page 2 of 2
King Henry’s inspirational St. Crispin’s Day speech—so called because the battle is fought on the feast day of St. Crispin, a holiday in the England of the play—is perhaps the most famous passage in the play. In this speech, which is meant to bolster the morale of his soldiers before they head into a battle that they are almost certain to lose, Henry demonstrates his customary brilliance with words and astounding charisma, both of which he has displayed so often before.
Henry’s challenge is to turn his troops’ small numbers into an advantage, which he does by convincing his men that the battle is more than a mathematical formula, that they have all come there to fight for honor, for justice, and for glory. He makes fighting with him at Agincourt sound like a privilege, one that will allow its participants to capture more glory than anything else could. Henry also brings up, once more, the motif of the bond between king and commoner. As in Act III, scene i, before the Battle of Harfleur, he unites himself with his men, saying,
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition….
Henry claims that even a commoner will be made noble by fighting at his side and that the result will be lifelong honor that will elevate these fighters above their peers.
The comic scene of Pistol’s capture of a Frenchman plays on language in much the same way that the earlier scene of Catherine’s English lesson does. Pistol’s misunderstandings of French, like Catherine’s of English, are amusing. He takes the soldier’s exclamation, “O Seigneur Dieu!” (“O Lord God!”), for a name and mistakes the words “bras” (“arm”) and “moi” (“me”) for “brass” and “moy” (a unit of measurement). Pistol must rely on the boy to translate for him, and, ironically, the boy shows himself to be better informed than the man he serves.
In the jaws of defeat, the French noblemen at long last recognize the power of the English combatants. When they realize that their troops have been scattered and defeated, their first reaction is one of overwhelming shame. But the nobles show a hitherto unprecedented courage when they decide to return to the fight instead of surrendering, as they might, and giving themselves up to be ransomed. This last show of courage on the part of the French adds a welcome new dimension to Shakespeare’s characterization of different nationalities and prevents his portrayal of the French from becoming a one-dimensional mockery motivated only by patriotic loyalty to England.
I just finished Henry V, the 19th Shakespeare play, in my quest to read all the Bard by his 450th birthday next year. If you're interested, visit my blog to find out what I thought of it and more on what I thought of Henry:
4 out of 8 people found this helpful
My name is Jessica Luis, and I base in USA...My life is back!!! After 1 years of Broken marriage, my husband left me with two kids . I felt like my life was about to end i almost committed suicide, i was emotionally down for a very long time. Thanks to a spell caster called Dr Mohammed, which i met online. On one faithful day, as I was browsing through the internet,I came across allot of testimonies about this particular spell caster. Some people testified that he brought their Ex lover back, some testified that he restores womb,cure cancer,... Read more→
Am writing this article to thank Dr. Keke Odin for the wondrous miracle that he did for me because he helped me recently to bring back my Ex Wife. Thank you sir for your genuine spells. This is really incredible,I have never experienced anything like this in my life. Before i met you Sir, i have tried every possible means that i could to get my wife back, but i actually came to realize that nothing was working out for me, and that my wife had developed lot of hatred for me.. I thought there was no hope to reunite with my wife. But when i rea
Take a Study Break!