“We band of brothers… ” Shakespeare has Henry V speak to his army on the eve of St. Crispin’s day, as he prepares to lead them against the French’s overwhelming forces in the Battle of Agincourt. That battle took place on October 25, 600 years ago.
Robert McCrum, writing for The Guardian, gives a brilliant account of the bloody battle and its outcome.
“The fighting took place on a strip of muddy ground sandwiched between two woods, decisive terrain. After the debilitating siege of Harfleur, immortalised in “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more …”, this was an engagement Henry V did not really want. His Welsh and English army was sick, starving and exhausted. Outnumbered on foreign soil, he faced an opponent who was fresh and ready for the fray. No wonder the king heard mass three times on the eve of battle.”
In 2010, we asked our readers to choose their favorite Shakespeare speech and Henry’s St. Crispin’s Day speech emerged the winner, which was then recorded by actor James Konicek.
So this weekend, why not raise a glass to Henry’s men and to all who, despite formidable odds, fight on anyway.