A relatively obscure and rather derivative example of early modern English drama, The Valiant Welshman was first performed in 1610 by Prince Henry's Men at the Fortune Theater. Despite its unpopularity, it went through two editions, the first in 1615 and the second in 1663. The author of the play remains unknown, although the title page states that it was written by one R.A., Gentleman. Authorship has commonly been attributed to the actor Robert Armin, but other possible authors have been proposed, including the poet and satirist Robert Anton and the poet Robert Aylett. In "The Valiant Welshman" the Scottish James, and the Formation of Great Britain, Megan Lloyd argues that The Valiant Welshman is worthy of investigation in that it offers an example of Anglo-Welsh union that was intended to serve as a model for James I's proposed unification of his kingdoms of Scotland and England. Lloyd situates The Valiant Welshman within the historical and literary context of its production, drawing parallels between James' unionist aspirations and the protagonist Caradoc's uniting of the kingdoms of Anglesey, North Wales, South Wales, the Marches, York, and Britain to fight against the invading Romans. Lloyd also analyzes the play in relationship to early modern English drama's portrayal of the Welsh, comparing various elements of The Valiant Welshman to other dramatic works of the period. As Lloyd reveals in this useful monograph, The Valiant Welshman, although a play written to support the union of England and Scotland, offers contemporary audiences a glimpse into the Early modern English perception of Wales and the Welsh.
The Valiant Welshman is unique in early modern English drama in that it features a Welsh protagonist. The play's title page unequivocally identifies Caradoc as Welsh, introducing him as "Caradoc the Great, King of Cambria, now called Wales." Caradoc is based on Caratacus, a first century British leader who led a rebellion against the Roman Emperor Claudius. Captured and taken to Rome, Caratacus was sentenced to death, but spared by Claudius, who was moved by his eloquence. According to the Roman historian Dio Cassius, Caratacus was the son of Cunobelinus (Cymbeline), and his tribe, the Catuvellauni, were actually from Southeast Britain. The historical Caratacus, after the Catuvellauni's territory was seized by the Romans, led the Welsh tribes of the Silures and Ordovices against Roman forces led by Publius Ostorius Scapula, governor of Roman Britain. In Welsh mythology, Caradoc, son of Bran the Blessed, appears to have possibly been based on the historical Caratacus. The Valiant Welshman's hero, Caradoc, bears the mythological Welsh figure's name, although his adventures loosely follow Dio Cassius' and Tacitus's narratives regarding the historical Briton Caratacus.
Lloyd begins her study with the history of James' attempts to unify Scotland and England. She argues that Henry VIII's Acts of Union inspired James I to unite England and Scotland through a merger of their Parliaments. Although Wales had been conquered by Edward I in 1282 and incorporated into England in 1284, it was not until the passage of Henry VIII's Acts of Union of England and Wales (1536/43) that the two nations were finally and formally unified. Through the Acts of Union, Henry sought to completely incorporate Wales into the Kingdom of England, giving it Parliamentary recognition, extending to it the English legal and administrative system, and placing it under full English jurisdiction. While Henry's unification of Wales and England essentially subsumed Wales into England, James unsuccessfully tried to convince both the English and the Scottish that they would remain full equals under his unification proposal.
In Chapter Two, Lloyd explores The Valiant Welshman's historical background and links specific elements of the play to James' attempts at unification. For example, she notes how The Valiant Welshman draws on James' unification speeches to Parliament. She also explores parallels between Caradoc and both Prince Henry Frederick and King James. Lloyd argues that the play was possibly a tribute to Prince Henry, who was invested as Prince of Wales in 1610, and who, according to the play's title page in the 1615 edition, was the patron of the company that performed the play. She suggests that not only Caradoc, but Morgan, the King of Anglesey, may reflect James' own identity as both insider and outsider, king of England, but markedly Scottish in language and custom.
In Chapters Three and Four, Lloyd discusses the characters Caradoc and Morgan, both of whom could be considered Valiant Welshmen, although the Roman Emperor awards Caradoc the title at the end of the play. Caradoc and Morgan offer differing portraits of the "Welshman." Caradoc's fluent, flawless English and eloquent oratories reveal how fully assimilated he is into the play's dominant linguistic culture, while Morgan's speech patterns and behavior clearly place him within the early modern English dramatic stereotype of the stage Welshman, who was often portrayed as barbarous, superstitious, linguistically unintelligible, and overly emotional. Lloyd argues that the two princes offer two different, but ultimately positive views of Wales: one based on linguistic ability and reason (Caradoc), and the other based on strength and military might (Morgan).
Caradoc challenges early modern English stereotypes of the Welsh: he is a thoughtful and cultured speaker of flawless English as well as a brave and magnanimous military leader. Lloyd maintains that R.A. drew Caradoc as devoid of Welsh language or accent because both Welsh language and certain elements of Welsh culture were sources of comedy on the English stage. Caradoc needed to be presented as fully integrated into English linguistic and cultural norms in order to be accepted by the audience as a heroic protagonist. Lloyd also ties Caradoc's linguistic sophistication to that of another Welsh stage figure, Owen Glendower in Shakespeare's I Henry IV, noting that both characters' rhetorical ability renders them worthy opponents. Both characters are similar in their often excessive verbosity, as well as their association with magic and witchcraft, dreams and prophecies. These traits, Lloyd argues, mark them as Welsh, even if their accent does not. Caradoc is not the only Welsh character in the play that speaks standard early modern English, however. Other geographically and ethnically Welsh characters in the play, such as Octavian, King of North Wales, Codigun, and Cadallan, Prince of March notably lack any distinguishing Welsh linguistic markers. Even Morion, the clown figure in the play, speaks without a trace of his father Morgan's accent.
Morgan, the King of Anglesey, is the only character in The Valiant Welshman who speaks "Welsh," or more accurately, an English conception of what the Welsh language sounded like. Although an admirable military leader, Morgan's language places him squarely within the early modern English dramatic tradition of the comical Welshman. Morgan's language is scripted as Anglo-Welsh and includes stereotypical words, phrases, comic mispronunciations, and other idiosyncrasies often found in the language of the staged Welshman. While Morgan's language would seem to mark him as the clown figure in The Valiant Welshman, he is not. Rather he is another permutation of "the Valiant Welshman," and the "otherness" of his language and behavior are a continual reminder of his Welsh ethnicity. In Chapter Four, Lloyd explores his character in the context of Welsh stereotypes in early modern English drama, and discusses parallels between his character and number of other Welsh stage characters, including Fluellen in Shakespeare'sHenry V, Sir Hugh Evans in Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor, Sir Vaughan ap Rees in Thomas Dekker's Satiromastix(1602), and Griffith, Jenkin, and Evan in Ben Jonson's masque For the Honour of Wales (1618). Morgan's voice is a constant reminder of Welsh language and culture in a play that erases those markers in its other Welsh characters, most notably in its Welsh hero, Caradoc.
In Chapter Five, Lloyd returns to the topic of unification, exploring the notion of Britain in the play and what it meant to be British in the context of James' preference for the term "Great Britain" as his proposed title for the union of England, Scotland, and Wales. Wales and Britain are separate cultures in The Valiant Welshman, and R.A. attempts to highlight the difference between the two realms by presenting the ancient Britons not as the ancestors of the modern Welsh, but rather as a separate political realm, an inaccurate and anachronistic progenitor of the English nation. Caradoc assumes a British identity and joins the British army, but is at first rejected by the British because of his perceived difference as a Welshman. In other words, he is not "British" at first, but becomes so as the play progresses. Caradoc comes to be defined as both Welsh and British, which, Lloyd argues, embodies James I's belief that one could be both English and British or Scottish and British. Lloyd notes that "The Valiant Welshman culminates in naming, and it is significant that Caesar names Caradoc Welsh only at the very end of the play...The noble Welshman who dons the disguise of Bryttaine and is mistaken for Bryttish quite frequently throughout the play is finally accepted for who he is, a valiant Welshman" (119).
Lloyd finally turns her attention to The Valiant Welshman's parallels to other union dramas of the period, specifically Shakespeare'sHenriad, Macbeth, Lear, and Cymbeline. She also situates The Valiant Welshman within the context of Jacobean plays that deal with the Roman invasion of Britain, including Shakespeare's Cymbeline, as well as John Fletcher's Bonduca (c.1613) and William Rowley's A Shoemaker, A Gentleman (c.1618). In these other plays, Wales is erased or marginalized, while in The Valiant Welshman, Wales stands at the center of the action as an autonomous kingdom that bands together with Britain against a common aggressor, thus forming a union that prefigures James' aspirations. Unlike other early modern English plays that depict ancient British culture, A Valiant Welshman foregrounds a clearly identified Welsh hero and a distinct Welsh kingdom in its depiction of Britain's struggle against Rome. As Lloyd notes, with the exception of The Valiant Welshman, "early modern drama about ancient Britain is Britain with the original Britons, the Welsh, left out" (164). Although written from an English point-of-view, R.A.'s The Valiant Welshman stands as a corrective, not only to this omission, but to the simplistic, stereotyped, and unflattering portraits that characterized early modern English presentations of the Welsh and Wales.