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Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus!

In honour of St David's day, this blog post shares a few thoughts and findings on Shakespeare's work in translation into Welsh.

Elizabeth Jeffery

"MACBETH Theatr Gen Byw" - Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru

The earliest translation that the SBT archives hold is the 1864 translation of Hamlet by D Griffiths; this seems to have been the earliest published translation of a Shakespeare play into Welsh.  It won the Eisteddfod Llandudno and was serialised for national publication by R Hughes & Sons.  A wonderful copy is housed in the SBT archives, sadly however not much more information seems to exist surrounding it.  A search for "D Griffiths" in the online catalogue for the Dictionary of Welsh Biography hosted by the National Library of Wales provides no results.

There is much that can be said of the eisteddfodau however.  There are several eisteddfod festivals that take place annually across Wales; the largest one convenes in Anglesey every summer, and is the biggest of its kind in Europe.  An eisteddfod is not just a festival, but a competition in which 6000 or more participants can compete in areas such as dance, music, theatre, recitation, folk music, choral singing, the visual arts and design.  Language plays a central role in the eisteddfod, with prizes available for Welsh-language learners and speakers. Thousands of competitors travel from all over the globe to take part in the international eisteddfod held annually in Llangollen.

Most recently, Shakespeare returned to the National Eisteddfod when Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru (the Welsh-language National Theatre of Wales) produced Y Storm (The Tempest) as part of the World Shakespeare Festival in 2012.  Staged in a huge circus tent erected on the Maes, the site of the National Eisteddfod, the production was described in one review as "exhilarating" and an "innovative, dynamic production"; the translation was "masterly" and "accessible".[1]

Shakespeare in Welsh seems to appeal to an outdoor setting as evidenced by the stage history of the few plays that have made their way into the Welsh language.  The only other plays that the SBT holds are Twelfth Night and the trial scene from The Merchant of Venice.  Truth be told, a comprehensive stage history of Welsh Shakespeare's does not exist yet as up until recently, there have not been many stagings of his plays in the language.  Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru have only staged three thus far:  Romeo and Juliet (2004), Y Storm (2012), and Macbeth (2017).

Macbeth, directed by Arwel Gruffydd, was staged in promenade throughout Caerphilly castle in February and was streamed live to cinemas across Wales, bringing in a much wider audience base than the castle would ever have been able to accommodate.  It was a beautiful production which fully allowed the poetry of the translation to shine through. The three witches worked particularly well in Welsh as the guttural sounds of the language chosen by the translator Gwyn Thomas brought out the visceral nature of their incantations (check out the trailer following the link below). Not to mention the setting could not have been more perfect.  Repeat screenings of the broadcast will take place on 23rd April at Chapter in Cardiff, so if you happen to find yourself in Cardiff that day, I strongly recommend you join Shakespeare's journey in the Welsh language:

[1] Hannah Thomas, 'Review: Y Storm by Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru', in Wales Online, 10th August 2012, <>, [accessed 24th February 2017]