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Canada through Shakespeare’s eyes

Rod Carley wants to reinvigorate Shakespeare’s work in the Canadian mind.

Rod Carley wants to reinvigorate Shakespeare’s work in the Canadian mind.

It’s all about making the text relevant to audiences in our time and place, says the 25-year theatre vet and professor of communication arts at Canadore College — and it’s the subject he’ll explore when his lecture, Adapting Shakespeare Within A Modern Canadian Context, airs Saturday on TVO as part of that network’s Ontario’s Best Lecturer competition featured on Big Ideas.

“There’s a real love of language in Shakespeare’s work,” says Carley. “Wit and puns are used to connect to an audience, and we can use contemporary settings to illuminate that language, adapting the political and societal norms of our time to the text.”

Several ideas of Carley’s revolve around putting plays within a Canadian historical context, such as The Tempest — one of the Bard’s later works about a banished sorcerer Prospero and indigenous being living on the remote island he controls — juxtaposed against the story of Samuel de Champlain and his forays into the New World. Another casts Rene Levesque’s Brutus to Pierre Trudeau’s Julius Caesar in Shakespeare’s historical drama of the same name.

“There are great challenges to understanding the themes of these plays. In a sense, it’s about putting a square peg into a round hole,” says Carley. “You have to make it accessible, to explore and connect. And if you’re not, you’re not doing your job.”

Moreover, Carley maintains there’s a vigour to Shakespeare’s prose and poetry that doesn’t exist in modern language; a creativity of expression that grows more distant with every LOL and OMG that any may crudely text or tweet.

Call it a case of words flying up and thoughts remaining below.

“There is that danger. It’s almost counter-revolutionary,” he said. “The simpler the language, the less we’re able to express complex thoughts and feelings. The less we express these feelings, the more they well up inside us. It’s a form of emotional violence in its way.”

 
 
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