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 comic stereotypes associated with the Welsh in Shakespeare’s day: he is wordy, overly serious, and possessed of a ludicrous pseudo-Welsh accent that involves, among other verbal tics, replacing the letter B with the letter P.

Yet Shakespeare also goes beyond mere stereotype to present Fluellen as a competent military strategist. Though he is clownish in his early scenes, he is also extremely well informed in the ways of war. He has closely studied ancient military tactics, and he also knows much about significant leaders from the past. Yet he also often gets the details wrong in humorous ways. In one famous passage, for instance, he solemnly compares King Henry to “Alexander the Pig” rather than Alexander the Great (4.7.14). The mistake in both the name and the pronunciation (he means, of course, to say “Alexander the Big”) carries an unwitting irony. Even as he means to praise the historic leader, Fluellen inadvertently draws attention to his violent means of conquest. In so doing, Fluellen also inadvertently criticizes the very man he seeks to celebrate: King Henry. Yet for all his comic moments, Fluellen is a man with a rigorous sense of morality and justice. He pledges his unfailing loyalty to the king and to England, and he asserts his equality with the English. All this makes him far more than a mere ethnic stereotype.