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Henry V Act 4 Scene 3.

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Henry V Act 4 Scene 3 "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers-" One of the many recognisable quotes from Shakespeare, but do we know who said it, why it was said, or the effect that these words had on the listener? They are far more than simply emotive, to be spoken on stage, but part of one of the great shining examples of military patriotism to date. It stirs up honour, courage and excitement in the audience, and makes heroic, one of the most brutal inventions of mankind-War. King Henry the Fifth's speech to his army, before battle, on the fields of Agincourt shows the full extent of Shakespeare's talent for persuasive language. Henry was a man with a mission, he felt called by God to confirm the Plautagenet dynasty on the throne of England, and to unite the thrones of England and France. The speech is used by Henry to rally his troops together, to put to rest their worries, and to assure them that they will be victorious, even though they are all exhausted, cold wet and hungry. ...read more.


Then, Henry explains to the crowd that he is not covetous of riches but is covetous of honour, 'if it be a sin to covet honour, I am the most offending soul alive.' and does not want to share that honour with one man more and begs his cousin to take back his wish for more men. He repeats the plea to his cousin from earlier for emphasis. Shakespeare at this point writes so that Henry seems to be almost thinking out loud and suddenly brings him back to talking to Westmorland. He offers any man who does not want to fight, safe passage home and money for the journey. For, 'We would not die in that man's company,that fears his fellowship to die with us.' Henry uses the royal 'we' to imply that everyone shares his opinion. Henry reminds the crowd that this day is St Crispian's Day (25th October), a day associated with the martyrdom of two brothers. He tells them that on the anniversary of this day, every man who has survived the battle will celebrate with pride. ...read more.


Shakespeare brings the growing tension of this magnificent speech to a triumphant crescendo. And probably at this point in the original performance, the crowd begins to cheer. The only proper way to read a play is to imagine the scene in your head, being acted out in front of you. If you could imagine this scene as it was originally staged, you would have seen Henry slowly take centre stage as the speech progressed and because of Shakespeare's haunting rhythm (iambic pentameter,) there would probably have been a drum beat in the background, get louder and louder. The speech is thought of as one of Shakespeare's finest and has brought encouragement and guidance to some real-life military leaders. President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert F. Kennedy loved the speech (RFK could recite it by heart), and when Sir Winston Churchill inspired the British in World War II with his words, "Never, in the field of human conflict, has so much been owed by so many to so few," he undoubtedly had Henry V's speech ("We few, we happy few, we band of brothers") in mind. This famous scene from a military epic, does not entirely justify war, but rather shows how hundreds of people can be sucked-in by clever propaganda. ...read more.

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