Shakespeare’s publics

Dr.Yachnin speaks about how Shakespeare made modern life public

by Alison Henstridge

Dr. Paul Yachnin, team leader of the McGill University Shakespeare and Performance Research Team, spoke about public and private life through Shakespeare’s Hamlet at the Humanities and Public Life Conference on Wednesday, March 24 in 5B.16.

Dr. Yachnin began by telling the audience about his past as a teenager and why he chose to study Shakespeare.

“As a younger person I dropped out of high school and after working for a year, which was not a pleasure, I came back to Dawson College [for night school],” said Dr. Yachnin.

Dr. Yachnin then described what the “making publics project” was and how they came to understand the Renaissance.

“The basic idea is that works of art and intellect changed the shape of early modern society, opening up new spaces for public expression and action by ordinary people who normally would have been excluded from public spaces,” said Dr. Yachin. “It led to the political culture of modernity where each of us has a right.”

Throughout the discussion, Dr. Yachnin described how Shakespeare has influenced the modern world and differentiated the publics versus the public. He then went on to play a tape where inmates in a acted out Hamlet and the prisoners were able to use their past actions to tell their story through Hamlet.

He also said that during Shakespeare’s time, the private life was held at home as well as on the stage in public. In some of his plays, his characters turn and face the audience, while alone on stage they are in fact standing in front of hundreds of people, saying that there is no real private and public life.

Dr. Yachnin is the founding member of the McGill Shakespeare Moot Court and is a Shakespeare Studies professor. Among these accomplishments, Dr. Yachnin has also published widely on subjects related to Shakespeare and early modern pub

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