- Shakespeare Made in Canada: Romeo and Juliet ed. by Daniel Fischlin, and: Shakespeare Made in Canada: The Tempest ed. by Daniel Fischlin
Shakespeare Made in Canada is a series of editions of Shakespeare's plays with a national focus. A testament to the University of Guelph's commitment to the dissemination of research on the arts in Canada, and in particular to the Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project run since 2004 by Guelph professor Daniel Fischlin, the series aims to celebrate "Canadians doing Shakespeare for over 150 years" (rear cover) and to provide teaching texts for Canadian undergraduate students. Romeo and Juliet and The Tempest, the first editions in the series, advance these commemorative and pedagogical aims imaginatively, though not always adhering to strict editorial practice.
In her introduction to Romeo and Juliet in this series, Jill L. Levenson argues that adaptations of Romeo and Juliet since the Restoration have often deconstructed the story that Shakespeare dramatized: "Its multiple levels, personal and public, admit frequent change, in particular change that consolidates multiplicity into one dimension or perhaps two" (18). In Canada, Levenson adds, a similar phenomenon is perceptible, for example, in Robert Lepage and Gordon McCall's Romeo & Juliette, an adaptation that "enacted the cultural split [between Anglophones and Francophones] in Canada. . . . The directors set it in 1989-90, when it could speak, literally, to issues of bilingualism and the status of Quebec" during a period of constitutional crisis that threatened to split the country (19).
Levenson's statements about Canadian adaptations of Romeo and Juliet supply fresh insight into the nation's ongoing culture conflicts. They echo faintly the conscious interventionism of successive Canadian governments, and the Massey Commission in particular, to promote, if not manufacture, Canadian culture—partly in response to fear of an American cultural invasion. The effort, realized through programs, subsidies, and grants established in the late 1960s—many of which still exist today—has made an indelible mark on the arts in Canada, influencing the ways in which Shakespeare is being interpreted and produced.
The Shakespeare Made in Canada series appears to engage dialectically with its national cultural history, upholding the ideal of promoting Canadian culture via Shakespeare while simultaneously challenging the Massey Commission's stringent definition of that culture. According to its "Statement on Editorial Principle and Works Cited," the series carries out its program, in part, by including Canadian voices and by privileging citations "from editions prepared by Canadian scholars," especially those by O.J. Stevenson, "whose exhaustive explanatory notes in his edition have been liberally cited in all editions of this series." [End Page 155]
The editions of Romeo and Juliet and The Tempest each includes a preface by a Canadian playwright involved with an adaptation of the play as well as an introduction by a leading Canadian scholar. In addition to a play-text complete with original new annotation for students, each edition contains a plethora of pedagogical aids that are sure to make this series popular among undergraduates in particular. However, in a series with such strong national and pedagogical emphases, it is surprising that the statement of aims is nowhere elaborated, in either edition, beyond a few remarks printed on the rear cover. Furthermore, the decision to include in the edition of Romeo and Juliet a preface by Dr. Sky Gilbert is provocative: in a recent blog entry entitled "Out is Not Easy: Especially for an Oxfordian!" Gilbert courts controversy by stating that the seventeenth Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere, wrote the plays attributed to Shakespeare. In his blog entry and as a participant in an anti-Stratfordian conference taking place in Toronto during 2013, Gilbert expressed indifference to the scholarly weight of evidence discussed fully in James Shapiro's Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? (Simon & Schuster, 2010...