Page last updated at 15:12 GMT, Thursday, 22 April 2010 16:12 UK
Welsh links of William Shakespeare

Statue of Owain Glyndwr
Owain Glyndwr's warrior image may have been shaped by Shakespeare

William Shakespeare is known world wide as the greatest English dramatist, but scholars from around the world will gather at Cardiff University to discuss the strong influence of Wales on his work.

Theatre director Michael Bogdanov will give the keynote lecture at a symposium on Friday to mark the publication of Shakespeare and Wales: From the Marches to the Assembly, an anthology of scholarly essays.

Its editors intend the book as 'a Welsh correction to a long-standing deficiency' in the popular view of Shakespeare as a primarily English playwright.

Bogdanov says his lecture will stress how the Bard of Avon was inspired by the humanist character of the Welsh and may in turn have influenced the Welsh national identity.

Michael Bogdanov

The historical image of Owain Glyndwr as a Welsh patriot and rebel leader could well have been forged by his portrayal by Shakespeare in Henry IV Part 1 under his English name Owen Glendower.

But Bogdanov also points to locations which suggest that Shakespeare's knowledge of Wales may have gone much deeper than awareness of political figures.

"Cwm Pucca - Puck Valley - near Neath is supposed to be the setting for A Midsummer Night's Dream - Shakespeare's Cave is there," he says.

The play Cymbeline - inspired by an account by Geoffrey of Monmouth - features a reference to "blessed Milford", believed to be the haven of that name in Pembrokeshire where the princes Guiderius and Arviragus are in hiding.

Bogdanov also suggests that Shakespeare's humanist ideas led to his sympathetic view of the Welsh character and social structures.

William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare appears sympathetic to the Welsh - and may have shared their blood

"Cymbeline poses the Puritanism and bureaucracy of Westminster against the freedom of Wales ... the calming, balming quality of nature and the experiment in primitive democracy which is an antecedent of Welsh communitarianism.

"So the play balances out this democratic experiment in small society in Wales with this dreadful machine of corruption in Westminster."

The director also highlights the fact that Shakespeare was taught by a Welshman, Thomas Jenkins, at Stratford Grammar School.

There are suggestions that the playwright himself could have been of Welsh blood through one of his grandmothers.

Professor Richard Wilson of Cardiff University's School of English, Communication and Philosophy said: "This is the first international conference specifically on Shakespeare and Wales.

"It comes at an exciting moment when we are at last realising the power of Wales in Shakespeare's imagination".




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