The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0601 Thursday, 31 March 2005
From: John Webb <
Date: Thursday, 31 Mar 2005 12:55:06 +0100
Subject: Shakespeare's Welsh Inspiration?
Every fortnight one of the staff at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust's
Records Office writes a popular article for publication in the Stratford
Herald. This is a brief summary of the article published on 31st March 2005:
Shakespeare's Welsh Inspiration?
A book recently acquired by the Shakespeare Centre Library is "The
Historie of Cambria, Now Called Wales", printed in 1584.
Shakespeare must have known of the publications of bookseller Ralph
Newbery of Fleet Street who worked with the printer George Bishop. A few
years before, Bishop had printed Holinshed's "Chronicles of England"
where he used woodcut stylized portraits of the early monarchs that were
used again for "The Historie of Cambria". An expanded edition of
Holinshed's work was published by Newbery, Bishop and others in 1587.
One can speculate that the young poet, browsing in Newbery's shop, had
turned to the first page of Cambria and read of Cadwalader, and later
remembered the tale when he wrote of the argument between Pistol and
Fluellen in Henry V, "Not for Cadwallader and all his goats".
The book has a section about Owen Glendower, who features in Henry IV
Part One, and it could be that this is where Shakespeare found the name
for his later character, Iago.
"The Historie of Cambria" was based on a manuscript English translation
of the medieval Welsh chronicles of Caradoc of Llancarfan, and others.
The book carried the story of Wales into the Tudor period. There are
sections on Henry of Monmouth, who became Henry V, and Mary Tudor who
was Princess of Wales for 12 years before the birth of Jane Seymour's
Among the Presidents of the Welsh Marches, whose history is found here,
are Rowland Lee, Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, who ruled the
principality when English Law was first imposed there by Henry VIII in
1534, and John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, who was appointed by Edward VI.
The article is the Stratford Herald is also accompanied by several
illustrations, including the title page, and the first page, which
carries the woodcut portrait of Cadwalader.
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