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Volume 02, Number 2 (1977)

Canadian Historical Drama: Playwrights in Search of a Myth

  • Neil Carson
May 22, 2008


The search for distinctively Canadian myth is found in five Canadian history plays: Charles Mair's Tecumseh (1886), Robertson Davies's At My Heart's Core (1950), John Coulter's Riel (1962) and The Trial of Louis Riel (1967), and James Reaney's Sticks and Stones (1973). This myth is discovered both through reference to and use of Old World tradition as well as through resistance to American values. The heroes of these plays are not traditional national champions but defeated visionaries and defenders of lost causes. To the extent that it is possible to discern a "Canadian myth" in these plays, that myth might be described in part as a search, through their heroes, for a workable synthesis of authority and liberty, intellect and intuition, self-assertion and sacrifice.