Shakespeare and Welsh

Hi everyone,

As a long-term SSi-er but hardly-ever forum user, I find myself with an odd question to ask…

In my job as a Shakespeare scholar, and I find myself writing about a scene in Henry IV, Part 1 in which Welsh is spoken. As I’m sure many of you know, Shakespeare didn’t script the Welsh himself - rather, the stage directions say things like 'Here the Lady speaks in Welsh.

I would very much like to know people’s reactions to one version of this scene, from the BBC’s Hollow Crown films of 2012. I just want to know what the Welsh in the clip suggests to you (difficult or straightforward / poetic or plain / or whatever you think). I’m interested in everyone’s responses, whatever you deem your level in Welsh to be. Or your interest in Shakespeare, for that matter.

The clip is here. It’s 4 minutes long.

[In case you want the context of the scene: Glendower (we’ll blame Shakespeare for the spelling) is part of a rebellion against Henry IV, as is his son-in-law Mortimer. They will soon leave for battle. His daughter, Lady Mortimer, does not speak English. The other characters here are Hotspur (who has been planning the rebellion with Glendower) and his wife (who here, and elsewhere in the play, has a lot to put up with)].

Anyway, I’d really like to know what you make of it. Thanks!


Given that no original Welsh script exists and that the dialogue therefore has to be structured around what the other characters are saying, I found it well-scripted - it was straightforward to understand (I’m Welsh second language), and didn’t use overly poetic/literary/archaic Welsh.

Ermmm - I studied some for English O and A level, I’ve written quiz questions on Shakespeare for TV and I come from Monmouth - birthplace of Henry V and home of the famous ‘Monmouth Cap’ (Henry V: Act 4 Scene 7) :wink:

This was discussed favourably at the time of broadcast. @Sionned provided links here in 2014 but they no longer seem to be “live”. Perhaps someone knows how to access the old forum’s archives?

For what it’s worth, I’m still impressed by the clip.

I thought it was very well done. I didn’t catch every word, but I’m sure if I listened again I would. The new Welsh dialogue seemed to fit beautifully. (Fairly fluent Welsh learner. Used to hate Shakespeare until I did a Level 3 OU course when suddenly I “got” it.)

Incidentally thats also how you spell Pendower. As in the Cornish beach and wierdly the council estate near to my family home where they filmed Byker Grove :grinning:

Thanks, Siaron, that’s exactly what I’m looking for. I think I’m especially interested in it being straightforward, when the bits by Shakespeare aren’t always…

And what do people from Monmouth make of the cap scene?

Thanks Huw! Yes, I’d love a look at that old page if it’s archived anywhere, but it’s good to hear the clip stands the test of time too.

That’s great, Margaet, thanks!

For a second there, I thought you were telling me Byker Grove was filmed in Cornwall, and I was going to have to rethink bits of my world view!

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Well I think most of them are pretty oblivious to it these days! Even some of the ones who live in “Cappers Place” probably don’t know where the name came from! Having said that, there are quite a few proper locals (i.e. families in Monmouth for generations) who are well into the history of the town, so maybe I’m underestimating.)

Years ago a local historian, Kirsty Buckland, wrote a small book on the history of the Monmouth Cap, and there is a display about them in the local museum. I regularly wear one myself in the winter (not an ‘original’ of course, but made to the original design! :wink: )

Whether or not they’re into Shakespeare enough to know that link though, I couldn’t say!

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Thanks to everyone who’s responded so far. If anyone cares to, here’s another version, this time from a Globe production. Again, I’d love to get people’s reactions to this.

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The Welsh itself seems fine, but (and just my opinion here) not as well-scripted - maybe I’m wrong but it seems to me that in the first version even though the vocabulary wasn’t ‘over-the-top’ it was more poetic in it’s attention to rhythm and length of duration of each sentence. It made more of the Welsh content than just a stage direction.

In this version, however, I felt that the dialogue had been written as if to say the bare minimum required without any attempt to really put much feeling into it - as if it was only there to adhere to the stage direction rather than contribute fully to the scene.
Does that make sense?

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It absolutely does - thanks! And none of the ‘just my opinion’ or ‘maybe I’m wrong’ stuff - it’s opinions that I’m after, and everyone’s is perfectly equal as far as I’m concerned. :smile:

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Although not ones that deal Shakespeare (as of yet!), I work with scriptwriters - so I’m covering my back! :wink:

Fair enough!

It sounds to me as though she starts rhyming from about 0:55 onwards. Did you think that? (I’m really beyond the limit of my listening skills here!).

Yes, there is a rhyme there, but also there are rhymes before that - her Welsh rhymes with Mortimer’s and Glendower’s English lines. It’s very well done.

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Wow, I hadn’t realised that at all! I’ll have to check that out…

It’s very heavily based on the version used in several Royal Shakespeare Company productions (at least as far back as 1964), but it starts to be its own thing just after she tells Mortimer to look into her eyes - that’s why I’m especially interested in that bit.

In the RSC version, she starts to talk in rhyming iambic pentameter when she tells him to lie down, so partly I’m trying to figure out why they’ve changed it in this.

It’s not all the way through, but there are places.
Lady M: gad i mi a wisgo a mynd gyda thi
M: This is the deadly spite that angers me

then a little later,
Lady M: … ar fy lliw
G: …she is desperate ??? - I admit I can’t quite make this out, it could be “to you” or it may be “Duw” but whatever it is, it’s rhyming!

I imagine the change in meter is most probably an “artistic decision” :grin:

It certainly sounds like it. In the Shakespeare, he’s saying ‘here’, but I agree it sounds more like a rhyme in the clip than that suggests, and I quite like the idea that he’s saying ‘Duw’.

Here’s the verse from the RSC script, if you’re curious…

Gorffwys f’annwylyd yma ar y brwn,

A, dod dy ben yn esmwyth yn fy ngôl.

Fe ganuf i ti’r gân a geraist gynt

Sy’n hudo cwsg a hiraeth yn eu hôl.

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