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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: October ::
Re: Holinshed Anecdote
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1980  Saturday, 28 October 2000.

[1]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 25 Oct 2000 18:01:53 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1976 Re: Holinshed Anecdote

[2]     From:   William Sutton <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 25 Oct 2000 18:04:52 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1976 Re: Holinshed Anecdote


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Wednesday, 25 Oct 2000 18:01:53 -0700
Subject: 11.1976 Re: Holinshed Anecdote
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1976 Re: Holinshed Anecdote

Hi, Terry.

Thanks for your response.  I actually knew most of what you quoted,
though reminders are always useful, and what I didn't know I found
enlightening.

Of course, I could quibble with a few points: that lots of Welshmen were
brought to London in the late 15th century hardly means that there was a
considerable Welsh-speaking minority in London a hundred years later;
nor does an interest in the Welsh as bearers of Britishness indicate
that they were respected in actuality, just as lots of Americans in the
early 20th century liked to identify with natives, but not real ones,
and lots of Europeans have wanted to enjoy a bucolic life, but without
any actual proletarian shepherds.  That two Welsh-speaking actors worked
for Shakespeare is by no means proven, since no lines are actually given
in Welsh, nor do we have a record of anyone transcribing anything
actually being said in Welsh.

So much for questions of fact, though no doubt you'll now seize on some
trivia, and change the argument again, as you did to get onto this
tangential thread from the real issue of whether we are obliged to
discount ascribed atrocities.

> Under Elizabeth, what Williams calls the 'remote and distinguished past'
> of the Welsh effectively made available -at least in influential
> intellectual terms- some sort of underpinning for the new 'British'
> national identity.  Their very presence bore out claims for the ancient
> existence of that complete 'world' of independent Britishness, of which
> the Arthurian legends spoke.  Geoffrey of Monmouth's British History
> swiftly became semi-official doctrine.

The important word here seems to be 'remote'.  It would be perfectly
reasonable to believe that the Welsh themselves remained something of a
butt of humour, even while their history was being praised.  A similar
tendency with regard to native people is why an Ojibwe friend of mine
says that he hates _Dances with Wolves_.  In Canada, Newfie jokes remain
painfully common, despite the fact that a number of Newfoundlanders have
risen to high positions in government, business, entertainment and most
other fields.

> In other words, the Welsh and their language were -and are- part of what
> 'British' means.

I can hardly disagree with this, and might add that to my (alien) view
it's one of the more valuable elements of what British means.  I must
add, however, the rather obvious point that integrating a romanticized
view of 'the Welsh', and actually respecting Welsh people speaking their
own language are different matters entirely, with no necessary or
logical connection whatsoever.

> In that context, what on earth can you mean by 'isolated' and 'meaningless
> jabber'?

I mean that nobody on stage is speaking Welsh either than Glendower and
Lady Mortimer.  There is therefore only one Welsh-speaker who does not
speak English, and a number of English-speakers who do not speak Welsh.

As for 'meaningless jabber', I suggest that you review my earlier
posting.  Nothing in the existence of a linguistic minority in London
shows that the characters are actually speaking in Welsh, any more than
the existence of Huronophones amongst Canadian cinema goers means that
the characters in _Black Robe_ are actually speaking Huron.  (They
aren't; they're speaking Cree).

> Perhaps you'd do better to ponder the implications of the term 'insular'.

If you've never lived in an immigrant community, I would suggest that
you look it up yourself.  Being a member of one does not defend against
ethnic slurs.  Probably not in sixteenth-century London, and, much more
importantly, certainly not by necessity.  The question remains
undecidable, and shifting it to another discipline doesn't decide it.

Cheers,
Se

 

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