Thursday, October 25, 2012

This day is called the feast of Crispin

Henry V; Act 4, Scene III (excerpted)

No my fair coz,
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 named,
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.

-- William Shakespeare

I believe (with no hyperbole) these to be the greatest words ever written in the English language; though they really must be heard performed to be properly felt and understood.

 Here is my favorite filmed version:


I honestly believe Brannagh did it better here, than the filmed version of Olivier  (those who saw Olivier live said he did it far better on the stage), because it is more naturalistic and expressive.

Here's Richard Burtons recording (which is one of my favorites, and  I believe what Brannagh modeled his performance on), John Gielguds recording (I don't believe there is a film of Gielgud performing the full play; only selected scenes, from the film "Chimes at Midnight"); Tom Hiddleston (Loki from Avengers) doing an extremely low key, conversational style delivery; and a video comparing four versions , all showing how different actors (and directors) can have very different takes on the speech.

None of them however, quite capture what I hear in my head when I read this. I've seen it live a few times, and some of those performances have captured it... Hell, I may post a recording of me doing the speech later if I can find it (or I may just do another one).

UPDATE: I couldn't find my original recording of me doing the speech, so I made a new one just for the hell of it:

forgive me, but this is NOT a polished performance; it's an off the cuff reading, recorded at 1:30 in the morning on my couch, in one take, with no edits. My accent, breath control, timbre, and expression are all very inconsistent.

This was just intended to serve as an example of the phrasing and expression I think work best for the St. Crispians Day speech.