The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0581 Tuesday, 2 March 2004
Date: Monday, 1 Mar 2004 12:49:07 -0500
Subject: A Thought for St. David's Day
Isn't it time to embrace the full implications of the likelihood that
the designation 'Welsh' carried, in an English context in the early
modern period, an unmistakable whiff of potential disorder? As a result,
the apparent opposition proposed in Henry IV and Henry V between Owen
Glendower (Owain Glyn Dwr) on the one hand and Fluellen (Llewellyn) on
the other, fails to deliver a genuine polarity. Instead, it raises an
issue inherent in all such dispositions and reinforced here by the crude
Anglicisation imposed on each name: does the role of the latter, the
dutiful disciplinarian, in effect constitute a wry reprise, in a more
complex, chilling key, of that of the former, the willful rebel? We
might equally ask whether Falstaff's barely palpable 'Welshness' is
deliberately echoed, replenished and intensified in Henry V's
unaccountably explicit declaration, 'I am Welsh, you know . . .'
(4.7.104). If it is, that raises a further and more fundamentally
disturbing question: does Hal, even when he becomes King, ever
completely reject what his erstwhile companion stands for? Presentists
will begin by observing that recent British history seems to confirm
disruption as fundamental to the role of Prince of Wales.
Unsurprisingly, both the current incumbent and his predecessor have
expressed considerable admiration for Shakespeare.
March 1st, 2004
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