Acting, Writing, and Teaching the Bard: Jessica B. Hill in Conversation

On January 25, 2024, actor, playwright, teacher, and McGill graduate, Jessica B. Hill was in conversation with Professor Paul Yachnin, Tomlinson Professor of Shakespeare Studies for the 2024 annual Shakespeare Lecture.

Their discussion addressed her preparations to play Viola in Stratford’s 2024 production of Twelfth Night, as well as her recent play, The Dark Lady, a love duet which spans the breadth of Shakespeare’s canon and reclaims Emilia Bassano’s story (the possible dark-skinned lady of the sonnets). Both a love letter to Shakespeare and a challenge to our conventional view of ‘the Bard’, the play is to be published this spring.

Shakespeare Lecture presented by the Friends of the Library and Stratford Festival

The Shakespeare Lecture was presented by the Friends of the McGill Library and Stratford Festival and generously supported by Donald Walcot. Watch it on YouTube.

Shakespeare Lecture 2024 view of room with audience in seats and Jessica B. Hill and Paul Yachnin seated at the front.Jessica B. Hill and Professor Paul Yachnin seated in conversation.Shakespeare Lecture 2024 view of room with audience in seats, person asking a question at microphone, and Jessica B. Hill and Paul Yachnin seated at the front.Close-up of Jessica B. Hill speaking into a microphone and smiling.Audience clapping at the Shakespeare Lecture.Four people in front of the Friends of the Library banner: L to r: Donald Walcot, Dean Guylaine Beaudry, Jessica B. Hill and Paul Yachnin.

McGill’s Shakespeare Collection

Close-up of rare book with "Twelf-Night" page open.Close-up of As You Like It.

The Shakespeare Lecture was established in 1992 by the Friends of the McGill Library to build community and awareness of the McGill Library’s substantial Shakespeare collection. Rare books librarian and subject area expert Ann Marie Holland provides an overview of the Collection:

Shakespeare has a long history with the McGill Library, being the most represented author in the Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections. This includes copies of the original folios to fine press illustrated editions of the sonnets, along with favourite tales by Shakespeare included in children’s books. 

The early editions of Shakespeare’s collected plays in Rare Books and Special Collections include a copy of the Second Folio edition from 1632, and two copies of the Fourth Folio, printed in 1685. From the 18th century, there are more than a dozen sets of the entire Works of Shakespeare, edited by literary greats such as Samuel Johnson. 

From the 20th century, one of McGill’s illustrated books of the play Twelfth Night is illustrated with coloured wood engravings in a limited edition by the famous Golden Cockerel Press in England.

In addition, there is quite a number of cheaply produced British and American Theatre Playscripts, intended for theatre-goers, not to mention the hundreds of 19th-century British Playbills, which advertise scheduled performances of Shakespeare’s drama.

Also of note, the Sir E. K. Chambers Shakespeare Collection, acquired in 1954, encompasses 400 printed studies on Shakespeare, his plays and the Elizabethan theatre. Over the years, the Library has been fortunate to receive numerous generous gifts to strengthen the Shakespeare collection and make it world-renowned.

Thanks to the Joan and Clifford Hatch Family Foundation, a generous endowment fund has been created to support McGill Libraries’ acquisitions in Shakespeare Studies.

This year, in collaboration with McGill Collection Services, we are adding legacy Shakespeare titles to the online catalogue. We invite you to come explore the collections for yourself!

Hill’s post-lecture visit to Rare Books and Special Collections

Staff at McGill’s Rare Books and Special Collections were delighted to welcome Jessica for a visit and up-close look at our Shakespeare volumes.

Jessica B. Hill exploring McGill’s Shakespeare Collection in Rare Books and Special Collections. Credit: Merika Ramundo.

Learn more about Jessica B. Hill

  • Read a review of the Shakespeare Lecture in the McGill Tribune: “Catching up with Shakespeare.”
  • Read a conversation with Jessica B. Hill in the McGill Reporter and hear her answers to questions like “Is there anything about Shakespeare that you think people should know before they read or see his work for the first time?,” and more.

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