“We would not die in that man’s company who fears his fellowship to die with us,” Henry V tells the troops before the battle of Agincourt in Shakespeare’s play. The outnumbered English troops delivered heavy losses to the French, turning the tide of the war. Shakespeare, a believer in the power of rhetoric, crafted the speech to dramatically explain how this feat could have been accomplished.
The speech is now widely regarded as one of the most inspiring ever delivered in the English language. It’s served as the model for similar speeches delivered both in drama and in real life. Life and fiction imitating fiction.
Saint Crispin’s day honored two saints, Crispinus and Crispianus. The days were officially removed from the calendar of the Roman Catholic Church after Vatican II, supposedly because of concern over whether they really existed. Apart from Agincourt, two other famous battles were fought on Crispin’s Day: the Charge of the Light Bridge battle during the Crimean War and the Battle for Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle of World War Two.
Saint Crispin’s day was yesterday. Here’s Kenneth Branagh delivering the speech.