we are marked to die, we are enough
our country loss; and if to live,
men, the greater share of honour.
I pray thee wish not one man more.
I am not covetous for gold,
. . .
if it be a sin to covet honour
I am the most
offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish
not a man from England.
God’s peace, I would
not lose so great an honour
As one man more
methinks would share from me
For the best
hope I have. O do not wish one more.
proclaim it presently through my host
he which hath no stomach to this fight,
him depart. His passport shall be made
crowns for convoy put into his purse.
not die in that man’s company
That fears his
fellowship to die with us.
This quotation is from Henry’s St. Crispin’s
Day speech, the rallying oratory he delivers to the English army
just before the Battle of Agincourt. Presumably, the power of this
speech assists his soldiers in routing a French force that outnumbers
them five to one. Henry’s opening lines, in which he explains why
he does not wish for more men to fight with him, indicate his ability
to give abstract moral concepts such as honor a tangibility and
urgency that motivate his men far more powerfully than the repetition
of platitudes about the glory of war would. Henry portrays the amount
of honor to be won in the battle as a fixed amount that will be
divided equally among all the victors; if there were more men present,
then there would be less honor for each man to gain in victory.
Henry’s claim to favor a small army is centered on his stated desire
for himself and his men to win as much honor as possible in the
Henry’s startling reversal of the normal conventions of
battle make this idea effective. In most battles, the leader wishes
for as large an army as possible in order to achieve an easier victory,
but Henry claims to desire a small, outnumbered army to win a larger share
of honor. In most battles, soldiers are compelled to fight and deserters
are killed, but Henry backs up his claim to desire a small army
by offering to let any man who does not desire to fight with him
leave. Henry thus gives each of his soldiers the freedom to make the
choice to fight with him; in doing so, he wins a measure of loyalty
and devotion that he could not have commanded through force.
This speech is an example of Henry using his rhetorical
skill to achieve the effect he needs—he does not really desire a
small and outnumbered army, but he has a small and outnumbered army,
and it is more effective to make his soldiers think that he is in
the position he desires than to show them how difficult his position
really is. Henry uses his ability to see things from unique perspectives
to arrive at a surprising logic regarding honor and glory, then
he uses his skill with words to make that logic stir his men to