In the Twentieth century, attempts at Welsh language purification, interest in Welsh mythology, and a turning away from earlier Puritanism (or Protestantism) accompanied influences ranging from ancient Greek classics to modern French symbolism in the making of a Welsh literary and dramatic revival. This has occurred in both English and, most notably for our purpose here, in the Welsh language. Other dominant trends added to this literary renaissance, in particular a reliance on a boldness of imagery (above all when drawn from nature) and the lyrical lilt of the language, best represented in the free-metered works of W. J. Gruffydd and the more classical poetry of T. Gwynn-Jones. In Wales realistic drama was developed by R. G. Berry, D. T. Davies and W. J. Gruffydd while a more symbolic and psychological dramatic literature followed with the works of Huw Lloyd Edwards, T. Parry, and Gwilym R. Jones. The poet and dramatist Saunders Lewis has, perhaps, enriched Welsh critical and dramatic writing more than any other and has influenced many contemporary theatre and television playwrights, while throughout the Twentieth century the Eisteddfod tradition remained, and remains, a vigorous cultural force.
But of course this surge of activity did not, and does not, come without its complications, and the use of the Welsh language within Wales is still an exceptionally thorny issue, especially in terms of national and cultural identity. Stephen Logan (a non-Welsh speaking Welshman now lecturing in English at Cambridge University) has recently categorized five types of people who all respond to the Welsh language differently: 1. Welsh speakers who never use English; 2. Welsh speakers who freely use English; 3. English speakers who cannot speak Welsh; 4. English speakers who rarely speak Welsh, despite having a degree of competence in it; 5. People equally fluent and active in Welsh and English. I would add one more category: 6. Welsh speakers who never speak Welsh, always opting to use English. Much of the diversity in the use of Welsh can be linked to a geographic breakdown: south (east) Wales, the industrialized part of the country, was particularly prone to Anglicisation in the latter part of the nineteenth century and even as late as the 1950s children in that part of Wales were discouraged parentally, politically, educationally and culturally from speaking Welsh. Logan has tried to understand how the diverse language situation arose, noting that,
“J.R.R. Tolkien, a great philologist of complex national identity who used Welsh as a source of names and cultural-linguistic motifs in The Lord of the Rings, was well aware of the greatness of the Welsh language; aware too of how little its greatness is recognized by the English, whose discussions of Wales, he said, can sometimes smack of nationalistic complacency. … J.R. Green [also] asserts in his Short History of the English People (1874) that, by the 14th century, when England was producing its first great upsurge of poetry since Beowulf, Welsh poetry was already at a point of technical sophistication reminiscent of the age of Pope.” 
But if Logan is unsatisfied with the recognition accorded to Welsh literature, including drama, by the English, then I think that he also has to acknowledge the apathy shown to that same literature (through historical accident perhaps) by many (the majority?) of the English-speaking stratum of modern Welsh society. Great Welsh language literature exists and even great (‘classic’) Welsh language drama exists and some of it has been translated into English and produced on stage, although today ‘classic’ Welsh drama is often subsumed beneath a very healthy outpouring of modern theatre writing in Welsh and English. The work of Ed Thomas, for example, stands as exemplary in the recent trend in new dramatic writing over the past decade, a form which is too reminiscent of ‘in-your-face’ Americanized screenplays. This style of writing consciously rejects the formal structure of Welsh poetry and the themes and influences of Medievalism and Classicism championed by earlier Twentieth century Welsh language dramatists which gave Welsh drama its great, and only, renaissance.
What I want to do in this short study is to question to what extent Greek drama has had an impact on the Welsh dramatic conscience throughout the twentieth century. This will set out issues for further research and should open the way to a more substantial treatment in the future. I do not want to focus here on performances per se, but on the notion of classicism found either directly in Welsh language plays (via translation from Greek or English) or indirectly (through re-workings or versions). Moreover, I want to look a little more closely at the work of one specific dramatist - John Saunders Lewis who, in his poetic dramas, consciously drew on ancient Greek poetic prototypes (although this aspect of his work is often glossed over in modern Welsh scholarship). These are merely snapshots of a much bigger picture of course, although a future project will expand on the basic outline offered here. I am going to work in reverse chronological order, highlighting the most recent forays into Greek drama in the Welsh language in order to identify a definitive moment - the creation of Saunders Lewis’ verse drama Blodeuwedd in 1948 - that prepared the way for these few Welsh renditions of ancient poetic plays.
Modern Welsh theatre is vibrant; there is a particularly healthy variety of new writing being produced in both Welsh and English, while even English language companies such as Cardiff-based Mappa Mundi are doing stalwart work in producing accessible and intelligent versions of Shakespeare and even Molière, but not, alas, Greek drama, as yet. It is lamentable that Wales has not wholeheartedly embraced Greek drama in its modern performance culture. In fact, historically, Wales has turned a blind eye to the Classical Tradition in general, opting instead to highlight and foster the inherent romanticism of the Welsh countryside and folk lore in its literary and artistic output. In contrast to the regular outpourings of Greek drama offered by, say, contemporary Scots dramatists and Scottish theatre companies it has to be said that Greek drama in Wales (in English or Welsh) at the time of writing is very thin on the ground. In recent years valiant efforts have been made to stage more Greek drama, and Welsh theatre companies in particular seem to value the idea of performing Greek Tragedy highly, although few actually get round to doing it.
Thus, the Cardiff-based Welsh-language theatre company Dalier Sylw produced a very weighty proposal for the staging of four large-scale Greek dramas which was offered to the funding body of the Arts Council of Wales in the Spring of 1999. Under the working title Grecian 2000, Dalier Sylw planned to present a year-long string of events in Wales to mark the Millennium celebrations, arguing that the best way to mark this momentous occasion was with a festival of Greek drama – the old and the new intertwined. It was proposed that there should be a new English language version of Racine’s Phèdre, a new Welsh language treatment of Euripides’ Trojan Women (both of which should tour Wales to large and small scale venues), an English language, but colloquially South Welsh, Lysistrata to be performed in the open air in a promenade production around the civic centre of Cardiff, and a large scale Welsh language production of the dramatist Gareth Miles’ new working of the Oresteia. Entitled Clutymnestra (Klytaimnestra), this was to be played in a site-specific location (an empty warehouse or factory) in Cardiff. Dalier Sylw was certainly being adventurous in its scheme and thinking big in its vision for the project. It was proposed that, in addition to these four major productions, there should be a year’s programme of lectures, street theatre events, educational developments and workshops on the theme of ancient Greece and its influential reception. Unfortunately the Arts Council of Wales rejected the application and the project was dropped. To this day Miles’ Clutymnestra remains unpublished and unperformed.
The Clutymnestra Project (as it was originally termed) has its genesis as far back as 1994 when Dalier Sylw began working with the successful Welsh language playwright Gareth Miles on a re-working of Greek myth. Over the successive years Miles and Dalier Sylw’s Artistic Director, Bethan Jones, workshopped ideas and themes with a succession of talented performers until the major strand of the play was worked through: a re-telling of the Oresteia, in Welsh verse, which concentrated exclusively on the female characters. Consequently, the later workshops were run with actresses only, who were encouraged, in conjunction with the dramatist, to explore ideas of women in tragedy and myth and in Greek art and society.
In fact, as an offshoot of the Clutymnestra Project, Dalier Sylw became involved with an international Greek Drama project in 1997 and staged a version of Sophocles’ Electra (with scenes interspersed from O’Neil’s Mourning Becomes Electra) in a bilingual Welsh-Czech treatment at Cardiff’s Chapter Arts Centre. Directed by Branco Brazovetz, and using movement, dance and experimental staging techniques, this Electra was a hard-hitting production which often deliberately underplayed language in favour of visual semiotics, but was, nonetheless, a rare outing for any form of Greek tragedy on a Welsh stage. The fact that language performed a secondary role in the production was clearly an artistic decision on the part of Brazovetz who subsequently arranged for the production to transfer to the Dubrovnic Festival.
Dalier Sylw’s main foray into the staging of a Greek tragedy proper occurred in 1991 with a bilingual English/Welsh repertory production of Euripides’ Bacchai staged in an abandoned factory in Cardiff and directed by Ceri Sherlock. It was here that Gareth Miles had his first taste of Greek drama, although here he produced a direct translation rather than a treatment based upon the English version by Ian Brown. Miles’ translation was a strict, rhythmic verse version, often following Euripidean modes, as Welsh allows. Miles, Brown and Sherlock decided that the choral odes should only be performed in the original Greek in order to stress the seemingly alien but, in fact, timeless themes of the tragedy. On the whole, reviews were good; that printed in Y Fanner (The Banner) of 25th October 1991 was ecstatic:
‘Drama oedd hon oedd yn canolbwyntio ar y corfforol a'r emosiynol o'r cychwyn cyntaf...nid wyf erioed wedi gweld drama debyg nac ychwaith yn dychmygu y gwnaf eto am amser maith maith.....Perfformiad y Corws fydd yn aros hiraf yn y cof. Yn dilyn traddodiad trasiedau Groegaidd nhw oedd yn cynnal y ddrama....Fe adewais y 'theatr' yn crynu, wedi cael ysgytwad a gwefr anhygoel. Mae Ceri Sherlock yn sicr yn gwybod sut i arbrofi'n llwyddiannus â'i gynulleidfa a chyflawni campwaith theatrig’.
[This play concentrated on the physical and the emotional from the first … I’ve never seen a play like it and I can’t imagine that I ever will, certainly not for some time to come. It is the performance of the chorus that will linger in my memory. Following the tradition of the Greek chorus, they were central to the drama. I left the ‘theatre’ quaking, I’ve never been so intensely shaken. Ceri Sherlock certainly knew how to experiment successfully with his audience and achieve a theatrical masterpiece.]
The Guardian review was also enthusiastic:
“It starts with a naked Dionysus emerging from the thigh of a massive leg and abseiling down to a tank of water and it ends with blood-smeared, bare-breasted Bacchai wielding chainsaws and Agave weeping over the severed head and flesh-ripped remains of her son. Ceri Sherlock's production ... staged in a derelict cake factory on the edge of town is certainly no safe classical update. The final emergence over a hill of the manic murdering women from the unseen but audible carnage, advancing on an audience that has moved from scene to scene throughout the site, is one of the most terrifying that I have witnessed. In between the stunning theatrics of the opening and closing scenes Euripides’ classic of politics and power crosses the centuries from Thebes of mythology to that of modern male domination. ... This highly ambitious, if not entirely successful production does work so well in many ways. The basic themes of order and chaos, of sexual politics, of ritual and reality, passion and power, and of the destructive nature of revenge, are here, and told in a style where the simplicity of the narrative conceals visual, political and cultural illusions. The rules of classical drama are adhered to in that we do not see the violence, but catharsis is achieved through a very immediate and recognisable terror. Ian Brown's script is sharp, Michael Rosas Cobian's music is superb and Eryl Ellis's design is stunning.”
Miles’ translation of Euripides used a blend of artificially lyrical (sometimes deliberately archaic) Welsh juxtaposed with a hard-hitting colloquialism – a kind of ‘street-Welsh’. Despite this, it has recently been argued that, “it [is] impossible to achieve in Welsh [a] fluidity of change of register and sense of hierarchical metatext” that can add weight and nuance to a piece of dramatic writing. In a recent study of the translation and workshop issues of staging a Greek tragedy in Scotland and Wales (the Antigone Project), Ceri Sherlock, John Ramage and Ian Brown have described the difficulty of translating Greek drama into the medium of the Welsh language, noting that, unlike modern Scots,
“Welsh has been … thoroughly proscribed and suppressed among those who hold authority and power in Welsh political society, at least until the present and the establishment of the National Assembly of Wales.… The one exception to the abandonment hitherto of Welsh in authoritative contexts is in the chapel where the non-conformist tradition has retained in certain areas Welsh-medium worship and apparent control of Welsh language and life. The fact, however, that religious worship is the means of sustaining such Welsh speaking, given the tropes and typical structures of religious discourse and forms of worship, has led to a formalisation of the language and a restriction of its cultural, literary and hierarchical referents.”
Sherlock, Ramage and Brown found that the range of effects achievable in the Scots tongue appeared not to be available in Welsh. Their discovery was that the Scots language implied a quite different social and moral system from that of the Welsh in such a way as to make it very difficult to translate Ian Brown’s Scots translation of Antigone into Welsh.
Their findings do not ring completely true. In actuality, Welsh, though identifiable as one unified language (unlike Scots which has many varieties), is a diversely rich and nuanced tongue. It is able to express social class (and social aspirations), hierarchy, regional identity and gendered identities easily through a complex and evolving use of dialect, inflection, vocabulary, grammar, structure and pace. Contemporary Welsh is no more devoid of social meaning than is modern English. The Welsh language opens itself up to poetry extremely well, of course, and Wales has a very ancient elegiac tradition. Welsh is essentially a tragic language: it can be economical or flowery, colloquial or high flown, coarse and vulgar or refined and moralizing. Some, like Sherlock, Ramage and Brown, might say that Welsh is Biblical – and they are quite right. There is, in fact, a particular strand of the language that can be called ‘Chapel Welsh’. Welsh rouses the emotions in its vocabulary and in its rhythms and Miles’ translation of Euripides maximized the poetic potential of the language.
Of course, Miles’ translation did not appear out of a vacuum; throughout the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s a sporadic series of poetic Welsh translations of Greek tragedies had been undertaken within University Welsh Departments and published by Cardiff University Press. In 1991, for example, John Henry Jones translated Aeschylus’ Agamemnon and Euripides’ Alcestis. The most noteworthy and praiseworthy translations had been undertaken by Euros Bowen, beginning in 1972, with his version of Sophocles’ Oidipos Brenin (Oedipus the King) and followed in 1979 by Oidipos yn Colonos (Oedipus in Colonus). In 1984 Bowen published his translation of Sophocles’ Electra, followed by Philoctetes in 1991. Not a classicist himself, but a highly successful and popular poet, Bowen closely followed the classic Jebb translations of the Sophoclean tragedies, augmented by close readings of his accompanying commentaries. It is disappointing to learn that these learned and often beautiful translations have received very few performances, and those which have been given have tended to be confined to university drama departments (at Bangor, Aberystwyth and Cardiff), where actors’ training courses frequently include performances in Welsh.
The watermark for Welsh translations of Greek tragedy is, without doubt, W.J. Gruffydd’s remarkable translation of Sophocles’ Antigone of 1950. It is regarded as the definitive (and first) poetic translation of a Greek drama and clearly stands as the inspiration and drive behind Euros Bowen’s later Sophoclean translations. Gruffydd (1881-1954), a writer of prodigious energy, had received a classical education at Oxford. His classical learning is witnessed by the confidence of his Welsh translation; Gruffydd is a poet who understands the constructions of the Greek language, and manages, therefore, to find almost effortless equivalences in Welsh. Here is a brief example of the lyricism and complexity of Gruffydd’s text and language:
O, belydr haul,
Decaf o bob rhyw wawl ar Thebau seithborth
Amrant yr euraid ddydd,
Yn torri gwawr uwch ffrydiau Dirce!
Gyrraist ar ruthr ffo ac ar gyflymach rhawd
Y drud tarianwyn,
O Argos a ddaeth yn gyfarfog.
[Chorus: O hail sun, the brightest one of all that shines on seven-gated Thebes. Hail to the dawn breaking over Dirce’s banks! You drove with rushing force and with even greater strength the white-shielded troops, from Argos they came heavily armed.]
This, the opening of the first choral ode, is a very complex passage, involving alliteration, the invention of compound words ordinarily not found in Welsh (seithborth/seven-gated; tarianwyn/white-shielded) and a strict metre. It does perfect justice to the Sophoclean text while satisfying the Welsh ear on a very complex and sophisticated linguistic level. The aural element of Welsh performance should not be underestimated. 
In his preface to the published version of Antigone Gruffydd attempted to outline his purpose in translating Sophocles and notes his own limitations and prejudices, explaining that he had (during his Oxford years) broken away from the traditional literature that an educated Welshman was expected to know, that is to say, English Shakespeare and the Welsh Bible. He explained, addressing himself to ‘y darllenydd Cymreig’ (the Welsh reader, not, one will note, the Welsh audience, viewer or playgoer) in a highly elevated Welsh:
Mae’n debyg y bydd y darllenydd Cymreig sydd heb fod yn gyfarwydd â’r clasuron yn cael peth anhawster i ddeall ac i werthfawrogi Antigone, er ei bod ar lawer ystyr yn nes I’n hamgyffred ni na’r rhan fwyaf o ddramâu Groeg. Yr wyf yn cofio’n dda fy mhembleth i, lawer blwyddyn yn ôl, pan ddeuthum i ddarllen gwaith y Groegiaid, a theimlo wedym yr un dyryswch uwchben dramâu’r Ffrancwyr, Corneille a Racine. Agorwyd porth dealltwriaeth i mi gan weithred ddeallol sy’n perthyn yn nes i’r bywyd Crisnogol efallai nag I feirnaidaeth lenyddol, - sef hunan-ymholiad. Gofynnais i mi fy hun ai fy chwaeth gynhenid i, fy newis greddfol rhwng y da a’r gwael mewn llenyddiaeth, a’m gwnâi’n amrhod i dderbyn ac i fwnhau trasiediau Aeschylus, Soffocles, Euripides, Racine a Corneille, ai ynteu ryw ragfarn gudd wedi ei meithrin gan yr unig fath o lenyddiaeth yr oeddwn gynefin â hi.
[The Welsh reader who is unfamiliar with classics might have some difficulty grasping and appreciating ‘Antigone’, even though it is more in our reach than many other Greek plays. I remember well my frustration, many years ago, when I came to read Greek literature and also feeling the same frustration when I came to read the French plays of Corneille and Racine. The gates of understanding were opened to me more by a medium more closely related to Christianity than by poetry criticism – self-questioning, I asked myself if it was my taste or my own intuitive choice between good and bad literature that made me unprepared to accept and enjoy the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Corneille and Racine, or was it some hidden prejudice nurtured in me by the only literature that was familiar to me.]
When it came to translating Sophocles, Gruffydd found the task relatively straightforward, since the metres of ancient Greek verse, he discovered to his delight, bore a marked resemblance to early Welsh poetic constructions, while the compound words so familiar in Greek poetry were constants in old Welsh verse too. He found the choral odes in particular a specific source of joy:
Iaeth farnoddol y ddadl. Nid iaeth pob dydd ydyw, ond iaeth y gellir yn deg ei chymharu ag iaeth y Gogynfeirdd Cymreig, Gwalchmai neu Gyneddelw neu Ruffudd ap Maredudd, iaeth ddethol addurn y traddodiad llenyddol. Ni ellais i, mwy na chyfiethwyr eraill, ei hatgynrychu yn ei llawnder a’i chyfoeth, ond gellir cael syniad egwan ohoni yn y Corawdau. . . . Yn ei dechreuad, oesodd pell yn ôl, i addoliad y duwiau y perthynai’r ddrama, ac, yr oedd y ddawns yn rhan hanfodol o hynny. Dyna’r rheswm sylfaenol am y Côr, a dyna paham y ceir yn Antigone salm i Dionysus ynghanol y chwarae. Ond yn natblygiad y ddrama, gwnaed defnydd newydd o’r Côr i esbonio agwedd y ‘dyn y stryd’ at y problemau a gyflwynid, i egluro unrhyw bwnc nad oedd eisoes yn glir yn y gweithrediad, ac i wneuthur sylwadau cyffredinol arno.
[The [tragic] language is poetical. It is not the language of daily life, but it can be compared to the very early Welsh bardic poetry, of Gwalchmai or Gyneddelw or Ruffudd ap Maredudd, the selective, decorative, poetical tradition. I, no more than other translators, can produce, not in its complexity, the original poetry, although something of the original is achieved in [my] choruses. . . . In the beginning the plays were created for the praise of the gods, and dance was an intrinsic part of this – that is the basic reason for a chorus and why, in ‘Antigone’, we have a psalm to Dionysus in the middle of the play. But during the development of the play the chorus it put to a new use to represent and express the attitude of ‘the man in the street’, the problems he encounters, to explain any unclear topics and to make more general comments.]
Unfortunately Gruffydd’s Antigone has only received sporadic stagings, in University drama departments, following its premiere at Aberystwyth. This is not surprising since up until the 1920s drama had been very slow to develop in Wales; in fact, there was very little dramatic performance tradition at all. Even the popular folk-theatre known as ‘anterliwt’ or ‘interludes’, had been suppressed by the activities of the Methodist Revival in the 1800s and again in the early 1900s. Calvinist, Baptist and Methodist Protestantism effectively destroyed Wales’ rich oral heritage of myth and magic, suppressing the old tales of wonder and heroism, of gods, goddesses, battles and passions beneath the weight of cleaned-up and sanitised Old Testament fundamentalism. Greek myths – pagan and often pornographic – were not embraced in the chapels; the Classical Tradition was eschewed from the pulpits. Drama, where it existed, was subject to parchusrwydd (righteous/religious acceptability).
In addition, the Nineteenth century Eisteddfod tradition codified and purified a performance tradition of its own, inventing a Protestant Christian ideology of public recitation, choral speech and song (although throughout the late-nineteenth century English was the dominant tongue in the National Eisteddfod – W. J. Gruffydd dubbed it “our old cannon fallen into the hands of the enemy”). Although some kind of romantic nationalist theatre began to make itself known in Wales in the late nineteenth-century, it was not until the plays of Ibsen became popular in Britain that a Welsh dramatic movement emerged. Plays such as W.J. Gruffydd’s “Beddau'r Proffwydi” (The Graves of the Prophets), first performed in 1913, severely criticized the establishment, particularly the oppressive, hypocritical chapel hierarchy that had done so much to stifle Welsh intellectual and artistic expression.
John Saunders Lewis (1893-1985) lamented that “Wales became superficial and materialistic; idolatrous, throne-loving, because she ceased to think in terms of the Sacrament”. Arguably the greatest influence of all the Welsh writers upon the conscience of Welsh-speaking Wales, Saunders Lewis is remembered as a dramatist, poet, literary historian, critic, one of the founders of Plaid Cymru in 1925, and its president from 1926-39. Born in Merseyside, an area to which thousands of Welsh people had emigrated and which remained a stronghold of Welsh culture during the first half of the Twentieth century, Saunders Lewis served in the army in the Great War, but was a conscientious objector during World War II, encouraging others to act against the conscription of Welsh youth to fight to preserve England's territorial empire (although some evidence – often ignored in Welsh scholarship – strongly suggests that he had decidedly Nazi sympathies). His radio lecture of 13 February 1962 marks a turning point in the attitude of the Welsh-literate toward their language and their culture. In his lecture Tynged Yr Iaith (Fate of the Language), Saunders Lewis called upon Welsh speakers in particular to take action to halt the alarming decline in their ancient language. It was a stirring call to arms: “to make it impossible to conduct local or central government business without the Welsh language.” The effects of the talk were dramatic, even revolutionary, and the long chain of events that followed the lecture, beginning with the sit-down at Trefechan Bridge, Aberystwyth in February, 1963 by members of the newly-formed Cymdeithas Yr Iaith Gymraeg (The Welsh Language Society) began the movement to gain respectability as well as legal status for the Welsh language. 
Saunders Lewis believed that an individual was obligated to take action in defiance of his moral principles and that this could be best expressed through drama, his main creative medium, although one of the weakest of the literary forms of Wales. In 1934, he wrote that, “Wales was Christian and Catholic even before she was Welsh, and I see the mark of her Catholic formation upon the whole of her history and culture”. This Catholicism runs throughout Lewis's work: he was proficient in Latin, French and Italian literature as well as English and Welsh, and was heavily influenced by his readings in those works that emphasized the importance of tradition in passing along and upholding moral and cultural values, especially through the family. These values, along with his ever-present concern for moral responsibility, led to his conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1932.
Wales had been part of the culture of Europe in the Catholic Middle Ages when Classical (Latin) poetry had mirrored an ideal social order. For Lewis, the restoration of such order was possible for a Wales freed from its English shackles and able to participate once more in the literary traditions of a greater (and more Catholic) Europe. “I have no hesitation,” he wrote in 1934, “in saying that Welsh literature was one of the three great literatures of medieval Europe”.
In addition, Saunders Lewis strongly believed in the creation of a Welsh aristocracy, a literate society of Roman Catholic aesthetics speaking the ancient language unseen in Wales since the fall of the Old Gentry in the mid sixteenth century. According to Hywel Williams of The Observer,
For [the] founder [of Plaid Cymru], Saunders Lewis, Catholic convert and reactionary-radical, Wales was a European nation whose cultural high point came with the aristocratic courts of the high middle ages. The road ahead was the way back from a democratic culture grown pagan and materialistic. Much of this was a Welsh arcadian fantasy. The man who described the Nonconformists at prayer looking as if they were about to vomit when they crouched rather than kneeled was not an obvious national leader. This memorably angry man brought a new anger into Welsh life whose effects lasted until the 1970s - but his Europeanism was prophetic.
Saunders Lewis used the high culture of Medieval monasticism and a pre-Christian Greece and Rome to speak to his ‘aristocratic’ Welsh society and, while not translating Greek drama directly into the Welsh tongue, his use of Classically inspired tragic models for his plays was obvious. Inspired by a handbook on Greek philosophy written in Welsh by D. James Jones, Saunders Lewis began to laud the Greek conception of the poet or writer as a teacher and sage and held particularly high in his estimation the poet-lawgiver Solon and the tradition of philosophical didacticism. His admiration for the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides (and subsequently of Corneille and Racine) inspired him to create what could be termed “Celtic Tragedy”. He regarded the Greek theatre, with its specific performance features, as the most pure form of theatre, unsullied by the picture-stage conventions of early Twentieth century theatre and untouched by the puritan ethics of the chapel traditions. He also believed that Greek drama afforded the dramatist an unrivalled opportunity to use exceptionally poetic language. As he noted,
Mai’r modd ebrwyddaf i ddychwelyd at symledd y Groegiaid gynt yw tynnu tô ôddiar y chwaraedy, a mynd yn ol at ddrama’r awyr agored. Ar amnaid felly, dyna ddiwedd ar oleuadau llawr, dyna derfyn ar amlder a drysni celfi a dodrefin a holl betheuach y chwaraedai. Dyna’r chwaraewyr a’r gynulleidfa ochr yn ochr dan oleu dydd, a dibynna’r bellach yn gwbl ar fawredd creadigeth y dramodydd ac ar allu’r actiwr i’w dehongli yn syml ac yn urddasol drwy gyfrwng llais ac ystum. Canlyniad hynny a fyddai galw’r bardd yn ôl at ddrama; canys pan fo lliaws pob ynghyd, yr unig iaeth sy’n ddigon nerthol i’w symud oll i gydymeimlad yw barddoniaeth.
[The quickest way to return to the simplicity of the ancient Greeks is to take the roof off the playhouse and go back to open air drama. Thus you put an end at once to floor lighting, the proliferation of stage furnishings and the whole paraphernalia of the theatre. There you have the players and the audience side by side in broad daylight, with the play thenceforth entirely dependant upon the greatness of the dramatist’s creation and the actor’s ability to convey it simply and with dignity by means of voice and gesture. The result would be to summon the poet back to the theatre; because when many are brought together the only language sufficiently powerful to move them all to sympathy is poetry.]
Watching Sybil Thorndike’s London performance as Medea in 1927, in a translation by Gilbert Murray, Saunders Lewis subsequently noted that “It was [her] Medea that gave me the first idea of a kindred character in Welsh legend”. He began to draw on the themes and characters of Welsh myths and historical events which led him ultimately to Blodeuwedd (1948) and Siwan (1954). In his foreword to Blodeuwedd Saunders Lewis wrote that, “Byddai’n help I’w deall hi a deall y cymeriadau petai’r gynulleidfa Gymreig mor gyfarwydd a’r Mabinogi ag odd cynulleidfa’r dramawyr Groegiadd a’u hen chwedlau hwy” [It would be helpful to understand [the play] and to understand the characters if the Welsh audience were as familiar with the Mabinogion as a Greek audience were with their old tales].
In the verse-drama Blodeuwedd, taken from the Welsh medieval Mabinogion, Saunders Lewis explored the tragedy of the female protagonist’s rootless condition (a woman created by magic from flowers), the legend of marital infidelity providing contemporary significance. He continued his use of medieval romance in his Siwan (Joan, also known as The King of England’s Daughter), also dealing with adultery, but his own version ends with reconciliation, forgiveness, and marital harmony – the essential condition for the well-being of society as a whole. Both Blodeuwedd and Siwan are regarded as the canonical examples of Welsh language drama and receive regular performance treatments (sometimes in English translation) in Welsh theatres, on Welsh television, in Welsh film and Welsh radio.
The heroine of Blodeuwedd is so powerfully conceived that she easily puts one in mind of the great female characters of Greek myth and tragedy; like Pandora she is born of the earth and takes the shape of a beautiful woman who is corrupt within her fair frame; Blodeuwedd has within her aspects of Klytaimnestra, of Phaedra, and particularly of Medea. The concept of being a foreigner, alienated from her surroundings is a theme stressed throughout Blodeuwedd, and is shared in the Medea too. Early on in the play Blodeuwedd states her precarious position:
O, ni ddeelli fyth,
Fyth, fyth, fy ngofid I, na thi na neb.
‘Wyddost ti ddim beth yw bod yn unig.
Mae’r byd it ti yn llawn, mae gennyt dref,
Ceraint a theulu, tad, mam a brodyr,
Fel nad wyt ti yn ddieithr yn y byd.
Mae’r man y troediodd dynion yn gffannedd,
A Gwynedd oll, lle bu dy dadau gynt,
Yn aelwyd iti, yn gronglwyd adeiladwyd
Gan gendlaethau dy hynafiaid di;
‘Rwyt ti’n gatrefol yn dy wlad dy hun
Megis mewn gwely a daenwyd er dy fwyn
Gan ddwylo cariad a fu’n hir yn d’aros;
Minnau, nid oes I mi ddim un cynefin
Yn holl ffyrdd dynion; chwilia Wynedd draw
A Phrydain drwyddi, nid oes ddim un bedd
A berthyn imi, ac mae’r byd yn oer,
Yn estron imi, heb na chwlwm car
Na chadwyn cenedl. Dyna sut yr olnaf –
Ofni fy rhyddid, megis llong heb lyw
Ar for dynoliaeth.
[Oh you will never, never, never understand my grief. You don’t know what it is to be alone. For you the world is full, you have a home, friends, family, mother, father, and brother, so that you’re not a stranger in the world. For you the place where men have trodden is homely, and all Gwynedd, where your forefathers have been, is a hearth to you, a roof that was built by generations of your ancestors; you are at home in your own land as in a bed that was spread out for you by loving hands that had long awaited you. But I have no home in all the ways of men; search through all Gwynedd and all Britain and you’ll never find one grave that belongs to me, and the world is cold, is foreign to me, without any tie of family or nation to bind me. That’s what I’m afraid of – I’m afraid of my freedom, like a ship astray on the oceans of mankind.]
Throughout the drama Saunders Lewis plays on the Euripidean idea of the inevitable clash between serch (eros, destructive illicit love, passion, sex) and cariad (agape, pure love that transcends sex). Blodeuwedd is a tragic figure who inspires pity and revulsion; she is amoral, the ultimate temptress, a Circe-like figure who pledges oblivion as a gift to men who fall for her charms. In one of Saunders Lewis’ most passionate verses, Blodeuwedd ensnares the anti-hero Gronw, promising (or threatening) to,
Oeri’r gwaed a difa fflamau chwant.
Ond dewis rhyngom, gyfaill, rhyngddynt hwy,
Foesau diogel, dof gwareiddiad dyn
A holl rhferthwy fy nghusanau i.
A meddwl cyn it ddewis. Gyda hwy
Cei sicrwydd car a chyfaill a chywely
A bwrw oes ddigynnwrf ar dy stad,
A’th gladdu ym meddrod dy hynafiad moesol
A’th blant i ddwyn dy elor. Gyda mi
Nid oes yn ddiogel on funed hon.
A’m caro i, rhaid iddo garu pergyl
A holl unigedd rhyddid. Yn ei oes
Ni chaif gyfeillion, ni ddaw plant I’w hebrwng
I’w fedd di-sathr. Ond cawod drom fy ngwallt
I lenwi ei synnwyr dro, a’m bronnau i
I’w guddio ef ennyd rhag murmuron byd,
A’r eilad fydd ei nefoedd … Dewis di.
[cool the blood and put out desire’s flames. But choose between us, friends, between them, the safe, tame ways of man’s civility and the torrent of my kisses. And think before you choose. With them the security of family and friend and wife and placid life on your estate, and a burial in the sepulchre of your righteous ancestors with your children to carry your bier. With me no security except this point of time. Whoever loves me must love danger and all the loneliness of freedom. In his time he’ll have no friends, children will not escort him to his secluded grave. But the heavy flood of my hair will fill his senses for a while, and my breasts hide him from the murmurs of the world, and the instant shall be his heaven … You choose.]
Like Phaedra, Blodeuwedd’s passion is intrinsic to her nature, but not willed or wanted by her, she cannot exactly be judged guilty. Though the desires she incarnates are dangerous and anti-social, Blodeuwedd maintains our sympathy as much as Phaedra does in the Hippolytus. Finally, having committed adultery and murder, Blodeuwedd, like Medea, shuns the world of mortals and returns to her other-worldly roots. Medea, of course, is reunited with the Sun, and Blodeuwedd is transformed into an owl; her mocking laughter is turned into the bird’s screech. As the final stage direction reads:
‘A allan dan chwerthin o hyd. Yna paid y chwerthin a chywir sgrech hir tylluan.’
[She goes out still laughing. Then the laughter stops and the screech of an owl is heard.]
Saunders Lewis’ contribution to Welsh culture has been to create a sense of tragic drama drawing heavily on Greek tragedy and thus being far removed from the chapel tradition. He also employed a verse suited to and suitable for telling the tragic stories on the stage. As he noted of his use of verse in Blodeuwedd, “ceisias beri I’r iaith lenyddol a’r mesur di-odl awgymu dulliau a rhithmau siarad pobl a fo’n meddwl yn ddwys ac yn teimlo I’r byw wrth siarad. Barddoniaeth sgwrs yw barddoniaeth drama” [I attempted to make the literary language and the unrhymed metre suggest the modes and rhythms of the speech of people who think and feel deeply when they talk. Poetic conversation is poetic drama]. Saunders Lewis’ tragic verse drama, combined with the masterful translation of Antigone by W.J. Gruffydd of the same period, created the templates for the later translations and treatments of Greek tragedy by Bowen, Jones and Miles. That these later works receive such little attention in terms of performance can only be regretted, and probably points to the notion that new dramatic writing is admired more than the skill of translating. Nevertheless, a small corpus of translated plays is now in existence; perhaps more will follow. Someday they might be performed alongside the contemporary works of new Welsh writing which are dominating the Welsh drama scene. It is to be hoped that this will be the case.
 All translations of the Welsh texts are my own except where otherwise stated. I want to thank Beth Robert for her overview of my translations.
 By this I mean a standardization of the Welsh language as taught in schools and universities and the growth of business, administrative, technological and legal Welsh. Specialist dictionaries are now being produced to ensure that the correct specialist language is used in the official work place.
 For an introduction to Welsh poetry of the mid Twentieth century see R. Rhys, “Poetry 1939-1970” in D. Johnston (ed), A Guide to Welsh Literature c. 1900-1996. Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1998, 89-116. See also, C. Davies, Welsh Literature and the Classical Tradition, Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1995.
 See E.C. Stephens, “A Century of Welsh Drama” in D. Johnston (ed), A Guide to Welsh Literature c. 1900-1996, Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1998. 233-70.
 On Saunders Lewis, see below.
 The Eisteddfod is an annual national event, often regarded as the highpoint of Welsh language culture. It consists of series of competitions in all areas of the arts. It is both an institution intent on preserving and bettering the Welsh language and a forum for artistic excellence. To this end it has been termed coleg y genedl (the nation’s college).
 The Times Educational Supplement, April 26th 2002, 20.
 The Times Educational Supplement, April 26th 2002, 20.
 Ceri Sherlock, for example, has directed Welsh language productions of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Strindburg’s Miss Julie.
 On recent trends in Welsh drama see A.M. Taylor (ed) Staging Wales: Welsh Theatre 1979 – 1997, Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1997, 85-99. See also C. Sherlock, “Y Perfformiadol” [“The Performative”] in Barn, August 2000, 84-93.
 On Mappa Mundi’s important versatility, the Guardian critic David Adams noted, “The history of Mappa Mundi is a tale of the unexpected. They performed Titus Andronicus, Kabuki style, Taming of the Shrew in drag, A Midsummer Night's Dream with fireworks, and Henry VIII with most of the Shakespeare edited out. They are post-modernist enfants terribles of Welsh drama, practitioners of designer theatre, instant culturists, irreverent classicists. They are a breath of fresh air and with ten productions in a couple of years they have achieved cult-status.” The Guardian, October 21st 1997.
 Thus, very few of the Welsh gentry in the eighteenth century ever bothered with building Palladian-style houses or embarking on a Grand Tour, although there were notable exceptions. This disinterest in things classical did not encourage the flowering of a neo-classical culture. A good study of the situation can be found in P. Lord, The Visual Culture of Wales: Imaging the Nation, Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 2000, 98-166.
 For a discussion of Greek drama on the Scottish stage see Hardwick in this volume.
 The company records of Mappa Mundi Theatre Company, for example, have minuted the desire to produce a Greek tragedy on several occasions. The idea of producing a new production of Agamemnon is still in the companys agenda.
 The production team was composed of Bethan Jones, Geoff More, Ceri Sherlock and Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones. Dalier Sylw, incidentally, was set up in Cardiff in 1988 by Peter Edwards, Sion Eirian, Bethan Jones and Eryl Phillips to answer the need for a Welsh language theatre company in the capital city.
 I am grateful to Rhian Morgan (who played the part of Electra) for her assistance with this project.
 The Guardian, October, 23rd 1991.
 I. Brown, J. Ramage, C. Sherlock "Scots and Welsh: Theatrical Translation and Theatrical Languages" in International Journal of Scottish Theatre, 1.2, December 2000. On-line at http://arts.qmuc.ac.uk/ijost/Volume1_no2/I_Brown.htm
 I. Brown, J. Ramage, C. Sherlock, Scots and Welsh: Theatrical Translation and Theatrical Languages International Journal of Scottish Theatre. 1.2.Edinburgh, Queen Margaret University College, December 2000. On-line at http://arts.qmuc.ac.uk/ijost/Volume1_no2/I_Brown.htm
On the use of Scots as a dramatic language see, most influentially, A. J. Aitken, “Scots and English in Scotland” in Peter Trudgill, ed., Language in the British Isles. 1984. 517-32. However, it is important to remember that many deny Scots a linguistic status at all. See further discussions of the use of Scots in I. Brown and C. Sherlock, "Antigone : a Scots/Welsh experience of mythic and theatrical translation" in L. Bowker, M. Cronin, D. Kenny and J. Pearson, (edd) Unity in Diversity? Current Trends in Translation Studies. Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1998, 25-37. See also, B. Dunlop, Klytemnestra's Bairns "Adapting Aeschylus into Scots" ,International Journal of Scottish Theatre, 1.1. June 2000. On-line at http://arts.qmuc.ac.uk/ijost/Volume1_no1/B_Dunlop.htm.
 I. Brown, J. Ramage, C. Sherlock, "Scots and Welsh: Theatrical Translation and Theatrical Languages" International Journal of Scottish Theatre. 1.2. December 2000. On-line at http://arts.qmuc.ac.uk/ijost/Volume1_no2/I_Brown.htm
 Agamemnon gan Aischulos; cyfieithwyd gan John Henry Jones; Alcestis gan Ewripides; cyfieithwyd gan Henry Parry Jones; golygwyd ar ran Adran Glasurol Gymraeg Urdd y Graddedigion gan R. Telfryn Pritchard, Y Ganolfan Astudiaethau Addysg, Aberystwyth, 1991.
 Oidipos Frenin gan Soffocles; cyfieithiad gan Euros Bowen, Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1972.
 Oidipos yn Colonos gan Soffocles; cyfieithiad gan Euros Bowen; y golygu gan Gwyn Thomas, Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1979.
 Electra gan Soffocles; cyfieithiad gan Euros Bowen, Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1984
 Philoctetes gan Soffocles; cyfieithwyd gan Euros Bowen, Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1991.
 Bowen regarded himself as a symbolist poet and frequently went to great lengths to set himself apart from the mainstream of Welsh poetry. He earned considerable Eisteddfodic success. For Bowen's work see A.M. Allchin "The poetry of Euros Bowen" in C. Davies and S. Davies, eds., Euros Bowen, priest-poet/bardd-offeiriad. Penarth, Privately printed, 1993.
 Antigonegan Sophocles Troswyd o roeg gan W.J. Gruffydd, Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1950.
 I want to thank Beth Robert for working through this and all the subsequent translations with me.
The speakability of poetic performance is still regarded as an important aspect of eisteddfod compositions.
 Antigonegan Sophocles Troswyd o roeg gan W.J. Gruffydd, Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1950, i-ii.
 Ibid. ii.
 See G. Jones, A Study of Three Welsh Religious Plays, Bala: R. Evans and Sons, 1939.
 Beddau'rproffwydi : drama mewn pedair act / gan W.J. Gruffydd. Cardiff, Educational Pub. Co, 1913. On the Chapel tradition and early-twentieth-century Welsh drama see E.C. Stephens "A Century of Welsh Drama" in (ed.) D. Johnston A Guide to Welsh Literature1900-1996, Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1998, 233 ff.
 Baner ac Amserau Cymru, July 1926.
 He is not universally regarded as such. In the years following his death, Saunders Lewis work has been re-evaluated and he has received much criticism both for his writings and his politics. Dafydd Wigly, in an HTV interview of 2001, observed that, Saunders Lewis was a bad playwright, a worse politician, but a magnificent Catholic. His anti-Semitism, for example, expressed in his works throughout the 1930s and 1940s, is one of his least attractive features, and must be coupled with his fervent belief in fascism throughout the same period. His 1958 play Esther, a morality play, can be considered as an apology to Judaism. In the play, the character Haman is depicted as a villain of demonic, Hitlarian, stature. He tells his henchman Harbona, I proclaim through his proclamation the death of a whole nation thats what intoxicates one in politics. I can imagine a day will come when one man, a prime minister, can take a ball of fire in his hands and by throwing it, wipe out all mankind, and put the world on fire Thats the ecstasy of politics. See the discussion of Esther in I. Williams, A Stained Stage: A Study of the Theatre of Saunders Lewis, Bridgend, Poetry Wales Press, 1991.156 ff.
 For an introduction to the life and work of Saunders Lewis see B. Griffiths, Saunders Lewis. Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1989.
 Cited in A.R. Jones & G. Thomas, eds., Presenting Saunders Lewis, Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1983, 45
 ibid 50.
 The Observer, Sunday August 6, 2000.
 D.J. Jones, Hanes athroniaeth: y cyfnod Groegaidd, Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1939.
 Y Drama yn Ffrainc (Drama in France), Y Darian, July 7, 1921.
 Cited in A.R. Jones & G. Thomas, eds., Presenting Saunders Lewis, Cardiff,University of Wales Press, 1983, 73. For Thorndikes Medea see F. Macintosh, Introduction: The Performer in Performance in E.Hall, F. Macintosh & O. Taplin, eds., Medea in Performance 1500-2000. Oxford, European Humanities Research Centre, 2000, 19-21.
 For full discussions of these plays see I. Williams, A Stained Stage : A Study of the Theatre of Saunders Lewis Bridgend, Poetry Wales Press, 1991. Convenient English translations are provided in (edd) A.R. Jones & G. Thomas, Presenting Saunders Lewis,Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1983, 199-300.
 The relationship between Blodeuwedd and Greek myth and tragedy will form the focus of my forthcoming study of Saunders Lewis Celtic Tragedy.
 Cited in A.R. Jones & G. Thomas, eds., Presenting Saunders Lewis. Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1983, 67.