William Shakespeare and his theatrical agent analyse and discuss what many consider to be the greatest motivational speech ever written… the famous St Crispin’s Day speech from Shakespeare’s historical play, Henry V. In the play, King Harry inspires his tired and outnumbered troops into action before their victory against the French at Agincourt.
Agent: Will? A quick word, ol’ son.
Agent: It’s about the Saint Crispin’s Day speech thingy in your new Henry V show.
Agent: Well, me old horn… I don’t think the punters are going to buy it. It’s a load of ol’ bollocks, to be fair.
Shakespeare: What do you mean? It’s brilliant. The punters will love it.
Agent: You’re takin’ the piss, old mate. It’s shite.
Shakespeare: What do you mean “shite”? It’s art, in’ it? It’s fuckin’ art!
Agent: It’s not fucking art, Will. It’s fucking bollocks. What’s with this “We would not die in that man’s company that fears his fellowship to die with us” tosh?
Shakespeare: The punters love that kind of crap, mate. Honour! Glory! Hanging out with your mates! Singing the team song! Playing for your frikkin’ team and your frikkin’ country together! Arm in arm! Takin’ one for the tribe!
Agent: Bollocks, mate. If singing the team song helped to win battles, West Ham would win the Champions League every year. Have you ever seen the Wallabies sing their National Anthem? Couldn’t be more proud standing there arm in arm. Doesn’t help them any. Dear me. If Stephen Moore had used a little less energy singing he might have won more scrums.
Shakespeare: West Ham are not even in the fuckin’ Champions League, mate. You’re a complete tosser!
Agent: Correct! Too much singing and not enough quality. It’s not about speeches. It’s about quality! Quality, strategy and getting the circumstances and the environment right.
Shakespeare: You’re havin’ a fuckin’ laugh, mate. You might be right about the battle, but the fuckin’ punters don’t know that. They think its all about motivation, team songs and coaches having a good ol’ spray! They love this crap. This stuff is brilliant! Drama. It’s fuckin art!
Agent: Will. Anyone who knows any history knows that we won the Battle of Agincourt because the posh French knights were as thick as whale omelettes. Thousands of the twats matched through a couple of hundred yards of freakin’ bog up to their arses for the pleasure of being cut down by ordinary blokes with bows and arrows. It wasn’t freakin’ rocket science… or “Rule Britannia” songs… or blinkin’ royal speeches. No one was invited to Windsor for a spot of polo on St Crispin’s Day twenty years later to celebrate the win.
Shakespeare: It’s not a fuckin’ history lesson, mate. It’s a show for the London theatre cruds. A bunch or freakin’ Arsenal and Chelsea supporters. They’ve got no freakin’ idea about history. They’ll love this crap.
Agent: Alright, Will. Alright. We’ll let it run for now, but if the show bombs… it’s on your own fuckin’ ‘ead! He was a bellend, that ‘arry. A complete bellend.
The Speech in question.
WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!
KING. What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But 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!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian.’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.’
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
Check out Kenneth Branagh hamming it up in his own film version of Henry V.