Date

2015

Department or Program

Medieval and Renaissance Studies

Additional Department or Program (if any)

Medieval and Renaissance Studies

Title of Approved Individual Major

Medieval-Renaissance Studies

Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

Sarah Wall-Randell

Abstract

With famous lines like “On, on, you noblest English!,” and “This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,” Shakespeare’s plays—especially the histories— are famous for their role in creating and glorifying English national identity. But equally important to an understanding of Shakespeare’s canon are minority British identities, and of these the most prevalent and most overlooked are the Welsh. This thesis focuses on Shakespeare’s Welsh characters, their roles and presentations, and chooses to examine the often paradoxical portrayals of such Welsh characters. In focusing on Sir Hugh Evans from The Merry Wives of Windsor, Fluellen from Henry V, Owen Glendower and Lady Mortimer from Henry IV Part One, and the landscape of Wales depicted in Cymbeline, I argue that there is a powerful duality of the foreign and familiar, absurdity and respectability, embedded in Shakespeare’s Welshmen which is in keeping with the theory of beneficial and productive “nonsense” put forward by Stephen Booth— and which becomes apparent, and deeply significant, in performance.

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