Thursday, January 19, 2012

Henry V Character Analysis: Fluellen

I don't know about you, but Fluellen has quickly become MY favorite character to read. And it is not just because he's funny, or easy to laugh at, or even simple enough to follow. I like Fluellen because he becomes that "character-conundrum" that adds that extra flair to any artistic work. Fluellen may come across as simple, but I believe Shakespeare meant to do much more that create a ''stereotypical fool".

So, first things first: what does the Bard present the Fluellen as on the surface? --Remember, Fluellen is meant to be a stereotype of the Welsh people.-- I would say:
  • That he is exhibited as having a personality inclined toward exaggerated seriousness
  • Frequently misprounces words in a Welsh accent and/or fashion
  • Comes across as unintelligent, uneducated, and even downright simple
  • Is generally loud-mouthed and long-winded
Well, for heaven's sake, that portrayal could fit any modern missionary struggling over a foreign language! And yes, that applies to stateside elders as well--have you ever tried to listen to a South Dakotian talk? It's like French, only not as pretty.

Well, if Shakespeare didn't mean to make him out as the equivalent of a fresh-out-of-the-MTC missionary, there must be something more. This is were the indepth analysis comes in. Now, I haven't done any scholarship on this yet--that comes tomorrow--so this will probably come across as basic and ''duh''-worthy. Well, too bad. Fluellen, on a deeper level, is shown as :
  • Using his ''clownish'' behavior to keep moral up in a hard, discouraging time. This shows him to be optimistic.
  • Strategic, or at least far more perceptive than one would believe, when the time calls for him to be so.
  • Proficient at the duties he is meant to fulfill, even if he has a round-about way of getting to it.
  • Finally, one should consider the fact that Shakespeare made Fluellen likable. The Bard gave him a personality that steals the show for a reason, one that I believe is to cast aside the common negative perspective of ethnic stereotypes as a whole.
So what is the point of this information? What does knowing this about Fluellen have to do with the modern world of literature and the arts? At first I wanted to show an adaptation of Fluellen from a reworking-and-remodernizing of Henry V, but I ran into a problem: with the exception of the Christmas speech, there have been no ''updates'' to the play. Fortunately for you, I came up with the perfect example of a modern-day Fluellen: Dory!
Now, this may seem like a stretch, but stick with me. Dory covers nearly all of the traits that Fluellen does, both on the surface and in the true depth of her personality. She:
  • Mispernounces words ("es-cah-pay", any variation of Nemo's name, etc)
  • Comes across as unintelligent and simple ("And, well, I... I don't believe I've ever eaten a fish...")
  • Is DEFINITELY loud-mouthed and longwinded ("You want to know where I'm goin'? I'll tell you where I'm goin': P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney, that's where I'm goin'...")
  • Lifts moral ("Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming..."
  • Helps reach Nemo, even if it is in a round-about way ("It's a whale. Hey, I speak whale! H---eee----lllllllll---ooooo...."
  • And finally, Dory always steals the show.
So there you have it, a modern-day Fluellen remade for the media. What do you think? Who else do you think plays/is a good representation of the stereotype-conundrum?


  1. I love this post!

    It is easy to pass Fluellen off as just a comic relief, simple character, but there is more! I love that you connected him to Dory (mainly because Dory is just about my FAVORITE Disney character ever..probably because I connect with her so well).

    He has such an interesting name that is also representative of his character. Flu-ellen. Up face it is like a mix between a disease and a woman's name. It would be interesting during your "scholarly" research to see if there is any special meaning in his name in Welsh or French.

    Thanks again for the insight! It was super fun to read.

  2. This was such a great post!
    I love that you've taken your blog to the next level, and done a great job of analyzing characters in the plays we've been reading. Shakespeare definitely doesn't create flat characters. He might have another connection to Dory in that verbal tick that was mentioned in class. He says, "look you" repetitively, like the way Dory recites the address in Sydney. Loved reading!

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