Less than a year after officially shuttering its Canadian trade division, Oxford University Press has released a new series of Shakespeare’s plays with crossover appeal and a distinctly Canadian twist. The Shakespeare Made in Canada series edited by Daniel Fischlin comprises Shakespeare plays paired with introductions by Canadian scholars. Each text also includes a preface by an artist who has been involved with the adaptation of a Shakespearean work in Canada, as well as explanatory notes and reading tips. The first titles in the series are Romeo and Juliet and The Tempest, and Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream are already in the works.
In accordance with OUP Canada’s new “curriculum-based” focus, the series is designed to serve as a teaching text for Canadian undergraduate students, though acquiring editor Jennie Rubio says she expects it to received interest from theatregoers and other non-academic consumers.
The series’ genesis was aided by the Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project at the University of Guelph, a research venture focusing on how Canadians have historically read and reproduced works by the Bard. The project team, led by general editor of the Shakespeare Made in Canada series, Daniel Fischlin, selected the titles for publication from their archives.
“They’ve done a ton of research on how we’ve adapted Shakespeare from the 1760s … adaptations by new settlers, Aboriginals, and French-English ones,” Rubio says. “There are just a lot of interesting things and insights that have come from Canadian productions and this incredible diversity in how Canadians have made these adaptations over time.”
A further Canadian link is showcased on the cover of each title in the series, which depicts what is believed to be the only sitting portrait of Shakespeare painted during his lifetime. The painting, known as the Sanders portrait of Shakespeare, belongs to a Canadian family that emigrated from England in the 19th century. A conference discussing the portrait, to be held at the University of Toronto on Nov. 28, coincides with the series’ release.
“It’s a weird Canadian connection,” says Rubio. “Shakespeare’s work is almost as Canadian as it is British by now, because we’ve done so much adaptation.”
OUP plans to see how well the series succeeds before deciding to move forward with additional titles, though Rubio says Othello may be next in line and has a personal preference for As You Like It.