Canadian Shakespeare News

The Davin Report: Shakespeare and Canada’s Manifest Destiny

The Davin Report:  Shakespeare and Canada’s Manifest Destiny sets out to overturn the settled and pristine landscapes managed and organized around Canadian nationalism by revisiting the history of Nicholas Flood Davin (1843-1901) and his literary, social, and political life that used “noble inspirations,” such as Shakespeare, to settle territories.

Sorouja Moll’s research investigates Davin’s theatrical adaptation of Romeo and Juliet called The Fair Grit along with his other poetic, journalistic, and political writing and questions the interconnectedness of literature and politics and its cultural, social, and gendered manifestations in Canada.  Davin, who is named the architect of the residential school system by Amnesty International, was commissioned by the John A. Macdonald’s government to study the industrial school system in the United States; subsequently, on March 14, 1879, Davin submitted The Report on Industrial Schools for Indians and Half-Breeds(also known as The Davin Report), which recommended the establishment of the residential school system in Canada.

Davin, in his writings comprising Eos – A Prairie Dream, The Fair Grit, The Davin Report, and his work as The Regina Leader editor and writer, fortified and drew upon Shakespeare and its associative nostalgic, elitist, and empire-building ideologies, like Manifest Destiny, in the name of progress, civilization, and capitalism.  Davin’s role in the violence of nineteenth-century territorial expansionism influenced, and continues to inform, governmental policies and social constructions that contribute to the present day complexities for Native communities in Canada.

Moll’s paper examines how Shakespeare is used as a tool to see the world, a literary device that has the potential to destroy and also heal. Playwrightdirector Yvette Nolan, artistic director of the theatre company Native Earth Performing Arts Inc. (NEPA) in Toronto, Canada, questions, as one method of healing, the complexities of leadership and community.  Nolan adapts Shakespeare to scrutinize stories and to address histories that resides below the surface, and while fiercely political, Nolan strives to (re)empower the lives and voices of Canada’s indigenous peoples.

The Canadian Adaptation of Shakespeare Project (CASP) continues to present the ways that Shakespeare has been used, interpreted, and redeveloped as part of a vast array of theatrical activities associated with Aboriginal communities across the country. For further reading and resources on similar issues, please visit the CASP Spotlight on Canadian Aboriginal Adaptations of Shakespeare.