Welsh Characters

Introduction to Character Type | List of Plays | Up One Level

Introduction to Character Type

Two trends can be observed among the few Welsh characters in this collection of plays: first, some characters of Welsh origin have been Anglicized socially and linguistically, while others retain a speech representing a Welsh dialect with variations in orthography, grammar and vocabulary. The characters of the former group include Sir Robert in Cowley's The Town Before You (1794; published 1795) and Sir Adam ap Origen and his son Abel in Cumberland's The Last of the Family (1797; published 1813). Sir Robert , a Welsh country gentleman, was originally a sheriff and has only recently been made a knight. He lives in London with his daughter Georgina, who hopes that he will continue to rise socially. Likely as a result of his drive to move upward in English society, Sir Robert does not employ any particular dialect. The sole instance of language variation in his speech occurs when he addresses his servant Humphrey as "thou." Likewise, Sir Adam ap Origen, who hopes to marry his son Abel (the family's last descendent) to the English Letitia Manfred, does not use particular Welsh idioms. However, his speech is marked with unusual expressions, such as "cudgel...in his pericranium" (Cumberland 213) for "beat about in his brain".

In contrast, the Welsh characters (Dr. Druid in Cumberland's The Fashionable Lover (1772) and Cadwallader in Kemble's The Female Officer (published 1763)) demonstrate a high degree of language variation. Both Dr. Druid and Cadwallader employ Welsh expressions and pronunciation, represented orthographically as the replacement of "c" for "g", "t" for "d" and "p" for "b". Additionally, Cadwallader employs the female pronoun "her" in situations where the nominative is required, and when referring to men as well as to women. The following sample of dialect exemplifies this tendency:

Cad. Cott knows, you are always a trusting yourself into a Gentleman’s Pussnesses, have a care of your provoking me into a Passion, get her gone quickly, or I protest I will pe in her Poty (Kemble 25).

In this case, the orthography of "Cott" (God), "Pussnesses" (businesses), and "pe in her Poty" (be in her body?), as well as the non-standard grammar of "a trusting" and "her" to refer into the "Gentleman", demonstrate the Welsh dialect's variations in accent and grammar. Dr. Druid's similar speech tendencies reinforce this linguistic portrayal of the Welsh dialect. Dr. Druid and Cadwallader are firmly Welsh, although Dr. Druid enjoys taking travel holidays and Cadwallader travels in his position as a military officer. Unlike Sir Robert and Sir Adam, whose upper-class aspirations can only be achieved through Anglicization, the professional-class Druid and Cadwallader retain their nationality and heritage. The distinct portrayals of the two sorts of Welsh characters is indicative of the popularity and pressure of the English dialect and identity on the upwardly-mobile and upper-class people of the late eighteenth-century (cf. Macklin's The True-Born Irishman).

Works Cited:

Cumberland, Richard."The Last of the Family" in The Posthumous Dramatick Works of the Late Richard Cumberland. In two volumes. London: Printed for G. and W. Nicol ... by W. Bulmer, 1813. Literature Online. 14 August 2008. http://lion.chadwyck.com/searchFulltext.do?id=Z000070034&divLevel=0&queryId=../session/1216311429_17532&trailId=11A9750BFE6&area=Drama&forward=textsFT&warn=Yes&size=183Kb

Kemble, John Philip. The Female Officer. Dublin: 1763. Eighteenth-Century Collections Online. 14 August 2008. http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/ECCO?dd=0&locID=utoronto_main&d1=1240700300&srchtp=a&aa=AND&c=4&SU=All&a0=Kemble%2C+John+&d2=1&docNum=CW3316877807&h2=1&vrsn=1.0&al=All&af=RN&a5=A0&d6=1&ste=10&d4=0.33&dc=tiPG&stp=Author&n=10&d5=d6

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List of Plays

The Town Before You (Cowley)

The Fashionable Lover (Cumberland)

The Last of the Family (Cumberland)

The Female Officer (Kemble)

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©2008 Arden Hegele