St Crispin's Day Speech
WESTMORLAND. 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, Westmorland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark'd to die, we are enough
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, Westmorland, 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 Crispin'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 rememberèd—
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.
Use and quotation
- During the Napoleonic Wars, just prior to the Battle of the Nile, Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, then Rear Admiral of the Blue, referred to his captains as his "band of brothers".
- Charles Dickens' magazine Household Words (1850-1851) took its name from the speech.
- During World War II, Laurence Olivier delivered the speech during a radio programme to boost British morale and Winston Churchill found him so inspiring that he asked him to produce the Shakespeare play as a film. Olivier's adaptation appeared in 1944.
- During the legal battle for the U.S. presidential election of 2000, regarding the Florida vote recount, members of the Florida legal team for George W. Bush, the eventual legal victor, joined arms and recited the speech during a break in preparation, to motivate themselves.
- At 4.30 AM on the day of the result of the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, 2016, as the vote to leave became clear, activist and MEP Daniel Hannan is reported to have delivered an edited version of the speech from a table, replacing the names Bedford, Exeter, Warwick and Talbot with other prominent Vote Leave activists.
Film, television, music and literature
- The phrase "band of brothers" appears in the 1789 song "Hail, Columbia", written for the inauguration of George Washington as the first President of the United States; and in the first line of the 1861 Confederate marching song "The Bonnie Blue Flag".
- Stephen Ambrose borrowed the phrase "Band of Brothers" for the title of his 1992 book on E Company of the 101st Airborne during World War II; it was later adapted into the 2001 miniseries Band of Brothers. In the closing scene of the series, Carwood Lipton quotes from Shakespeare's speech.
- A shortened version is given in the 1993 movie Tombstone by the actor Fabian, played by Billy Zane.
- In the 1994 film Renaissance Man, part of the speech is recited by a remedial learning soldier (Lillo Brancato, Jr.) during a night exercise, in order to prove to his drill sergeant (Gregory Hines) that the literacy classes taught by civilian Bill Rago (Danny DeVito) are worthwhile.
- The speech is recited by entusiastic young volunteers in the Spanish–American War miniseries Rough Riders (1997) with Sam Elliott, Tom Beringer and Gary Busey.
- In the Shane Meadows film This Is England (2006), the speech is misquoted by a speaker from the fascist National Front party, convincing a group of skinheads to join the NF.
- In the 2017 film Their Finest, set in 1940–1941, the end of Henry V's speech is delivered by the British Secretary of War (Jeremy Irons).
- A part of the speech is quoted in the 2017 novel The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy as one of the character's mother's favourite passage from Shakespeare which is recited (silently) at her second funeral.
- It is parodied in the fifth season episode "The Gift" of the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, before the final battle. Spike says, "Well, not exactly the Saint Crispin's Day speech, was it?" To which Giles replies, "We few, we happy few—" and Spike finishes, "we band of buggered."
- In Mystery Men, The Shoveler's speech to rally the dispirited Mystery Men parodies the St. Crispin's Day speech.
- The closing paragraph of the speech was parodied in the first episode of The Black Adder. The first season of the show is presented as revealing a secret history of the Wars of the Roses. In it, St. Crispin's Day is replaced by "Ralph the Liar's Day", among other departures from literary and historical tradition. King Richard III (Peter Cook) before the Battle of Bosworth Field gives the lines "And gentlemen in London still a-bed shall think themselves accursed they were not here. And hold their manhood cheap, while others speak of those who fought with us on Ralph the Liar's Day!"
- The Fourth Doctor gave part of this speech in the Doctor Who episode "State of Decay" when he was trying to convince the village rebels to help him slay the Great Vampire.
"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 E-Space."
Notes and references
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