Fluellen, along with Jamy and MacMorris, is one of the three foreign captains in the play. These three characters broadly represent their respective nationalities—Fluellen, for instance, is a Welshman, included in part to represent Wales in the play’s exploration of the peoples of Britain. As a result, Fluellen embodies many of the comical stereotypes associated with the Welsh in Shakespeare’s day: he is wordy, overly serious, and possessed of a ludicrous pseudo-Welsh accent that principally involves replacing the letter “b” with the letter “p.”
However, Shakespeare also makes Fluellen a well-defined and likable individual who tends to work against the limitations of his stereotype. Though he is clownish in his early scenes, he is also extremely well informed and appears to be quite competent, especially compared to the cowardly lot of commoners from England whom he orders into battle at Harfleur. Like Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream or Falstaff in the Henry IV plays, Fluellen tends to steal the scenes he is in and to win the affection of his audience. The fact that Shakespeare wrote such a role for a Welsh character is a strong sign that Fluellen is intended as far more than a comic compendium of ethnic stereotypes.
I just finished Henry V, the 19th Shakespeare play, in my quest to read all the Bard by his 450th birthday next year. If you're interested, visit my blog to find out what I thought of it and more on what I thought of Henry:
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