text, refusing, among other things, its historical, geographical, and metaphysical traditions and affiliations and at the same time embracing the Québécois community and agenda.

25This political context is completely ignored in a more recent adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Ken Gass writes in his foreword to Claudius (1995), which focuses on the relationship of Gertrude with her lover and adopted husband Claudius by shifting the tragedy into a feminist play:

  • 10 Ken GASS, Claudius, Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press, 1997, 7. All further quotations are taken fr (...)

Why the Hamlet story? Why not? It wasn’t original with Shakespeare and, anyway this has nothing (almost) to do with Shakespeare. But like many great legends, it rests firmly in our consciousness and allows me, the writer, to tinker around, to do my mischief with a minimum of explanation.10

26In the end, Gertrude in a triumphant gesture lifts her glass of wine and drinks to those who survived the final massacre:

Gertrude: Good. Let’s have a glass of wine then. We’ll drink to the triumph of goodness, and then begin a month of mourning. For Ophelia and Hamlet. And for Claudius too. After all I loved him very much, too much perhaps ... (beat) Emilia, stop shaking like a leaf and get yourself a glass. That’s better ... (raising her glass) To the memory of our sorrows. Cheers. (118)

27In a final soliloquy, which she utters in the presence of Emilia, she muses on her next wedding:

Gertrude: I’ll have to marry a solid man, ordinary perhaps, even boring, one whom I can control. How to find passion and safety in the same net, well, that’s a problem for another age. Isn’t it? (121)

28With the feminist issues, Shakespeare’s Hamlet is given a different perspective which universalizes the author and at the same time estranges the modern text from its original. This example shows us the breadth of all these adaptations, which help to deconstruct the original in a subversive way.

29The situation in Quebec helps to destabilize Shakespeare as a high-culture icon and to minimize his paradigmatic relevance in the Canadian nation-building process. Other texts can be referred to which pursue the same goals in a sometimes even more aggressive way. The title of Jean-Claude Germain’s Rodéo et Juliette clearly sends us back to Romeo and Juliet, but the adaptation makes the original practically disappear. Another example is Jean-Pierre Rodard’s Lear (1977) which in a Bakhtinian fashion of literary carnival offers a scatological fantasy that dethrones not only Lear but Shakespeare himself. Its meta-theatrical stance also debunks the theatre as such and its legitimacy. Although the playwrights differ in their level of optimism and the specific content of their political visions, the common objective of these plays is their assumption of the possibility of a coherent Québécois voice rooted in a Québécois language and culture. This attitude towards the British Bard is perhaps best exemplified by Michel Garneau’s Macbeth in 1978. By calling his Macbeth a translation (‘traduit en Québécois’), Garneau insists on its distance from the ‘français,’ in which Shakespeare had, to that date been performed in Quebec. In addition, by translating Shakespeare into Québécois in 1978, Garneau affirmed that Quebec had a language and culture of its own that was worthy of even le grand Will. Unlike Gurik, Germain and Rodard, he did not dethrone Shakespeare by explicitly rewriting his plays. Rather, he chose to enthrone Québécois by making it the voice of Shakespeare through ironical inversion. Since, however, language is inseparably tied to culture, the implicit meaning is a Shakespeare—and a Macbeth—who become Québécois. By this inversion Garneau signalled its distance from what Shakespeare in Western culture, which had been institutionalized in the Stratford Festival, had become by using a language that was not associated with high culture. Garneau’s translation, which he appropriately dubbed tradaptation, constantly struggles not only with Shakespeare, but also with other translations of Shakespeare’s plays. All of these Shakespeares found their ways into productions by alternative groups in fringe spaces. They resisted the Shakespeare of the officially subsidized, institutional theatres, the Western Shakespeare of the grand répertoire whose association with a colonial European tradition was experienced as compelling and coercive.

30Within the theatrical institution in Quebec which changed enormously between the 1970s and 1980s, the Shakespearean presence can be considered as consolidated. The two largest and oldest theatre-houses in Montreal, the Théâtre du Rideau Vert and the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde produced quite a few Shakespeare plays, among them Hamlet (1990, 1999), King Lear (1992), The Merchant of Venice (1993), Twelfth Night (1993), The Taming of the Shrew (1995), The Tempest (1997), and Romeo and Juliet (1999). These ‘classical’ productions form the backdrop to all other fringe productions already mentioned above and many more, which to discuss more thoroughly would exceed the space available here.

  • 11 Cf. Peter AYERS, “Learning to Curse in Accurate Iambics: Shakespeare in Newfoundland,” in Diana BRY (...)

31When talking of Shakespeare in other places, meaning outside the holy shrine of the Stratford Festival, one cannot only think of Quebec but of all the other places in the various Canadian provinces which cultivate in one way or the other the Shakespeare heritage. One of these strongholds is, by contrast, Newfoundland with its insular, geographical isolation. In this isolated position separated from the rest of Canada, the island remained culturally attached to Britain long after the other provinces had developed their own distinctive models. Politically, Newfoundland ostentatiously enjoyed a prolonged colonial status by rejecting representative government in 1933 in favour of direct rule from London. The Commission of Government which acted under Westminster held power until the confederation with Canada in 1949.11 Shakespearean productions in Newfoundland go back to 1841 when, reportedly and for some implausible reason, Richard III was performed with a young girl, Jean Davenport, in the lead role. Her tour around the island effectively opened the door not only for women on the stage, but also for a broad interest in Shakespeare’s plays and in cross-dressing, which was to last for the subsequent century. Many theatre companies from the neighbouring USA, but also from England considered the capital of St. John’s and other places as an appropriate entry and training camp before going westward. It was a golden age for amateur theatres, but it took some sixty years before another note-worthy Shakespearean production on the island. At the beginning of the 20th century, the canon of Shakespeare plays was quite traditional—with The Merchant of Venice, Twelfth Night, Antony and Cleopatra, Henry VIII, Macbeth, JuliusCaesar, Hamlet, and Romeo and Juliet, which were performed by migrant companies such as the Lyceum Players or the Glossop-Harris Company. Shakespeare’s plays did not fill the repertoire, which still preferred the contemporary and the popular. The institutionalizing of Shakespeare in the late 19th century as the touchstone of both imperial and domestic values did not, in short, translate into a flood of Newfoundland productions.

32Also, the range of the companies’ offerings was limited by economic considerations. Only the London Theatre Company, which appeared in the 1950s, left a lasting impression and was able to earn some income, which enabled it to come back on a regular basis. It succeeded in making a profound impact on a large part of the population in a variety of ways. For many, it was the first exposure to first-rate professional theatre, so that the Company remained fondly remembered for a long time. This official and institutionalized theatre was complemented by an alternative theatre, but in contrast to the other provinces Shakespeare could not win a place in the fringe of Newfoundland because his status as an instrument of cultural and ideological domination embodied for the young radicals all that was wrong with the old theatre. Traditions were to be dismantled by the new.

33It is important to know at this point that the alternative theatre that emerged in Newfoundland was the first professional theatre in the province since the disbanding of the London Theatre Company. It was, however, unable to pay its own way and increasingly relied on the Canadian Council and other government agencies for funding. New theatre groups were founded but always only for a short time so that no continuity could be established.

34Eventually the annus mirabilis of 1982 set in with big success of the Resource Centre for the Arts which staged a Newfoundland Tempest. This production attracted an enormous amount of public attention and, in certain respects, expanded the possibilities of Shakespeare in Newfoundland. The intent was, as shown in Shakespeare’s last play, to use Newfoundland as the site where Old World meets New: the play’s director Stephen Bush insinuated that Shakespeare might well have known of John Guy’s settlement at Cupids in 1610 as he learned about the Bermuda disaster and that he was equally excited by the dramatic possibilities it opened up. The production was steeped in Newfoundland culture with local accents being used and music played in the vein of the country.

35In 1984, some actors felt the obligation to organize a professional group of people to form a frame for the performance of Shakespeare plays. The outcome was the Newfoundland Shakespeare Company, which did a series of productions over five years. Another group with the name of Rising Tide followed suit and mounted productions of AMidsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet in 1986 and 1987. This decade seemed to become a golden age for Shakespearean productions, with at least three every year, all quite different, to gratify every taste, but in reality these attempts turned out rather to be failures, both artistically and financially. Under the direction of Michael Wade, the Company still produced performances of Hamlet, Richard III, King Lear, Timon of Athens, Macbeth, and The Winter’s Tale, which appeared in succession, but the public responses were poor and unenthusiastic. There were more attempts to popularize and to institutionalize Shakespeare, but to only little avail in Newfoundland.

36Given the extraordinarily unstable history of Shakespearean productions in Newfoundland, one could only say that the province lacks a developed culture industry, which would be suitable to establishing a new tradition. Only in the last two decades can one witness some fervent attempts by amateurs like student groups or talented enthusiasts who would cling to the Shakespearean canon and mount some productions with a relative success.

Adapting Shakespeare

37Talking about adaptations of Shakespeare, especially in Canada, means, according to Mark Fortier, talking about a difficult relationship between the cultural past and present. It also means having in mind some presuppositions

  • 12 Mark FORTIER, “Adapting Shakespeare (in Canada),” in Diana BRYDON and Irene R. MAKARYK (Eds.), op.  (...)

that Shakespeare and the culture of the past are definable, limitable, and graspable; that it is possible and advisable to work in the present and momentary independent of the past; and that the appropriate relation in the present to works of the past such as Shakespeare’s is confrontation and hostility.12

38These relationships are based on oppositions and on textual manipulations in order to assimilate Shakespeare to the present by making him intelligible and comprehensible for the present viewer and reader. But Mark Fortier is also aware of the fact that in Shakespeare as in all other cultural and intellectual entities there is something unknowable and mysterious which necessarily escapes us.

  • 13 Heinz ANTOR, “The Empire Writes back: Canadian Postcolonial Responses to Shakespeare,” in Michael H (...)

39As we have endeavoured to show there is a wide-ranging and long history of Shakespeare in Canada. Moreover, as Heinz Antor convincingly demonstrates, the adaptations do not only apply to the realm of drama, but also to fiction where we can identify a great number of renderings of Shakespearean themes. One area of fictional revival is certainly given by the colonial subject of The Tempest.13In the period of decolonization after the Second World War this play was used to conceptualize the relationship between colonizer and colonized. The central figures of this argument are Prospero and Caliban, the first being the colonizer who exploits the natural resources of the island in order to form a new society according to his own will, and the latter complaining about the loss of his natural habitat and about the shelter being offered by the colonizer. Caliban articulates this conflict in his famous outcry against Prospero:

  • 14 William SHAKESPEARE, The Tempest, The Arden Edition, ed. Frank KERMODE, London: Routledge, 1992, I, (...)

Caliban: This island’s mine, by Sycorax my mother,
Which thou tak’st from me. When thou cam’st first,
Thou strok’st me, and made much of me; would’st give me
Water with berries in’t; and teach me how
To name the bigger light, and how the less,
That burn by day and night; and I lov’d thee,
And show’d thee all the qualities o’ th’ isle,
The fresh springs, brine-pits, barren place and fertile:
Curs’d be I that did so!14

40Caliban is here considered to be the deprived creature of nature who gave away his paradise and who is now abandoned by his colonizer. This conflict is at the centre of many a fictional tale in postwar Canada because this country confirmed its own identity by liberating itself from its mother-country and by building its own nation in the international community, while remaining strongly dependent on European traditions. The long list of novels on this subject could be opened by George Lamming’s The Pleasures of Exile (1960) in which the colonial past is overcome by the freedom of self-determination. Caliban is portrayed as the proponent of a new future for the island because Lamming reverses the relationship between centre and margin as implied in Eurocentric colonialist readings of the play. He provides a dissident and remedial interpretation of Shakespeare by giving the slave the most powerful voice which he uses to speak out against the discourse that has excluded him so far from a civil society.

  • 15 Heinz ANTOR, op. cit., 22.

41Another novel is by Sir Charles G. D. Roberts, a Canadian poet and writer from New Brunswick and honoured member of the Royal Society of Canada. He published his novel The Heart of the Ancient Wood back in the year 1900, displaying very obvious parallels with The Tempest in order to comment on Canada’s future. Antor rightfully underscores that the colonialism of the book is that of human civilization with regard to nature, not, however, a political one so that Canada’s relation with England is not seriously discussed in the book.15

42Another author, who had gained a reputation as playwright, essayist and novelist, Robertson Davies, problematized the colonial issue in Tempest-Tost in 1951. The title obviously alludes to Shakespeare’s play with a quotation from Macbeth (I, 3, 24f) and refers to the history of the Little Theatre, an amateur theatre group in the fictitious small Canadian town of Salterton, which gives the name to this trilogy of novels. Shakespeare is considered to be a representative of high culture who brings glamour to this Canadian provincial nest. The same pattern of decolonization with all its difficulties of establishing a bridge or even mutual understanding between the colonizers and the colonized, can be found in Margaret Laurence’s novel This Side Jordan (1963). In this book she describes, on the basis of her African experiences, the encounter of an English tradesman with an African schoolmaster in the Golden Coast in order to deconstruct the rule of colonial exploitation and the discourse of racism. This pattern comes up again in Margaret Laurence’s last novel The Diviners (1974) where she deals with her own home country and gives a postcolonial answer to imperialist processes in Canada. Her specific postcolonial position is that there cannot be a reconciliation between the Old World and the New because the young generation has learned to discover new cultural paradigms through their own art and concepts of life.

43More fictional responses could be given here, for example Andrey Thomas’s novella Prospero on the Island (1971) or Carole Corbeil’s In the Wings (1997), a novel about a group of actors staging Hamlet in contemporary Toronto. A last example would be Cloning Miranda, the 1999 novel by Winnipeg writer Carol Matas, who sympathizes with the children against their parents or with the colonized against their colonizers. These fictitious renderings of Shakespearean topics only illustrate the richness of cultural adaptations which Canadian writers created in the past. They are all concerned with Canada’s cultural independence and with the postcolonial criticism of imperialist exploitation at various levels both in Canada and elsewhere. Furthermore, it is worth noting the impact Shakespeare’s plays have had on Canadian literary productions in terms of dramatic adaptations. In early 1987 an interesting adaptation of Shakespeare’s Pericles opened in Toronto with the title of Pericles, Prince of Tyre, by William Shakespeare, written by René-Daniel Dubois. It was the first play in the English language which displayed a puzzling juxtaposition of a Canadian setting in Toronto with a dreamland where its people are possessed and overcome by forces they did not know existed. Another adaptation, also with an eccentric appeal, was presented by Michael O’Brien’s Mad Boy Chronicle, an adaptation of Hamlet, which was first performed at the Alberta Theatre Projects playRITES Festival in Calgary in 1995. This play owes much to the tradition of the absurd as it came down to us from Alfred Jarry and to the alienation effects as they were propounded by Bertolt Brecht. Mad Boy Chronicle revives the Hamlet character, who finds Christian mercy and turns away from revenge. It draws a complex complicity in the change from one age to another wherein Christianity becomes the bureaucratic reason in service of irrational desire on the one hand, and a spirit of forgiveness driven to righteous yet impractical vengeance on the other. The author engages in the play of catastrophic loss versus recovery and resurrection into an uncertain future.

44The politics of adaptation always waver between confrontation or collaboration with Shakespeare, the unforgettable cultural icon and paradigm. Two feminist Canadian adaptations play with the ambiguities of this universal subject and its social implications. The first is Anne-Marie Macdonald’s Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), which was first produced in the Annex Theatre in Toronto in 1988. The play juxtaposes two Shakespearean domestic tragedies Othello and Romeo and Juliet, which are seen from a contemporary perspective through the eyes of a young Canadian academic, Constance Ledbelly, who pursues the quirky idea that behind Shakespeare’s plays lies the ‘Gustav manuscript,’ which contains earlier versions of both stories. These, according to her opinion, are truer to the strength of the feminine character and are versions that Shakespeare distorted. Constance finds herself magically transported into the two Shakespearean scenarios, where she realizes that she, partaking of a feminine archetypical power, is the author of the Gustav manuscript. She is of course infused with the psychoanalytical philosophy of Carl Gustav Jung, Sigmund Freud’s disciple, who introduced the doctrine of the archetypes that organize and influence human behaviour. From her feminist perspective, she muses about the failure of the male protagonists Othello and Romeo in the two plays:

  • 16 Anne-Marie MACDONALD, Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), Toronto: Coach House Press, 1990, (...)

Constance: [...] In both plays, the tragic characters, particularly Romeo and Othello, have abundant opportunity to save themselves. The fact that they do not save themselves, tends to characterize them more as the unwitting victims of a disastrous practical joke—rather than the heroic instruments of an inexorable Fate. Insofar as these plays may be said to be fatalistic at all, any grains of authentic tragedy must be seen to reside in the heroines, Desdemona and Juliet.16

45In the run of the plot it turns out that the three female heroes (Constance, Desdemona, and Juliet) are not three individuals, but different aspects of one larger female psyche, of an older, hidden identity. Genre itself is a hidden categorization, and Othello and Romeo and Juliet are really comedies. Moreover, if Shakespeare is a kind of hidden villain in the play, distorting and covering over, for his own sinister, masculinist purposes, the way things really are, his works nonetheless serve as a conduit to a more sympathetic reality of which they are the corrupted image. So the whole play does not lack a Utopian vision despite all its satirical stance. As universal archetypes, the old truths that pervade the whole plot and emanate from Constance in the present including the audience viewing and listening. The play, as in Pericles, looks past and within Shakespeare to a romantic resurrection of much older and eternal forces—forces that, consequently, are and are not Canadian. At the end of the play, most sublimely, appears a ghost that evades Constance’s questions about his identity: “Who are you?” (73). We can see only a white, featureless skull, a hole in the flag of identity. It seems to be an echo of the two bodies which are dead from the very beginning in Hamlet: Hamlet’s father and Yorick, his fool. But it seems to be many others as well, including Shakespeare and Jung. The closest it comes to identifying itself is to say ‘You are it:’ the ghost is Constance, the archetypical everywoman of the play, or the audience, or Canadian citizens, or everyone. Thus the adaptation turns out to be a modern morality play with universal characters.

46These are only some examples of the many adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays which have been produced in the last two decades or so in Canada. Some more noteworthy plays are Judith Thompson’s Lion in the Streets (1992), a feminist adaptation of Hamlet with an emphasis on the representation of Ophelia. Ric Knowles argues that the interest in the character of Ophelia as a victim invokes an exploration of the image of the woman as a colonized being against a romanticized version of Ophelia that is implicitly or explicitly associated with 19th-century Romantic or pre-Raphaelite images. He summarizes as follows:

  • 17 Ric KNOWLES, op. cit., 2004 (b), 119.

It is this pervasive and naturalized image, and the culturally reproductive construction of gender that it hegemonically effects and reinforces, with which contemporary Canadian Ophelias must continue to negotiate.17

  • 18 Ibid., 129.

47So, Thompson’s play not only evokes Ophelia as a victimized female character, but also the equation of the victim with the colonial past and the postcolonial present. She is not alone in preaching the high culture, colonialist comforts of submission to romantic and dehistorized imagery from Shakespeare, and from Ophelia in particular. One can recall also Robert Lepage’s one-man Hamlet, Elsinore (1997), in which the re-emergence of the actor as Hamlet contains the representation within a closed narrative, a closed semiotic system, and single male body. Ophelia is described as committing suicide in a stunningly beautiful representation. In all these adaptations, as for example in Margaret Clarke’s Gertrude and Ophelia (1993), the opposition of reality and fiction is thematized as a specific Canadian problem of representation. Ophelia as a symbolic victim of male oppression is characterized by “her lack of access to or power over (patriarchal) language, and the onset of her madness is marked by what is seen to be a repression into the pre-symbolic.”18

48A very special case to be considered is Djanet Sears’s Harlem Duet (1997), another adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello from the perspective of a Black Woman. As a convincing and successful example of black theatre in Canada, this play, which won four Dora Mavor Moore awards at its premiere in the Tarragon Extra Space in Toronto in April 1997 for best play, best production, best director and best female performance, is a prelude to Shakespeare’s Othello set in contemporary Harlem against a historical backdrop taking us to the 19th-century. Albert-Reiner Glaap, in his pertinent analysis of the play, quotes the author as saying:

  • 19 Cf. Albert-Reiner GLAAP, “Djanet Sears (Janet Sears),” in D. KASTOVSKY, G. KALTHENBÖCK and S. REICH (...)

Othello had haunted me since I first was introduced to him. Othello is the
first African portrayed in the annals of Western dramatic literature. In an effort to exorcize this ghost, I have written Harlem Duet, a rhapsodic blues tragedy.19

49Unlike the other plays under consideration Harlem Duet is less an adaptation of Othello than a prequel at several temporal removes from its source. It tells the story, set in 1860, 1928, and the present, of Billie, Othello’s first Black wife, before he met Desdemona. She is described in her mental development until she deteriorates in present-day Harlem in the wake of Othello’s betrayal of her dream for a better future, his packing and his preparation for his wedding to ‘Mona’, and his plans to head his Columbia University department’s courses in Cypress. The play is not concerned with Canada or Canadian cultural nationalism as such, although it does take pains, in spite of its setting in Harlem, to insist on the Black history of Canada. Harlem Duet is permeated by stories of Black men in relationships with White women—the central fact of Shakespeare’s Othello that seems to have been ignored as an issue in itself in almost all previous adaptations of the play. Although there are some Shakespearean echoes in the play, it can be received as a free and playful rendering of its classical pre-text.

Some Conclusions

50Adapting Shakespeare in Canada or elsewhere is always a great challenge because of his world-literature status, but it surely is also a romantic activity, no matter what specific generic conventions are at work in any particular production. Mark Fortier concludes his survey with the following remark:

  • 20 Mark FORTIER, op. cit., 352.

Adaptation is a process of savaging and salvaging the undead who reside in the present—although, to call adaptations romance is to try to represent an unrespectable complexity.20

51To look at Shakespeare in a Canadian setting is an attempt at a very complex relationship because the overlays and the juxtapositions are manifold. Every transformation in this context is also a translation—not verbally but culturally—from one language to another, from one historical and social background to another. It is a translation not so much within a ‘mother tongue’, but within a postcolonial, settler-colony culture. For in a real sense all the topics which are provided by Shakespeare’s plays involve producing and transforming both ‘Shakespeare’ and ‘Canada’ through acts of translation between cultures and across centuries. Ric Knowles rightly concludes:

  • 21 Ric KNOWLES, op. cit., 2004 (b), 165.

Within settler-invader cultures such as Canada, this type of ‘translation’ can emerge from deep-seated anxieties about the preservation of the mother tongue and the culture of the motherland (including its cultural icons such as Shakespeare), fixing meanings and values over space and time in a combination of postcolonial mimicry and museum-like acts of preservation, display, and homage.21

52Of course, such a richness of transformations as we can witness in Canada takes many shapes in actual theatre productions, in adaptations and in personal statements. Therefore it is such a rewarding enterprise to consider these shapes with an open mind.

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AHRENS Rüdiger, “Shakespeare in Southeast Asia,” in Rüdiger AHRENS, William Shakespeare: Zeit, Werk und Wirkung, Heidelberg: Winter, 2004, 157-170.

ANTOR Heinz, “The Empire Writes back: Canadian Postcolonial Responses to Shakespeare,” in Michael HEINZE and Elke MÜLLER-SCHNECK (Eds.), Canadian Literary and Didactic Mosaic. Essays in Honour of Albert-Reiner Glaap on the Occasion of his 75th Birthday, Trier: WVT, 2004, 17-34.

AYERS Peter, “Learning to Curse in Accurate Iambics: Shakespeare in Newfoundland,” in Diana BRYDON and Irene R. MAKARYK (Eds.), Shakespeare in Canada: ‘a world elsewhere’?, Toronto: University of Toronto

Press, 2002, 192-211.

BLOOM Harold, Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, New York: Riverhead, 1998.

FORTIER Mark, “Adapting Shakespeare (in Canada),” in Diana BRYDON and Irene R. MAKARYK (Eds.), Shakespeare in Canada: ‘a world elsewhere’?, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002, 339-352.

GASS Ken, Claudius, Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press, 1997.

GLAAP Albert-Reiner, “Djanet Sears (Janet Sears),” in D. KASTOVSKY, G.

KALTHENBÖCK, S. REICHL (Eds.), Anglistentag 2001 Wien: Proceedings, Trier: WVT, 2002, 95-96.

GROOME Margaret, “Stratford and the Aspirations for a Canadian National Theatre,” in Diana BRYDON and Irene R. MAKARYK (Eds.), Shakespeare in Canada: ‘a world elsewhere’?, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002, 108-136.

KNOWLES Ric, “Drama,” in Eva-Marie KRÖLLER (Ed.), Canadian Literature, The Cambridge Companion, Cambridge: UP, 2004 (a), 115-134.

KNOWLES Ric, Shakespeare and Canada: Essays on Production, Translation, and Adaptation, Brussels: Lang, 2004 (b).

LIEBLEIN Leonore, “ ‘Le Re-making’ of the grand Will: Shakespeare in Francophone Quebec,” in Diana BRYDON and Irene R. MAKARYK (Eds.), Shakespeare in Canada: ‘a world elsewhere’?, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002, 174-191.

MACDONALD Anne-Marie, Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), Toronto: Coach House Press, 1990.

NEW William H. (Ed.), Literary History of Canadian Literature in English, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990.

SHAKESPEARE William, The Tempest, The Arden Edition, ed. Frank Kermode, London: Routledge, 1992.

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1 Ric KNOWLES, “Drama,” in Eva-Marie KRÖLLER (Ed.), Canadian Literature, The Cambridge Companion, Cambridge: UP, 2004 (a), 115.

2 For further details cf. William H. NEW (Ed.), Literary History of Canadian Literature in English, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990.

3 Ric KNOWLES, Shakespeare and Canada: Essays on Production, Translation, andAdaptation, Brussels: Lang, 2004 (b), 12.

4 Ibid., 13.

5 Cf. Margaret GROOME, “Stratford and the Aspirations for a Canadian National Theatre”, in Diana BRYDON and Irene R. MAKARYK (Eds.), Shakespeare in Canada: ‘a world elsewhere’?, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002, 108-136.

6 Ric KNOWLES, op. cit., 2004 (b), 35.

7 Cf. Harold BLOOM, Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, New York: Riverhead, 1998, XVIII. Rüdiger AHRENS, “Shakespeare in Southeast Asia”, in Rüdiger AHRENS, William Shakespeare: Zeit, Werk und Wirkung, Heidelberg: Winter, 2004, 157.

8 Ric KNOWLES, op. cit., 2004 (b), 80ff.

9 Cf. Leonore LIEBLEIN, “ ‘Le Re-making’ of the grand Will: Shakespeare in Francophone Quebec”, in Diana BRYDON and Irene R. MAKARYK (Eds.), op. cit., 2002, 175.

10 Ken GASS, Claudius, Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press, 1997, 7. All further quotations are taken from this edition.

11 Cf. Peter AYERS, “Learning to Curse in Accurate Iambics: Shakespeare in Newfoundland,” in Diana BRYDON and Irene R. MAKARYK (Eds.), op. cit., 192-211.

12 Mark FORTIER, “Adapting Shakespeare (in Canada),” in Diana BRYDON and Irene R. MAKARYK (Eds.), op. cit., 2002, 340.

13 Heinz ANTOR, “The Empire Writes back: Canadian Postcolonial Responses to Shakespeare,” in Michael HEINZE and Elke MÜLLER-SCHNECK (Eds.), Canadian Literary and Didactic Mosaic. Essays in Honour of Albert-Reiner Glaap on the Occasion of his 75th Birthday, Trier: WVT, 2004, 18.

14 William SHAKESPEARE, The Tempest, The Arden Edition, ed. Frank KERMODE, London: Routledge, 1992, I, 2, 333-341.

15 Heinz ANTOR, op. cit., 22.

16 Anne-Marie MACDONALD, Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), Toronto: Coach House Press, 1990, 15.

17 Ric KNOWLES, op. cit., 2004 (b), 119.

18 Ibid., 129.

19 Cf. Albert-Reiner GLAAP, “Djanet Sears (Janet Sears),” in D. KASTOVSKY, G. KALTHENBÖCK and S. REICHL (Eds.), Anglistentag 2001 Wien: Proceedings, Trier: WVT, 2002, 94f.

20 Mark FORTIER, op. cit., 352.

21 Ric KNOWLES, op. cit., 2004 (b), 165.

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Rüdiger Ahrens, « Shakespeare revived in contemporary canadian drama »Revue LISA/LISA e-journal, Vol. III - n°2 | 2005, 42-63.

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Rüdiger Ahrens

(Würzburg, Germany)
Rüdiger Ahrens, OBE, Professor Em. of English Studies at the University of Würzburg, Germany; visiting professor at the universities of Cambridge (UK), Beijing, Tokyo, Nanchang, Vancouver, Toronto, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. He was awarded a honorary professorship by the University of Jiangxi (P.R. China) in 1994 and a honorary doctorate by the University of Caen (France) in 1996. From 1990 to 1994 he served as the Vice-President of the German Association of University Professors. He was a grantee of the Fulbright and Volkswagen Foundations and was elected a member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts (Vienna) in 1995. In 1999, he was distinguished by the German National Order of Merits and, in 2004, by the Order of the British Empire (OBE). In 2005 Rüdiger Ahrens was awarded the International Peace Prize by the American Biographical Institute. His more than 300 scholarly publications focus on the English Renaissance (William Shakespeare, Francis Bacon), literary theory and criticism, 18th century cultural history, modern (Canadian and English) drama, postcolonial studies, teaching of literature, etc.. He is the (co)editor of two periodicals (Anglistik, SymbolismAn International Annual of Critical Aesthetics) and of three academic book series.

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