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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: January ::
Re: Welsh in Henry IV
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0138  Tuesday, 23 January 2001

[1]     From:   Jack Heller <
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        Date:   Sunday, 21 Jan 2001 12:42:01 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0124 Welsh in Henry IV

[2]     From:   Ann Carrigan <
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        Date:   Sunday, 21 Jan 2001 13:16:50 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0124 Welsh in Henry IV

[3]     From:   Hugh Grady <
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        Date:   Sunday, 21 Jan 2001 19:49:52 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 12.0124 Welsh in Henry IV

[4]     From:   Nicole Imbracsio <
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        Date:   Monday, 22 Jan 2001 00:13:58 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0124 Welsh in Henry IV


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jack Heller <
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Date:           Sunday, 21 Jan 2001 12:42:01 -0500
Subject: 12.0124 Welsh in Henry IV
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0124 Welsh in Henry IV

I don't have an answer for Dr. Hamlin on Welsh in 1 Henry IV; however, I
was one of about fifteen people who attended Saturday morning
Shakespeare session at the MLA, when Philip Schwyzer of Oxford presented
a good paper on Welsh in Henry V. I think he referenced other allusions
to the Welsh in the tetralogy, so he might be a person to contact.

Best wishes,
Jack Heller

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ann Carrigan <
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Date:           Sunday, 21 Jan 2001 13:16:50 EST
Subject: 12.0124 Welsh in Henry IV
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0124 Welsh in Henry IV

I read Hannibal Hamlin's post about the Welsh in 1H IV:

>This is a marvelous scene, but it always seems bizarre to me that there
>are so
>many speeches in a language that surely few if any in Shakespeare's
>audience would have understood.  One can approach them from the
>perspective of the magical and mysterious, I suppose, or the importance
>of language (connected to Hotspur's confessed lack of verbal ability,
>the many oaths, etc.), or perhaps the political matter of the
>relationship of England to the rest of Britain.

I think the use of language here is particularly striking. It hints at
the notion that both politics and love can transcend those linguistic
barriers, set against the main quarrel which is clearly among people who
do speak the same language. Yet the difficulties are not wiped away, and
Mortimer and Lady Mortimer have a tough road ahead of them. On the other
hand, Hotspur got an earful from his own lady! It's an interesting
contrast of husband-wife relationships which reminds me of
Beatrice-Benedick and Hero-Claudius.

Shakespeare, of course, used the language barrier between Katherine and
Henry V in a more comic-romantic vein. And Welsh nationality figures
again in the "Harry in the night" section of that play.

I have nothing scholarly to add, but will mention that I saw a rather
poignant scene in the Orlando-UCF Shaks Fest a few years back, where
Lady Mortimer prefaced her song with the painfully-pronounced words, "In
English," then sang a few gentle verses in her *husband's* native
language, with heavy accent, obviously struggling to be in his world. It
was against the text but I thought it was fantastically effective.

Among other things, that scene speaks of the hope and promise of new
alliances, which seem so important in that phase of the tetralogy.

Peace and joy,
Ann Carrigan

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Hugh Grady <
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Date:           Sunday, 21 Jan 2001 19:49:52 -0500
Subject: 12.0124 Welsh in Henry IV
Comment:        RE: SHK 12.0124 Welsh in Henry IV

For a quite illuminating discussion of "Welshness" in 1 "Henry IV" (and
elsewhere in the Prince Hal trilogy) see the article "Bryn Glas" by
frequent SHAKSPER contributor Terence Hawkes, in the Routledge critical
anthology "Post-Colonial Shakespeares" (1998) edited by Ania Loomba and
Martin Orkin.  One of the implications of the use of Welsh in 1H4, as I
believe Prof.  Hawkes himself has previously pointed out on this
list-serve, is that the Chamberlain's Men obviously employed some
Welsh-speaking players whose linguistic ability Shakespeare decided to
exploit, very possibly for the shock effect their "strange" language
would create among the play-goers.

Best,
Hugh Grady

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Nicole Imbracsio <
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Date:           Monday, 22 Jan 2001 00:13:58 -0700
Subject: 12.0124 Welsh in Henry IV
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0124 Welsh in Henry IV

I feel that Shakespeare's use of Welsh in HIV, pt. 1 is just furthering
his theme on the fragmentation of the British Empire. He uses various
forms of language (prose, blank verse, Welsh) with various locations
(Eastcheap, Court, Wales) in order to emphasize the different factions
of this emerging nation.  The whole of the play is about the unification
of a nation, the idea of a national identity, and Shakespeare seems to
be showing the obstacles-- and characteristics-- to that identity.

I think one also needs to ask "what does this do to an audience?" Hamlin
acknowledges that few members of Shakespeare's audience would understand
the Welsh used in the scenes... so why does Shakespeare do it? Beyond my
above supposition, I think he also does it for an audience response.
There's a bit of discomfort, insecurity, confusion, on his audience's
part. Why would he want to illicit that response?  Perhaps to signify
the current political occurrences (Mary, Queen of Scots conflict)?
Perhaps to show that nothing much has changed since the 1400s? That I
feel is a much more complex question!
 

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